As part of Stacie Rohrbach’s communication studio and Andrew Twigg’s lab course, sophomore design students began the spring 2016 semester with their first client project. MDes alum Tim Carryer, president of the consulting and management company GreenoverGreen, proposed the collaboration between the School of Design and GreenoverGreen as a way to get fresh eyes on public communication pieces within the energy efficiency industry. Carryer is currently working with a statewide group to promote the Home Energy Score (HES) -- an energy efficiency audit for homeowners, similar to the “miles per gallon” rating for vehicles -- and asked the students to design the communication around the HES, presenting it as “a process, not just a number.”
Situated within a course focused on designing communications for interactions, this project encouraged students to be cognizant of their design decisions, using each discovery to inform subsequent steps in their process. The instructors emphasized the importance of investigating the topic in depth, identifying opportunities to connect with their audience, constructing narratives that lead readers through a logical and succinct message, and developing ways of moving people to action. The students’ final deliverables represented a wide span of media, including printed postcards, animated videos, a mailer including two free CFL bulbs, and interactive websites.
At the beginning of the project, Rohrbach and Twigg presented the communication and interaction goals, discussing inherent challenges and outlining steps that would carry the students through the design process. Next, Carryer came into the studio to describe his views on the subject -- including the politics, technical aspects, biases, and social drivers that come from working in the energy efficiency industry. He demonstrated the audit on the studio space itself to give students a concrete example of the process and outcome, which answered some of their questions and informed their project ideas. Each student had to wrestle with the information Carryer presented and what they found while conducting their own investigations, online or otherwise. Since this was the sophomores’ first project designing for someone distinctly other than themselves, they were challenged to empathize with both the client and the homeowners. Thinking about how their solutions could be relevant to both homeowners and GreenoverGreen while taking into account what is and isn’t currently working led the students to the myriad of approaches they took.
It was crucial that the students shape communication pieces that not only resonated with the target audience but convinced them to take action by getting their homes audited. Some students chose to reach out to homeowners or home buyers themselves. For example, Natalie Harmon designed a series of postcards with love letters written on them that “describe the relationship between the owner and the house in terms used for human relationships,” using storytelling to “start the conversation about energy efficiency, because people are then thinking about their personal experiences, discomforts, and hopes.” Tiffany Jiang approached the project by connecting the energy efficiency industry to “the importance of community based social marketing” and opening up a conversation by sending two complimentary CFL bulbs -- calling homeowners’ attention by using a unique delivery method.
Others, like Christie Chong, chose to “give [HomeEc] students an opportunity to be more familiar with the importance of home energy efficiency before they even start buying homes,” designing an interactive website intended for use in the classroom. Lily Kim chose to create a Ted-Ed inspired video, “[educating] viewers in a fun way about topics on energy efficiency that seemed daunting or boring” and “[dispelling] some of the false advertisement claims that window companies put out.”
The sophomores’ experience working with Carryer and GreenoverGreen afforded them an opportunity to work with a real-world client and a real-world problem. Having Carryer involved helped them understand the challenges and opportunities of a designer in industries that are entrenched in political and social issues. Working with such a client can be daunting, but Carryer’s flexibility in welcoming various approaches and questions along with Rohrbach and Twigg’s guidance throughout the project allowed them to explore the problem space and create appropriate, effective, and innovative communication pieces. One takeaway that Lily Kim mentioned was the importance of “[encouraging] different approaches and outlooks when it comes to working towards a solution”; Natalie Harmon expressed that while the “proposed solutions may not always be implementable, … we can at least start new conversations.”
by Natalie Harmon
I aimed to increase homeowners’ satisfaction & understanding of their homes through the process of increasing its energy efficiency. I designed a series of postcards that document a homeowner's relationship with the house over time. They are written in the form of love letters, and the narrative prompts readers to place themselves in the story. It highlights common problems with houses and encourages people to know their houses better by getting an home energy score audit.
by Jessica Headrick
The Current Crew is a four part system: the Current crew narrative, the Check List, the Next Step card, and the lighting bolt badge.This system aims to inform and engage a child about energy conservation and consumption in their home. The Current Crew narrative the hook -it introduces the concepts of energy and defines key terms, the Check List informs the child and parent on energy their activity with their child. The lightning bolt badge is a tool to empower the child to make a change.
by Lily Kim
An educational video about energy efficiency.
by Faith Kaufman
The Home Energy Score was a client-based project that dealt with consumer psychology, data presentation, and research. I had to decide what information would resonate with our target audience of Pennsylvania residents and cause them to take action on improving their energy efficiency. I crafted a mailer that combines the problem with the solution and encouragement of getting a HES Audit to combat health risks. I also created an HES diagram that allows homeowners to track their progress.
by Anqi Wan
How do we get homeowners to take action towards energy efficiency? I found that homeowners commonly search online for solutions for common comfort issues(humidity, cold, dust). These are often directly related to efficiency, so I created an online quiz that they can take to address their concerns. The results explains how these symptoms connect to energy efficiency, and also introduce the user to the Home Energy Score rating and encourage them to take action by signing up for an energy audit.
by Sara Remi Fields
Our goal was to create more energy efficient homes in Pennsylvania. I decided that the best way to reach consumers would be to relate to them. With this in mind, I created the Penn Energy Efficiency Community. Since people belong to communities of all kinds, I used the sense of a group, website, and video, to make homeowners feel as though they are a part of something bigger and to use this belongingness provoke action, concern, and change in relation to energy efficiency.
by Tiffany Jiang
How do we design a system that will get homeowners to be pro-active about energy efficiency? Homeowners should want to make changes for themselves but also for the community's sake. The interactive booklet and two CFL bulbs are sent in a box to the owner as a buy-in. My approach leverages community based social marketing. Having block leaders who are familiar faces to check on homeowners is very effective. The content utilizes persuasive normative messaging and social pressure.
by Kevin Gao
A system designed to expose home energy efficiency. A three step process consisting of a mobile game, home energy score, and a rewards system.
Here at the School of Design, high value is placed on design inquiry. Using the design process to explore wicked problems and question current approaches, projects often broaden in scope before critical project questions can be identified and tackled properly. However, in acknowledging the complexity of wicked problems, students learn to recognize that their solutions are not the be-all end-all; rather, the articulation of their discoveries contribute to larger conversations around each problem space they tackle.