“A client-based project on designing a ‘Home Energy Label’ as well as home efficiency scores that encourages Pittsburgh homeowners to get an energy audit and implement efficiency changes”

Figuring Out the Actual Project

So today has been an eye-opening experience…

I was mostly confused as well as much of the class about the actual audience we are designing for and how home audits and HES work (Will homeowners be required to take audits? Are they the ones paying for the service? Are we creating something that would report the HES to those who have already performed the audits?)

Through discussion with the class, studio, and Tim, we found the objective of the project which the client himself could not describe. What we found was that we are actually (part1) designing for a system for homeowners to buy into getting their HES and then (part2) instigating them to take further steps and act upon improving their home efficiency.

What I though was really cool was that we shaped the project together as designers and clients by raising questions, both as audiences and designers. I’m pretty sure I had a catharsis at the moment when we finally grasped the scope of the project.

I find that this project will be challenging due to the unfamiliar information that we have to process and communicate and lack of experience in owning a home. However, I also think that this will be a good practice for what some of us could be doing in the real world as professionals.

Going backwards, I have never seen a home audit, so the blow door test and seeing where cold air seeps through with the infrared camera was definitely fascinating. Now that I witnessed our studio’s energy efficiency at almost one third of what it is supposed to be, I understand that getting a home audit could definitely help home owners save money and energy through just sealing all the air leakages around the house.

Now, how can we communicate this to the homeowners is the problem.

I want to take the direction of empathy in making a home a comfortable place while working at maximum efficiency so that owners are not paying for any energy that are lost, which is how I want to appeal to the audience.

Buy In

We decided that getting the HES score is actually a system consisting of getting home owners’ interest in getting an audit, getting the audit, giving back the HES score, and making them take action to become more energy efficient.

The HES system ideas

I narrowed down my approach to ‘Empathy’ and ‘Financial benefit’.

I will stick with print material as my context because I believe it is the easiest material to get the information to the users. In terms of prints, homeowners can get the information directly in their mail without having to go to a website or take certain measures to get to the buy-in.

They buy-in will be an informative booklet that has these factors.

Thumbnail of how the booklet layout may look like
  • Series of questions asking homeowners about the comfort of their homes
    (context) “Does your home feel cold in the winter? Do you run out of hot water often? Are you tired of having to change out your bulbs?” and a ㅁYes ㅁNo checklist for each of the questions
  • Corresponding illustrations to the questions
  • How much money the average house of the particular homeowner’s house size is losing per month due to lack of efficiency
  • Facts about how installing some home-efficiency methods could improve the living condition and reduce energy bills

At the end of the booklet, I want to ask the home owners how many ‘No’s they had and a message that instigates the reader to get an audit, for example, “If you had more than ~’No’s, consider getting a Home Energy Audit to save up to ~ dollars(calculated max for the home size) and make your home more cozy and comfortable!”
and “If you had less than ~ ‘No’s you can still find more ways to make your home comfortable and cost efficient! Consider getting a Home Energy Audit to find out how much money your home is already saving and how much more it could save!”

(turn to next page)

In addition to the check list, I want to add a time line where readers can check where they are in terms of

  1. Losing money no lack of home efficiency
  2. Reading this booklet and finding out about home audits
  3. Getting a home audit
  4. Implementing home efficiency changes

  1. Saving money and making your home worth living in!

Style Ideas

I decided at this point to look for some inspiration in style. I looked for some graphics that I thought might be effective.

I liked this style of simplified graphics that is both descriptive but not too detailed so it becomes distracting. I think it’s much more friendly (and easier to make) than a complete 3D rendering such as the example below.

I am still considering if my style will be outline-less or lined.

My inspiration for color scheme was something like this.

I liked the use of primary colors and how they popped against each other to grab attention. They are also very familiar colors to most people so it would be a good palette to use in a project that needs to reach a big audience.

Typefaces starting from top left (san-serif) : Product Sans, Orator Std, Trebuchet MS, Futura, Calibri & (serif) Georgia, Goudy Old Style, Lucida Bright

I wanted to figure which typeface I would be using and made some options between serif and san-serif fonts.

Example boklet page

Example booklet page

In addition to the booklet, I also started considering home owners will receive their HES scores. I wanted to create an interactive experience for home owners when they are considering making changes to their homes along with getting their scores so that they could have instant gratification in seeing their home improve with energy efficiency changes.

For this reason I wanted to concentrate on a game-like interactive format.

I was inspired by the game Sims’ 3D house building mode.

With this approach, the users will be able to visualize their homes with changes implemented and how it affects the atmosphere of the house.

I thought of a game where the home owners can modify their homes on a digital platform. Users could click on things such as furnaces, roofs, windows and appliances which will show the current models and money wasted and different options to make them more energy efficient (and its costs and potential savings). It would then show how the home changes according to efficiency change.

Example of what the ‘game’ might look like


So far, I have been so concentrated in the game-like format that when I realized that was not the scope of the project, I was already behind — to a great extent. Right now, I’m still developing my content and the visuals are almost close to none, so I don’t have a solid work to show. I’m hoping by next class my contents will be fully developed and I would have the general ideas of the visuals that I could actually combine the facts and the visuals together.

I decided to move out of the game format into a print format, but I still wanted the interactive element, so I am thinking of developing a graphic with flaps?(Not sure what they’re called) that would take the shape of a house. When the user opens each flap for each rooms/elements in the house, they would see content similar to what I had in my example booklet page previously. I have condensed the text and added more visuals into the element, as advised. As for the HES, I am still in idea development…

For Thursday

Fully developed text and hopefully visuals. Cut out and everything.

Idea Update

So I am going to stick with the interactive booklet idea and my concentration on financials and comfort.

I realized that interaction does not have to be on digital platforms and that a print piece would reach the audience easier (i.e. pop em in the audiences’ mailboxes) and would not require extra stem, as in, the audience would not have to visit a link etc… to reach the message.

These are brief sketches of what I had in mind.

It would be 4 pages total, with the main page being the interactive flaps.

Layer 1 will have picture of the house on the outside that the readers could open flaps for each section of the house

Layer 2 readers will be able to see the inside of the house and read the energy loss facts such as, for the bathroom, “Traditional water heater for hot water constantly heats water even when it is not in use!” that they will be able to see once they open the layer 1 flap

Layer 3 readers will open flaps to specific objects such as the bathtub (which relates to the water heater fact) which will show “Average loss: $108/year”

I was not sure between whether I would have to include solutions such as insulating the roof, changing to tankless water heater etc… 
or just to leave the problems as it is, encouraging users to get an audit to find solutions.

example of flap book

This is an example for the interaction. It would be a kind of pop-up book, where readers would be able to open up the flaps and see the information inside.

In the class feedback, I received questions such as:
“How would the back of the paper be used?”
“Will decision tree still be a part?”

I hope that I could address these questions. 
I know for a fact that I will not include the decision tree since asking the homeowners may not be as direct as telling them.


Here are some content for:

Page 1: “You home is a waste of your money!” or “Your home is wasting your money!” (weighing the two options)

Page 2 layer 2 (facts flaps):

  • Roof: “25% of your home’s heat escapes through the roof due to small gaps that allow airflow in and out of the house. No wonder your it’s so cold in your house!”
  • Bathroom: “Traditional water heaters leaves heated water in the tank, constantly losing heat, while tankless water heaters heat water on-demand and deliver it to your showers with no wait time!”
  • Bedroom: “Single-pane windows (windows with 1 glass sheet between you and outside) lets 24%more heat to flow out of your house than double-pane windows.”
  • Living room (panel 1): “The life span of incandescent light bulbs is 40 times less than that of LED bulbs and uses about 10 times as much energy. Tired of constantly switching out your light bulbs yet?”
  • Living room (panel 2): “Even if they seem innocent, your walls are one of the factors making your home drafty during winters. Proper insulation could fix this, and reduced noise from outside is a plus!”

Page 2 layer 3 (average $ loss)

  • (Roof) Attic floor:(On flap) “If you don’t act…” (Inside flap) “Average Loss $500/year”
  • (Bathroom) Bathtub : (On flap) “If you don’t act…” (Inside flap) “Average Loss $106/year”
  • (Bedroom) Windows:(On flap) “If you don’t act…” (Inside flap) “Average Loss $300/year”
  • (Living room) Lights: (On flap) “If you don’t act…” (Inside flap) “Average Loss $290/year”
  • (Living room) Walls: (On flap) “If you don’t act…” (Inside flap) “Average Loss $160/year”

Page 3: “So how do I stop losing energy and money?”

Page 4: “Get a Home Energy Audit for your HES score!”
“HES score measures how energy efficient your home is and provides solutions to how you could cut unnecessary utility bills while maximizing the comfort of your home.” 
“Go to
http://energy.gov/ to find how you could get an energy audit”
“Make your home worth your money and well-being!”

I did accomplish my set goal for Thursday and I now have both content and visuals (although my HES is not completed yet).

I stuck with the original theme of primary colors because they create a lot of vibrant contrast, and especially if my project is a print piece in the mail, it needs to stand out from other piece of mail.

My next goals are actually inserting the text and figuring out how the layout would work and finding how I would fit in the HES

I made some design decisions at this point to combine the cover page with the first ‘flap’ layer and to put the HES score in the back. I didn’t want the booklet with already too many flaps to have different pages, so I thought this was an appropriate decision.

Stacie mentioned that I my want to look at ways to integrate the HES score somehow, so I did test ways to make a pull-out tab, but decided that it was overwhelming-interaction.

Color font or Black font??


I worked on the HES example score, which I decided to add on to the back of the informative cover side. I liked the idea of keeping the booklet one piece of paper and I couldn’t really think of another use for the back.

I kept the text minimal at this point, because I did not want the readers to be overwhelmed by text and lose interest. In addition, I provided a link to the energy.gov site which they could go to get information on how to get an audit.

The HES score itself was changed into percentages over a scale, because it is more readable by the audience (for example, “your home is 80% energy efficient” is easier to understand than “your Home Energy Score is 8”.) and I included the possible savings in a year from making the maximum amount of changes in home, so that homeowners have a realistic, not-so-far-off financial goal.

Putting Everything Together

Couple of test prints before putting the pieces together

In determining the right size, I wanted by prints to be something that would easily fit in mailboxes, but also readable. After running some test prints, I chose 6.5 x 5 as the final size.

I also tried changing paper thickness depending on the layer.