School of Interiors Lecturer Chris Birkentall traveled to Chicago with 12 students to attend NeoCon during its annual conference June 11-13, 2018. Held every June at The Mart in Chicago since 1969, NeoCon, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, serves as the commercial design industry’s launch pad for innovation – offering ideas and introductions that shape the built environment today and into the future.
More than 500 companies attend NeoCon, highlighting their latest products and services, from flooring and fabrics to building products and technology.
Birkentall was one of the judges for the Best in Show award, and two interiors students – Jake Toloczko and Erin Kerr – shadowed her around the trade show floor as she reviewed products up for consideration.
During the show, students were able to network with industry professionals while learning of new career opportunities in interiors. Student Briana Wulfeck was nominated by the local chapter of the International Interior Design Association to participate in a six-hour design charette during NeoCon, giving her a chance to display her skills in front of professionals scouting new talent.
The experience is an immersive opportunity for students to think beyond what they might consider to be their career path after graduation. “I have brought back with me knowledge of product and industry, not only gained from being able to experience the Merchandise Mart by touring showrooms such as Teknion, Herman Miller and the Mohawk Group, but also by meeting and forming relationships with executives and sales representatives from the nation’s leading furniture and finish manufacturers,” explained Claire Jackson, a third-year interiors student.
Industry companies CDI and SHAW provided grants for Birkentall and the students to attend the event, giving them the means to experience a new take on interiors. “For us to expose as many students to design centers as we can, it is a huge benefit for those students to understand that the possibilities are endless,” said Birkentall.