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Oct 19, 2021 By IIDA HQ
NeoCon 2021: IIDA Celebrates Leaders, Community, and Looks Forward
With a focus on the workplace and the future of design, IIDA hosted keynotes, honored IIDA design leaders, and celebrated The Design Your World program
By IIDA HQ Oct 19, 2021
Published in

NeoCon returned to theMart for virtual and in-person programs—and so did we. This year’s programming and theme centered around “The Future of Work'' as IIDA brought programming, awards, and important discussions on change in the industry to the show. The design community returned to Chicago to learn, be inspired, and connect on innovative design, workplace and equity, placemaking and public space, and the importance of education pipelines.

“We knew this year’s NeoCon, being the first in-person show since 2019, would serve as a pedagogy for the future based on lessons learned in recent years,” said IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA. “We used this as an opportunity to provoke audiences to take action through thoughtful conversation around agency, place, equity and collaboration, and how this will influence the designers of tomorrow.”

Sunday October 3

IIDA Showroom and Booth Design Competition

This year’s competition celebrated cutting edge design, awarding Haworth best large booth designed by Gensler and Confluence, and Hightower received best small showroom, a collaboration between Hightower’s team and Casey Keasler. This year’s Jury brought together Jamie Cavalier, IIDA, designer and project manager, BOX Studios; Karie Vagedes, IIDA, senior associate, Huntsman Architectural Group; and Sarah Kuchar, IIDA, owner and creative director, Kuchar.

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2021 IIDA Booth Design winner Haworth
2021 IIDA Booth Design winner Haworth
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2021 IIDA Showroom Design Competition winner, Hightower
2021 IIDA Showroom Design Competition winner, Hightower

Monday October 4

NeoCon Keynote

Monday morning IIDA sponsored the opening keynote, "Furniture for the City: Recasting Urban Design through Micro-Activation with Jeanne Gang, Founding Partner, Studio Gang." Moderated by IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang spoke to the importance of thoughtful design and activation of urban space as an essential tool for wellness, connection, and equity. Watch here

IIDA’s Celebration of Design Leaders


Each year IIDA celebrates design leaders who enhance the profession through their leadership, mentorship, advocacy, and support of both their local design community and the industry at large. The 2021 recipients of the IIDA College of Fellows, IIDA Educator of the Year Award sponsored by KI, IIDA Member of the Year Award, Anna Hernandez/Luna Textiles Visionary Award and Education Fund.

Tuesday October 5

KI Coffee With Cheryl

IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, convened industry leaders to discuss rapidly-evolving needs of workplace design over coffee in the KI showroom at theMart. The conversation featured panelists Mark C. Hirons, IIDA, FAIA, design principal at Cannon Design, Joseph T. Connell, IIDA, principal at Perkins&Will; Angie Lee, IIDA, vice president at Stantec, and Sarah Kuchar, IIDA, owner and creative director at Kuchar.

Key takeaways from the discussion included: work culture is built in the office and space is still so critical for this—connection is amplified in-person and the office can be a symbol of culture, where innovation happens.

    The discussion also raised important questions—as we're all relearning how to re-engage and how to be social again, how can workplace design affect that transition for its employees with a focus on wellness and equity?

    Cheryl Durst and panelists Mark C. Hirons, Joseph T. Connell, Angie Lee, and Sarah Kuchar
    Cheryl Durst and panelists Mark C. Hirons, Joseph T. Connell, Angie Lee, and Sarah Kuchar


    NeoCon CEU Programming | Enabling the Future: How to Design a More Equitable Pipeline

    How can we apply design principles and thoughtful design to the creation of a talent pipeline that infuses our industry with a rich, wide-ranging supply of diverse talent? Moderated by Cheryl S. Durst, FIIDA, panelists Akilah Halley, executive director of Marwen, and Angelita Scott, Ph.D , Assistant Professor of Interior Design at Georgia Southern University and Director Standards Development, Community Concept Lead, WELL Building Institute, came together to examine key aspects design education pipelines and explore real-world, actionable solutions.

    IIDA’s Design Your World Film Premiere


    Tuesday afternoon IIDA premiered the short film, "Design Your World,” produced in partnership with OFS. The debut provided a deeper look into IIDA's education pipeline program, Design Your World, made possible with the organization’s partnership with non-profit After School Matters, as well as presenting sponsor OFS and supporting sponsors 3form, Configura, and Mannington Commercial.

    The mission of Design Your World is to expose BIPOC high-school students to the commercial interior design industry, inspire them to consider design as an accessible, viable career option, and to encourage a diverse generation of new designers. The program is set to expand to new markets in 2022 in one of the following locations: Atlanta, Austin, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis, or Washington D.C. To learn more about the program and get involved in this important initiative read more here.

    Wednesday October 6

    IIDA’s Student Showcase



    IIDA hosted a student-focused celebration featuring the 2021 IIDA Student of the Year and winners of the IA Interior Architects Diversity in Design Scholarship, and the Wilsonart Essay Competition. Up-and-coming designers shared their outstanding projects, essays, and videos, to inspire positive change in our industry, the world, and in ourselves.

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