With NeoCon 2017 already in the rear view mirror, I sat down with Cheryl Sternstein to get a designer's thoughts on the show and to also discuss how she approaches healthcare design.
Cheryl Sternstein is a Senior Designer at CallisonRTKL in Chicago, specializing in the healthcare sector. Cheryl works on a variety of design projects from large hospitals to small clinics. She previously worked as a hospitality designer for American Hotel Register.
What was the most exciting part of your visit to NeoCon 2017?
I attended NeoCon for brief stints throughout the week. My office is located downtown so it was easy to pop over for a few hours each day instead of making it an all-day affair. The most exciting part of the visit was not necessarily one product but having the ability stop in showrooms that I wouldn’t typically visit and learning that they do in fact have product that works for the healthcare sector. Many times designers avoid vendors or reps who don’t carry healthcare-specific product, but NeoCon gives us a chance to break out of the norm and find new things that can work for us.
We sometimes hear from designers based in Chicago that they don’t attend NeoCon. Is it true that if you work in Chicago you don’t attend NeoCon? What is your preferred way of “experiencing” NeoCon?
I know many of my colleagues don’t attend because of the crowds and craziness. I use NeoCon as a way to see new products and network with people from all over the country and the world. I typically spend 3-4 hours on the tradeshow floor speed walking through until I find a product that interests me. I then spend a few hours each remaining day stopping at the showrooms, visiting with reps, networking and seeing their new products. Typically my coworkers and I will schedule a time to come back to the Mart if we need to focus on a particular product. I also enjoy the seminars and learning about innovative practices in our field.
What is your favorite part of NeoCon?
The networking aspect is my favorite part of the show. I love having a chance to talk with reps, vendors and colleagues that I don’t work with on a daily basis.
Think back to your first NeoCon, how has the experience changed?
My first time at NeoCon I was actually working at the tradeshow as a vendor. But I was really excited and loved all of the hustle and bustle… although my feet were killing me and food was scarce! Luckily, NeoCon has gotten much better about having food stations on the floors. I do enjoy being a client much more!
What is your most recent design purchase/choice you've made for yourself?
My most recent personal purchase was a piece of artwork that I bid on at the DIFFA Art for Life event. It's a really great abstract photograph that is a composition of vibrant ethnic blankets arranged so that it appears as if you are looking through a kaleidoscope.
What attracted you to healthcare design?
I wanted to design environments that help others in some way, whether for a patient who needs a healing atmosphere, a loved one who needs comforting or an employee who needs an efficient work environment. I also wanted to work on buildings that challenged me to think outside the box and become a better designer in the end.
What trends are you noticing in the industry?
Many hospitals these days want the experience to be less like a hospital and more like a hotel, which I think is great. It’s a way to bring in great design elements and make an environment beautiful. The challenge is to make sure that the items are acceptable for the healthcare environment.