The AIS Showroom Experience
As the commercial interiors industry’s most popular event, NeoCon’s annual conference in Chicago has been successful at bringing people together with products and innovative ideas. Each year’s event is highly anticipated by interior designers and firms all around the country. At this year’s conference, NELSON collaborated with AIS, a premier office furniture manufacturer to better position (literally!) their work station introductions, select finishes and material options for their vignettes, and more specifically, to better showcase new AIS casegoods offerings. The NELSON Team aided in updating, re-planning, re-coloring, and accessorizing this year’s AIS NeoCon showroom as well as selected new architectural finishes, graphics, and accents throughout the space.
We recently sat down with Rouba Haykal, IIDA, NCIDQ, Designer III, one of the AIS design team members at NELSON to discuss her experience collaborating with AIS at NeoCon.
Question: Is this something NELSON does annually or was it a new effort?
Answer: NELSON has been involved with the AIS NeoCon showroom for many years. Even though we know the client and the space, this year's approach was a new experience because AIS was looking to change their image from a casual, fun, young look to a more sophisticated classy impression.
Question: How did NELSON become involved with AIS and their NeoCon showroom?
Answer: As previously mentioned, NELSON has had a long association with AIS that precedes our showroom collaboration. In Boston, what solidified the relationship was using their product for our one office renovations. Since then, we have continued to collaborate for many matters including working on the design, branding, rendering
s, and color/materials selections for a number of their new products.
Question: What was the design process like?
Answer: For a long time, the AIS design intent at NeoCon was to be seen, be heard, and be remembered. They were the new kids on the block, and they had an impression to make in the corporate furniture industry. The fun image worked well for them and reached its peak last year with their unconventional, retro-futuristic bubble concept and oxygen bar, paying homage to their previous year’s award winning new “Oxygen” desking system.
This year they had their own design team working on the project. But, just before sending the furniture to production, they realized they wanted a second opinion so they immediately called their trusted friends at NELSON. Melissa Martinho, Julie Brown, and I got involved, and we learned that AIS was ready to rebrand their furniture with a more sophisticated, posh look. AIS thought it was time to shake up the industry, changing their look into a more high-end product line, while conveying a happy and fun corporate vibe in their showroom.
Right after our first meeting, we started brainstorming, and we came up with a concept they loved: “Life Balance.” Considering positives and negatives, ups and downs, and everything in between, we decided the concept could be best expressed in a palette of blacks and whites that would best show off the new AIS product.
The idea that “happiness is relative” is what led us to our next step of embellishing the space with accessories bringing in pops of color while keeping the same overall design aesthetic established. We presented a very natural approach, alternating colors and themes that could be interpreted differently in each vignette and creating a smooth transition from one workstation to another.
The finalized space looked amazing, and we are glad that we saw it in person and witnessed all of the positive feedback from people. The buzz was still there and this time it was about the transition made to the next level.
Also, we would like to congratulate AIS for their new Oxygen Sit-Stand product that got recognized by the NeoCon Best of Judges as a Best of NeoCon category winner!
Question: Were there any challenges the team faced along the way? If so, what were they?
Answer: I cannot deny that our biggest challenge was the “schedule.” We only had three days to come up with the initial design and full finish scheme. To complete this task, we had to expedite all finishes, work through the weekend, work in the airport, and I even worked through my flight to Jamaica. We are very glad that all of the hard work paid off with such great accolades!
Question: What was your favorite part of the process?
Answer: Our favorite part of the process was when the client complemented us on our efforts. Nothing is better than getting praise from a great client after completing a project. Feeling that appreciation was and still is priceless. Due to our job well done, we were awarded more work with AIS here in Massachusetts that is expected for completion in the very near future.
Question: Outside of designing the space, how was your time at NeoCon?
Answer: Our time at NeoCon was very well spent. In fact, it was scheduled to the minute. Specifically for me, I think going for the 3rd year in a row helped with selecting the right tours and attending the greatest events, while also leaving some free time to roam the showrooms and the city of Chicago.
Question: Are there any interesting or fun stories you can share from the experience?
Answer: One of the most extraordinary events at Neocon was the AIS “Big Bang Bash” party at Adler planetarium. The venue was just exceptional, the music was lively, the lighting was interstellar, and the crowd was a lot of fun! We really enjoyed ourselves! It was the perfect way to jointly celebrate our continuing great relationship with AIS – with a BANG!
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