Live from NeoCon 2023


Amy Devers guides listeners through audio collected at the fantastic NeoCon Podcast Studio, powered by SURROUND and sponsored by SnapCab. From First NeoCon-ers and IIDA CEO Cheryl Durst to ThinkLab Trendspotters and moss walls—this episode is jampacked with NeoCon gems.

NeoConversations is part of the SURROUND Podcast Network. Check out other amazing architecture and design-related shows at

Music: Ketsa – Pills

Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

Amy Devers: [00:00:00] Welcome to Neo Conversations. I’m Amy Devers. The NeoCon 2023 event may have wrapped, but we’re here with an exciting follow up episode that will leave you counting the days till your next trip to Chicago. Today we’ve got an incredibly exciting episode because we’re sharing with you audio recorded live from the event in the NeoCon podcast studio, powered by Surround and sponsored by Snap Cab.

Let’s start by hearing from a first timer, Dami Olufowoshe, about his initial reactions to NeoCon.

Dami Olufowoshe: Like, um, everyone has a lot of feelings about the whole networking, uh, side of things, and that was probably the thing I was most anxious about. I, uh, uh, didn’t really know what to expect in terms of who we’d be meeting, but, uh, the program really set it up so that we were able to meet with obviously a bunch of designers, but then also in the Shaw contract space.

Uh, while checking out, uh, Mike Ford’s, uh, collection, he happened to walk by and then, uh, Kelly Beamon introduced me, and then we just started talking and next thing you know, [00:01:00] finding out things in common. And yeah, just like the, I guess, capacity for like spontaneous and like natural connections is really.

Was surprising, I guess. Yeah.

Hannah Viti: Was there anything last night that you were like still thinking about when you got to your hotel room or today?

Dami Olufowoshe: Well, that Turf showroom was just spectacular. I mean, the way that it was sort of themed from entrance through the different spaces, the threshold conditions, like the use of their product in such like atypical ways like.

Um, being in that one, the blue space with the sort of arches reminded me of like being in a basilica. You know, like there’s a lot of just really interesting like motifs that like, probably flew under the radar for most people. But, um, yeah, working your way back to that meditative space too, like, it just, it feels, it felt like a journey, but then even when you left that space, there was still more to discover.

So that was really, really cool.

Amy Devers: Speaking of Turf, Our friend and producer, Sam Sager sat down with Faraz Shah, a senior manager at Turf to talk about their showroom experience, bean bags and all.

Samantha Sager: One of our bold predictions this year was that we’re going to see a [00:02:00] lot of new colors come out. The last couple years have been a lot of neutrals, but clearly the Turf showroom has brought a lot of new

Faraz Shaw: colors in a lot of color.

If you rewind the clock before last year, You know, even our own color palette was, it was driven by what our supplier has. Uh, so last year we introduced a brand new color palette, and it was something where we spent a lot of time trying to do research to understand how do you create a. Balanced palette, right?

Even on the neutral side, like between warm and cool neutrals, but also how do you introduce color that’s usable at a large scale? It’s not just, uh, a reveal or like a pop of color maybe used for branding. Like what if you actually use like a desaturated purple or desaturated blue in the ceiling, like you can kind of create this scape above you that feels.

Warm, it, it could be like a, a warm tone, but it’s, it’s actual color, right? To me, that’s something that helps to elevate the [00:03:00] space and it, it can feel impactful and unique, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming, like when, a lot of times I think people are scared to use color because some of those choices might not feel timeless, or it could be overstimulating.

So we’ve tried to develop a tool set for designers that let them. Play a little bit and it’s less risky and they can do it in a way that, you know, makes people feel good in their space. Our hope is that when an architect or designer walks into this space, they feel comfortable. It’s not a hard sell, like honestly, coming here, chill out.

I mean, we’ve had a ton of competitors here and that’s okay. But I, we hope that people come in and experience something and feel something, and then maybe they’re taking that back with them and applying it something they saw here on a project.

Samantha Sager: And how about looking to the future? Are you thinking about what comes next?

Faraz Shaw: Yeah, I think this is a really hard thing. Um, We’ve set a high bar, you know, it’s gonna be a real challenge for us [00:04:00] and we don’t necessarily know what that vision is, but it’s gonna be playful, it’s gonna be interesting. It’s gonna be a show. Um, so we’ll see what Act two looks like.

Amy Devers: Turf is just one example of big experiments within NeoCon.

Another is what Trendspotter Chris Keller from Stantec Architecture saw while perusing the different floors at the mark.

Chris Keller: I saw some really interesting chairs that I can’t decide if they. Have a massage quality or if they’re very uncomfortable.

Amy Devers: Do you think like that’s a new frontier in ergonomics or that it’s a new frontier in terms of incorporating art and sculpture into the functional aspects of the office place?

Chris Keller: I think it’s both. I think there’s always a market for unique objects mm-hmm. That serve a purpose. And I think that, um, I could see how it would be similar to that. And this is gonna sound a bit trite, but you know those beads that you put on your car seat. Yeah, when you’re driving, and I, and I don’t mean to trivialize it because it was actually a very cool chair.

It was very, the form was beautiful and, and it looked like something, an object that I would like to have [00:05:00] in my home, sitting sort of in the corner. But I can see it doing the same thing, you know, giving you sort of a way to kind of keep your, keep your back stimulated by just rubbing against it instead of, you know, a normal task chair where it’s mesh and you just sort of sink into it and you’re there for hours on end.

Amy Devers: Let’s check in with another first timer surround podcast producer, Hannah Viti. Spoke with Grace Rothschild.

Grace Rothschild: It’s been so great and I think I was definitely surprised, like how built out and how crazy the showrooms are. Um, which I guess like in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been. This is the Super Bowl of our industry.

So I think one thing that I really got inspired by was like the innovation that’s happening in the healthcare scene, like, The hospital is such an impactful time in people’s lives, whether it’s the good or the bad. So I think it’s really important for us to be like designing those wells and building out these showrooms and thinking about these things.

So it’s just like really inspirational to think about like all these different applications of the things we’re seeing every day, but other people are doing it in. Such unique ways and so it’s gonna be really awesome to [00:06:00] take that back to San Francisco with me. We’re doing a presentation back at HGA for everybody Went to NeoCon to kind of like talk to the firm and so I’m really excited to kind of like, I’ve been taking pictures with that in mind and kind of bringing that back to my coworkers and I’m really excited to hear like what my team has to say about all the stuff that I’ve seen.

So, and like see where we kind of bounce off from there and see how we can take this trend and this experience and apply it to our work.

Amy Devers: Think Lab’s. Jess Jenkins also had her expectations shook.

Jess Jenkins: Something that I thought I saw throughout the show was a lot of this like human touch coming back in. I think we’re all talking a lot about artificial intelligence and.

Chat, G P T and all of this technology that’s out there and, and the usage of a lot of that. But what I saw a lot throughout the show was this kind of human element coming back in. Whether that was humans making actual products in showrooms or, um, just seeing more of that like connection points in joinery with furniture.

So kind of this maker’s movement almost kind of getting a revival a little bit throughout the [00:07:00] show. That kind of surprised me. I think I thought we’d see more digital applications of products within spaces and I saw a almost a return. More to this. We’re here in person in this physical touch.

Amy Devers: Cheryl Durst is the executive Vice president and c e O of I I D A, the International Interior Design Association.

I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of her time to sit down with her to talk about her NeoCon experience. I’ve gotta admit, this one was one of my favorite interviews for the podcast. So can you tell me about your keynote?

Cheryl Durst: Our keynote was Amy Webb, who is the c e O of the Future Today Institute. And Amy talked about this world of forecasting and foresight and futurism and what that means for designers.

She really brought it home for them in that designers are futurists. And they are looking ahead on behalf of their clients. Three years, five years, 10 [00:08:00] years. There’s not as much formality around the process of foresight, but she was really helping designers understand how they can look at all of the disparate signals that are out in the world and how to leverage those signals on behalf of their clients, whether it’s by industry, by product type, by demographics and population.

It was so much information in the course of an hour. Everyone’s heads were, you know, minds blown in a great way. And she did. One of the most interesting and beautiful things that I’ve seen a speaker do is she provided what she called a digital swag bag. So it was her entire presentation, but all the tips and tools that everyone can use, you know, as whether they’re thinking about formally becoming a futurist or just using them in their everyday practice,

Amy Devers: that’s incredibly nutrient dense.

Cheryl Durst: Right, right. Oh wow. And just the generosity of spirit. Um, Future Today Institute is completely open source. And so they make information and resources and research [00:09:00] available, um, to their audience. And she, she brought that personality to her keynote. And afterwards she did, she did a meet and greet for, um, for audience members.

And then we did a, you know, kind of a micro level workshop in foresight and futurism afterwards. They have a division of, uh, the Future Today Institute that specifically focuses on design and architecture. Amazing. Yeah. What an offering. It was fantastic. Okay,

Amy Devers: so what ha, give me your, I just wanna take your temperature on this year’s NeoCon.

Are you seeing any shifts, any surprises?

Cheryl Durst: So it’s been, I’m seeing a lot, um, I’m seeing a lot of. Younger people, and I’m trying to decide if that’s because I’ve gotten older and everybody looks young, or if truly younger people are coming to NeoCon. And I know there have been programs that have been created for first time NeoCon goers.

I’ve seen a lot more students. It’s become a part of the curriculum for a lot of design educators to bring their students to NeoCon. [00:10:00] We have a program going on at I D A headquarters right now. I think that’s so important. Yeah. Student design, charette. And, but understanding the importance of events like this, of trade shows like this in the trajectory of your career is.

More important, I think now than ever before. Like you don’t have to be 40 or 50 to come to NeoCon, right.

Amy Devers: If you’re a futurist, you kind of need to see what the landscape is of industry so you can project your path forward.

Cheryl Durst: Yes. Right, right. And so from the people that you meet to the product that you see at NeoCon, um, I, I think it’s great for students to observe that and, and to just see the multiplicity of what’s here.

And you get to see Chicago. Yes.

Amy Devers: Any surprises? Anything that you weren’t

Cheryl Durst: expecting? You know, it’s interesting you see companies like Hayworth that tend to introduce a lot of product. Well, this year they were very deliberate and intentional and they only introduced five or six products, but [00:11:00] they focused on craft and on makers.

Um, they had digital knitting happening. They have a weaver from Poron. Frow in their space. And so, and other, other showrooms, other manufacturers are also focusing on craft. And so not just the product, but how that product is crafted and created and who is who,

Amy Devers: the artisans who are crafting. Absolutely.

And I loved to see that. Honestly, it was so nice to see the craftspeople getting, um, some recognition. Being part of the marketing story, but also, you know, being connected directly to the product. Right? So

Cheryl Durst: beautiful and proudly saying We are makers, right? Yes. The makers are no longer invisible. They never should have been, but the, the story provenance is so.

Important people wanna know the origin story, the, the genesis of the product that they’re specifying. And so bringing some of these folks who are third generation crafters, I think has been wonderful. [00:12:00] Um, to have them participatory in NeoCon and for designers, designers to see that and participate in that.

Amy Devers: The futurist plus the craft, this kind of seems like. Maybe there’s a contradiction there, but I don’t think there is. I think they’re both pointing towards the future. Is this informing. Your leadership for I I D A in the coming year? I,

Cheryl Durst: yes. I think there is a much stronger focus, as I mentioned, origin stories, how things start, and so you know, we’re at I I D A looking at how do people.

Become first, it first become interested in design. We have our Design Your World program, which is for high school students. We’re looking even younger, you know, how do we talk to six and seven and eight year olds? And so what are the origins of an interest in a career in design, and how do we nurture that and how do we incubate that?

And how do we, if you will, grow designers. Right. [00:13:00] Um, and so, yeah, so those are, those are very connected and, and most people become interested in design because they’re making something. And that always makes me think about that first art teacher that we all have. And I’ve heard so many designers say, an art teacher saved my life.

That’s that teacher who really, you know, kind of saw some talent or saw the glimmer of some talent. And, you know, maybe you didn’t go out on the playground at recess and play kickball. Maybe you stayed in the art studio and, and that art teacher allowed you to do something with your hands, allowed you to make something.

So we are looking at the origin of interest in talent and formal education, and where do they intersect and how do they intersect.

Amy Devers: Now, to close this episode, I wanted to share with you some fun audio we were able to collect just before NeoCon came to an end. As a lot of you may know, the Surround podcast network partnered with Snap Cab for their podcast activation and one of the Snap cab booths had an incredibly fun and thoughtful [00:14:00] design.

The booth was a green space that like our recording booth had sound dampening, but unlike our recording booth, the back wall was carpeted in a lush green moss. Our producer, Rob Schulte, was able to speak with Shiri Shubbar the designer of the space, as well as Lindsay Scherr Burgess, owner of Green Walls scapes.

First, let’s hear from Shiri who conceptualized the design for this Snap cab. Then we’ll hear from Lindsay.

Shiri Shubbar: The pod is, uh, envisioned in a workplace environment. It’s a place for you to go and be peaceful and, you know, relax and unwind from the work stressors. And, and just the concept of it is, uh, very simple.

Basically. It’s very neutral or earthy colors. Uh, but the start of the show, which what I want really wanted to emphasize is the back wall, which is, uh, mos preserved tu wall, which is kind of reminiscent of. Nature. Basically, I wanted to bring the, a nature element to those, you know, boring kind of 60 like layout in the, uh, office environment.

And just the [00:15:00] bigger picture is trying to promote wellness and, and the concept of wellness in what it means. Because I, I deal with many offices in my work and there is a lot of pushback to introduce, you know, new things that maybe make people, I don’t know, maybe it’s. Say happier or more relaxed, or more peaceful.

It just looked at as, you know, luxury and, and waste of budget and all of this. So I’m, it’s, it’s a kind of an attempt for everyone to think about what wellness means and how we can incorporate wellness in workspace where people spend eight hours of their days and I think it, they deserve to be a little bit more comfortable, a little more relaxed, happier, and more productive.


Lindsay Scherr Burgess: My name is lindsay Scherr Burgess. I am the owner of Green Walls Scapes. Uh, we collaborated with Snap Cab to do a conceptual pod with them for this show. Our company does preserved moss walls, which are walls that look alive, but they are not alive. They create a really soft zen energy. They help with acoustics, and they just, it just has a really nice feeling in here.

We got [00:16:00] approached by Snap Cab and they said, do you want to participate in this project? And I said, yes. I will send you as much moss as you want. Super excited about this. This has been a dream of ours to participate in NeoCon since inception. It was just a really cool opportunity and a very unique, um, activation.

This has just been a wonderful experience. I’ve gotten to meet lovely humans and I’ve learned a lot about. How important, um, office space and, and bringing in these really cool different finishes that, um, people are looking for places for calm and for to be able to think and to be able to collaborate, but also to have focus time.

And so these kinds of pods are just a great way to do that. And Snap Cab specifically, um, just really thinks outside the box and they’re looking to really innovate in this space. So it was really an awesome

Amy Devers: collaboration. Thanks for listening. Just a reminder, NeoCon 2023 remains open for virtual registration until August 13th.[00:17:00]

Neo Conversations is proud to be a part of the Surround podcast network. You can find more podcasts like this one by visiting surround Special thanks to SnapCab, The Mart and our production team, Samantha Sager, Rob Schulte, Hannah Viti, Wize Grazette, and Rachel Senatore. I’ve been your host, Amy Devers.

If you haven’t already, please leave this podcast a five star review. We’d really appreciate it. Bye for now.

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Amy Devers

Amy Devers is a designer, fabricator, educator, and media personality on a mission to reveal the humanity behind the design that shapes our world.

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