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Professional Development: HUNT Interior Design Group Travels to Chicago for NeoCon 2018

Last month, several folks from HUNT’s interior design staff attended NeoCon® 2018 in Chicago. This was the 50th year for the world’s leading platform and most important event for the commercial design industry. With nearly 1 million square feet of exhibition and demonstration space it gave HUNT staff unparalleled access to the latest and most innovative solutions in commercial design.

We asked Christine Checho, Barbara Casale and Emily Vollo to share their experiences with us. Christine, Barbara and Emily are in our Rochester, NY office.

Emily: On a professional level NeoCon helped me reset my design process for our clients’ project. I’ll take new approaches and incorporate new, innovative finishes that are currently being launched. Personally, it helped me grow as a designer. What is new and emerging allows me to reflect on my past work and encourages me to create new solutions for our clients.

Christine: NeoCon is the best way to learn about new products, so we can provide our clients with the highest rating and functioning products. Our clients see our designs a beautiful and inspiring, but the products need to support sustainability and be durable. On a personal level, this was a great way for the interior design group to strengthen our bond as a team. We met past professors, made new connections and bounce ideas off each other. These informal meetings allowed us to talk each other through design issues we face at work.

Barbara: As a professional, seeing the latest and greatest, innovations and technological advances was amazing. Inspiring is an understatement. It was like fireworks of information and creativity everywhere I looked! Personally, I am grateful that my employer would invest in me (and the team). HUNT sees the importance of us staying current as technology improves and grows and new products are introduced. All these advances potentially support our clients’ future projects. This helps ensure that we are providing our clients with the most durable and safest products on the market today. It’s important to stay ahead of the curve, to keep current for our clients and offer great competition to our competitors

Emily: The #1 experience for me was using virtual reality as a presentation tool for our clients. Soon, we’ll be able to involve the client and other designers in the process. Virtual reality will allow for real-time design. We’ll involve multiple parties, from different locations, in the design process. As a group we’ll experience a 3D space, view alternative designs, and make decisions.

Christine: I think the unique seminars I took changed me. My seminar was very beneficial, it was on Maker Spaces within K-12, university, and community spaces. We all left feeling excited and inspired after our lectures. It really puts into perspective the impact that we have for students and the community.

Barbara: The class I went to was amazing! I always thought that there must be a better way to learn in the classroom, a better way to engage the students, to keep their attention, help them to want to be there. My class reinforced my thinking and it had facts and research to back up this way of thinking. We, as designers, can help teachers to make the classroom a real experience and not a simple space where children must sit down and be quiet for hours on end and be bored. I think we were all impressed and inspired by one architectural firm and how they had a feature wall that boasted their accomplishments in an artistic yet modern way. We are hoping to create something for Hunt that boasts of our accomplishments and teamwork.

Emily: Never having been to Chicago, it was exciting to experience the culture of the city. We were lucky enough, to do an architectural boat tour of the city where we saw some of the city’s architectural treasures and learned more about the city’s history.

Christine: I love Chicago! This was my third time back, second NeoCon. Both very different experiences at the Mart. It was rainy every day except the last day, but it didn’t affect our experience at all. Great people, made new connections, made a lot of stories, and came back very appreciative for our quick team bonding experience.

Barbara: Chicago seemed like a big city filled with unique food (Chicago deep dish pizza for example), places for kids and adults alike to go and unwind and splash in a very shallow water “pool/ park”.

Emily: We had some odd moments during this trip. It was funny, when we arrived at the airport in Chicago our main topic of discussion was all about the terrazzo that was installed in the terminal. We were obsessing over the re-colored design strips, the different aggregates and patterns used for way-finding. We were all wrapped up in this and then finally someone was like, “Guys we made it, we are in Chicago!” – I guess we are just designers; we can’t help it!

Christine: Things got funny more that once. We didn’t get much sleep with the hectic hours so there were a lot of moments that may not have been as funny to someone. But our group made a bunch of little memories and laughed a lot. Late on the first day our brains already felt like mush and Barbara joked around on a spinning egg-shaped chair, quickly turning to the side and playing improv lines like “What was that?” It was a cool experience to let our guards down and be a bit silly. Design has a function and purpose, but some products are so quirky and outside the box it’s important to never take anything too seriously!

Barbara: I’m with Emily on this. As we all walked in Chicago O’Hare, we all noticed many of the architectural features and finishes. We really thought the flooring was unique and inspiring but as we all looked closer, we were all totally bummed that the workmanship was poorly done. We all started out with “Hey guys, CHECK this out!!!” and then we were like “Oh no! Check THIS out!” We are such like-minded designers (who have a hard time NOT thinking about work ALL the time), and we found unison in even the smallest details. It was an interesting and unexpected way to start the trip!

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