Blond has developed the industrial design and brand identity for heating system start-up Electric Air, streamlining the product experience with “unobtrusive” design and an “intuitive” thermostat and app interface.
UK heating systems typically run on gas but US systems involve an air conditioning, furnace-based system that provides both hot and cold air. Electric Air claims that its electrified systems cost $1200 a year to run, while a regular Heat Pump costs around $1400.
Electric Air founder Chris Mui, a former aerospace and Tesla engineer, had seen Blond’s other projects “in the realms of electrification” and approached the studio to work on the industrial, brand, and UX/UI design for Electric Air, according to Blond founder and creative director James Melia.
Four products make up the Electric Air system – the air handler, condenser, thermostat and wall-mounted split A/C – as well as the corresponding app. In comparison to UK systems, the air handler is like a boiler, but it just deals with heating and cooling, not water.
It works like a hairdryer, says Melia, as “air comes in, is heated up and then sent around the ducting system in the house”. The condenser “exchanges energy with the outside air using refrigerant and a compressor”, according to Electric Air and the wall-mounted split A/C is where the air comes from.
In Melia’s opinion, these systems are “typically pretty ugly” and so Blond’s goal was to “repackage it” while making it “super accessible” and intuitive for engineers and users. “We live with these things every day and they’re just not given the attention they should be”, so Blond sought to make the design sleek and “as unobtrusive as possible”, Melia adds.
He notes that the metal fascia of the condenser has been made in a way that reduces cost significantly by using nine repeated pieces of metal that “slot together like a jigsaw piece” rather than one big piece. The air handler and condenser are powder-coated metal and the thermostat and wall-mounted A/C are plastic, but Blond is exploring whether recycled plastic could be used in the future.
To ease the repair process, Blond rearranged the internal components and discreetly labelled the panels. Melia explains how if there is a fault in the electrical system, engineers know to remove the top panel labelled “electrical” whereas if it was a heating element issue, they would remove the panel labelled “coil”.
The touch-screen thermostat has a built-in air quality monitor that can measure PM2.5 particulate and CO2 in the air, triggering filtration and fresh air intake. It also has humidity monitoring and control capabilities.
Melia describes it as “first electric system to integrate air quality”, explaining how Blond “took the view that the thermostat should be simple” without “too much functionality”. It shows users air quality stats as well as the temperature, integrating technical capabilities, such as scheduling, into the corresponding app also designed by Blond.
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Comparing Electric Air’s interface to other apps used for heating systems in the UK, like Hive and Nest, Melia says its scheduling system is much more “intuitive” and easier to use, as “everything is stripped back and simplified”.
Colour is used for functionally to indicate heat and cooling as well as air quality using blue and red, with a “pine green” as “an in-between colour”, says Melia. Electric Air’s identity looks to imbue “freshness” while “bestowing a level of trust”, which meant “doing simple things really well and finessing the little details”, such as kerning letters in the logotype, he explains.
The Electric Air system won’t be available in the UK yet but could be in the future as heat pumps become more widely used.