Metropolis Likes NeoCon 2019 Winners

The 2019 #MetropolisLikes NeoCon winners are here! Beneath the slideshow of awardees, Metropolis editor Akiva Blander and design writer Katie Okamoto highlight some of the themes that emerged from reviewing these 34 winning submissions.

Now and Then
History’s design movements can be remarkably prescient, and the Bauhaus—particularly its textiles—is one of the most famous examples. An especially forward-thinking Modernism took hold in its weaving workshops, espoused by its mostly female designers, who were among the first to experiment with color. With this year’s centennial of the school sparking interest in all its creative legacies, including Designtex’s revival of dozens of historic patterns, the textile designers of the Bauhaus are finally enjoying their day in the sun. —A.B.

Line Up
Architects don’t build, they draw. So it makes sense that the line is as beloved among designers as it is; it’s the unit of architectural representation, providing structure, boundaries, direction, and, when hatched, material. With the advent of digital drawing, the line has been reduced to its mathematical essence. A recent crop of minimalist products pay their respects to the line, expressing it in form and pattern.

Curve Appeal
It’s become a truism that play is essential to innovation. As organizations place more value on fostering “culture,” and deemphasize one-to-one productivity, they’re hoping design can help coax out adults’ latent creativity. This theme has manifested as visual playfulness: smooth, friendly, vaguely anthropomorphic. This is furniture that keeps things light. It’s practical, flexible, and often modular, like a toy set—fitting for workplaces that idolize the kindergarten playground. —K.O.

Knit Picks
Sneaker culture is everywhere; it’s even in our chairs. For the recent surge in knitted textiles, the influence is explicit. With Haworth’s just-introduced computerized knitting, the company promises “a desk chair experience similar to that of a favorite running shoe.” Importing techniques from fashion into seating makes a lot of sense: Knits are breathable, hug the curves of today’s complex forms, and provide loft (no need for fill) and seamlessness between different patterns (for tailored ergonomic support). And because the process is digital, customization possibilities for both look and performance are wide-open. —K.O.

Postwar Revival
There’s a curious interest in postwar offices lately, maybe because they feel so different from those of today. Perhaps in a backlash against the hyper-casual nature of contemporary work culture, manufacturers and designers are looking to restore some of the old order, benefiting from a fond nostalgia and the distance of time. Some new products— including borderline-camp takes on the executive chair and revivals of time-honored materials like polished wood and houndstooth fabrics—are flouting our contemporary obsession with what can only be termed kindergarten-style workplaces, opting for a more grown-up, stately aesthetic. —A.B.

Basic Instinct
With all the advances technology has enabled in product design—giving us hitherto-impossible geometries and seamless forms—sometimes simple is just right. A number of releases this year return to building blocks, whether they’re systems of actual boxes or tessellating units. There’s something refreshing about the approach. Not everything useful, beautiful, or sustainable requires 3D modeling. —K.O.

Wallflowers
Great design isn’t always showstopping or attention-seeking; it can play an important supportive role, helping to foster any desired atmosphere—visual, acoustic, haptic, and more. (As “The Dude” Lebowski said, “That rug really tied the room together.”) Subtle, unobtrusive fixtures that combine lighting and acoustic solutions, and surfaces with restrained palettes, are freeing up designers and users to concentrate on what matters in commercial spaces: focus, ease, and getting the job done. —A.B.

Odd Charm
Beauty isn’t always easy to justify or describe, and some new products are especially difficult to categorize. Their proportions are exaggerated, their curves off-kilter, and their stances on the ground somewhat awkward—yet their appeal is undeniable. From chairs that humbly sit stout to textiles that up the ante on large-format patterns, they reflect designers’ heightened willingness to challenge accepted formulas. —A.B.

Indoor Park
It’s no news designers are incorporating elements of nature into commercial settings. But if everything is biophilia, then nothing is. A slew of new products takes a more pragmatic, domesticated approach. These releases riff on natural patterns like wood grain, deploying forms and palettes you’d sooner see in a public park than in the great outdoors. Whether something is truly biophilic is beside the point; it’s clear designers are increasingly taking work outside, and the lessons of landscape design in. —A.B.