Shannon Ferrigno’s Perspectives of NeoCon 2019


If I were to distill my entire NeoCon 2019 experience into a moment, it would be introducing designers and watching their reactions to the new Steelcase Marketplace tool. There were tears—seriously! Although this is a tool that only design firms can register to access, everyone that saw it knows just how meaningfully it’ll affect not only their work but the lives of the people using their spaces.

For more than 20 years I have returned to the chaos and the whirlwind that is NeoCon because every year, without fail, I am humbled by the affirmation that smart design has the power to truly transform lives. Clearly, NeoCon 2019 was no exception.

This year I was not only able to witness this phenomenon again for myself, but I was also able to bring along first-time NeoCon attendee, Interior Designer McKenna Barnum. While many of our takeaways were similar, splitting up and exploring a few different showrooms broadened both of our experiences and helped us bring back a bigger body of knowledge to the rest of the Hyphn design crew and the larger design community. Now we’re pleased to share some of those experiences with you. And if your design firm is interested in scheduling a NeoCon update in your office, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Technology We Can’t Wait to Use

One of the most memorable products we encountered at the show was the new Steelcase Flex Mobile Power device. Not only did it catch our eye before we even really knew what it was, once we learned about its smart functionality, we were positively hooked. 

Our industry is so focused on agile right now—the modern office is changing rapidly. So much so that we’re all working hard to keep up. Steelcase Flex Mobile Power is arriving at the perfect time, giving teams the freedom to work in a wide range of spaces as well as giving designers the freedom to conceptualize a space without sweating the outlet placement. The beauty of being introduced to a product like this at NeoCon is that hours after it was unveiled, the product designer herself talked us through her process, the collaboration with Anker—a global leader in charging technology—and how the aesthetic was inspired by handcrafted ceramic tableware. If we could have picked up a few for our office, we absolutely would have. 

Beautiful Product Lines

When it comes to being wowed by a complete product line, McKenna and I couldn’t take our eyes off of Cloud9 by Watson. It’s challenging the open office concept in the most beautiful, organic way. We love how the airy panels and non-linear arrangement options maintain all the bright openness of an open office while reintroducing privacy and focus into the space. 

The way Watson has engineered this line is a true testament to their ability to design for both the modern office and the designers that put them together. In their words, “these workspace pods can be mirrored, daisy-chained, flipped, rotated, and repeated to create office environments that feel familiar, yet distinctly different.” We love the true commitment to designing for longevity and the way that Watson honors different workstyles.

Lively Dinner Conversation

One of the things I always look forward to most is connecting with industry friends over good bites at the end of a long day. This year, as is customary, the conversation was challenging and engaging in the best way. 

It started with a discussion of the Designtex stunningly beautiful Bauhaus Project installation. From 1919 to 1933, the Bauhaus school in Germany reigned as one of the world’s most revered colleges of design. Yet women were restricted to enrolling in “femininine” disciplines like weaving. Nevertheless, Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers enrolled, took to the loom, and amassed product portfolios stunning enough to challenge any of their male contemporaries. In short, the NeoCon installation did the incredible story justice. 

From there, the conversation drifted to the rising contemporary calls to design spaces for inclusivity and accessibility—tangible expressions of leaving behind the outdated social structures that kept Gunta and Anni from exploring more disciplines within the Bauhaus school. At the end of the night we were all positively beaming after sharing all the ways our communities are centering inclusivity in design and looking towards a future more sensitive to the needs of marginalized communities.


The Big Takeaways

Though McKenna and I were absolutely exhausted by the time we boarded the plane, we left full of inspiration and energized by the creativity emanating from everyone we encountered. We’re so optimistic about what this year will hold—once the amazing products unveiled at NeoCon are ready to be integrated into our projects, they will start to actually make a notable change in people’s lives. Knowing that, to us, makes all the difference. 

Shannon Ferrigno

Shannon Ferrigno

Director, Design Studio

I’ve been designing spaces for smart, forward-thinking companies for over two decades. Each new project brings me more joy than the last—I’m always seeking to expand my knowledge and skill and apply it to the newest challenge. When I’m not in the studio, you can probably find me strolling down the beach on the Oregon coast with my husband and our rescue dog, Savannah.

ArticlesCraig Hawker