Judging at Neocon: A HIP Report

When O+A’s design team got back from NeoCon we asked everyone to check in with impressions, experiences, and favorite products. Our Senior Designer Lauren Perich had an especially busy NeoCon this year, judging products and winning Interior Design Magazine’s HiP Award in the Design for the Greater Good category. Not surprisingly she wrote the most detailed report:

It’s tough to summarize the whirlwind of Neocon in a short web story. I can already identify multiple rabbit holes for rambling about products and design conversations that I can tap into. But I’ll try my best to keep it concise.

For me, Neocon started on the Friday prior with the first day of judging. Judging happens the Friday and Saturday prior to the show opening to the public. Those are typically two full days of being on a team of 5-6 judges, moving swiftly to specific showrooms in the assigned categories. This was my third year on Team A. My team consisted of two familiar faces: Rouba Haykal, a Senior Designer at CBT in Boston and Amy Williams a Facilities Manager with NetJets in Columbus. We also had two new faces join team A: Laura Leung of IA NYC and Gable Clarke of SGA Boston.

This year we were judging lounge seating, demountable partitions, occasional tables, and work-from-home solutions. The majority of the judging consisted of individual scoring on our mobile devices. The last day is truly the most interesting – since that is when teams battle it out (in the most professional and respectful way possible of course) to come to a consensus on who deserves Gold and Silver, Sustainability, and Innovation awards along with a possible Best in Show nomination. Boss Design and Calligaris Group were stand-out manufacturers from the categories I judged.


We had some lively dialogue as a group. It was great to see that there was no shortage of sustainability awards to be earned. We discussed how Gold and Silver winners should be acknowledging aesthetics, contribution to the industry, sustainability, and price and lead time – though it’s not always apples to apples in some scenarios. Once the individual team awards were set, the Best in Show nominations and deliberations for the full jury were under way. The nominations were Halcon’s HELM tables, OM Seating’s Plot Twist pouf, Andreu World’s Oru guest chair, and SilentLab’s work pod. Halcon won by a landslide, but I still really appreciate the inclusive nature and versatility of the Plot Twist pouf.

The rest of the time was filled with HiP awards, showroom visits, the Break Some Dishes podcast recording in the OFS showroom, and the Sustainability Lab Crawl with Metropolis Magazine. I was happy to see Calligaris Group’s Reef lounge chair recognized for being made of 100% post-consumer recycled content. Mohawk’s collaboration with ArtLifting had an inspiring social impact story. Turf acoustics had a very well-designed showroom with a product that has a great sustainability story and high acoustic performance. And in my final hours at Neocon, tucked away in a corner of the chaotic 7th floor, I was happy to discover Model N° – who manufacturers carbon neutral products out of Oakland, CA using salvaged woods and plant-based polymers.