Getting Ready for NeoCon
If you live in Grand Rapids, no doubt you’ve heard of NeoCon. And if you have anything at all to do with the world of design, you’ve been to NeoCon.
What is NeoCon? Let me swipe a snippet from its website: “NeoCon is North America's largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors, providing over 40,000 architecture and design professionals with more than 140 CEU-accredited seminars and association forums, top-notch keynote speakers.”
For 16 years, Kendall College of Art and Design has offered a summer class held during NeoCon, in and around Chicago’s Merchandise Mart (which is so big, it has its own ZIP Code).
“The Big D” (D for Design, of course) class has at least one thing in common with NeoCon: it too brings together Kendall students who are studying different design disciplines, including graphics, interiors, furniture and more.
While the majority of study is conducted in Chicago, students attend several day-long classes to prepare for their experience. On this sunny Friday, we’re gathered to listen to Yang Kim, Executive Creative Director and co-owner of Peopledesign. This 25-person design firm specializes in “experience design” (how consumers experience the design cycle). I urge you to go to their website for a far-better-than-I-can-write explanation of their innovative process of getting inside customers’ heads.
Peopledesign has created Neocon showrooms for several clients, and Yang showed us previous showrooms for office furnishings company izzy+ and True Textiles, and gave us a sneak peek at their work for commercial carpet tile manufacturer Interface Hospitality.
I can’t give away any secrets, but I will share a story that Yang told about the Swiffer Sweeper from Procter and Gamble. “The challenge,” Yang said, “was to build a better broom. Instead, P&G spoke to people about cleaning their floors, and discovered that many would wipe the floor with a paper towel after sweeping. Instead of building a different broom, a completely new product was created by getting inside the customers’ experiences to discover what they truly needed.” Boom! A new product category was created.
And that was the assignment: Identify, understand and improve the customer experience at a local business. Teams headed out to explore coffeeshops, museums, restaurants and businesses to silently observe how each organizations’ customers interacted with the space, furnishings, and employees.
What did they learn? We’ll find out at our next class—a warm-up for repeating the exercise while exploring designed user experiences in the showrooms at NeoCon.
~ Pamela Patton
P.S. Why are there no photos with this post? Simply put: SD card failure.