Friday, February 12, 2010

Capturing and Visualizing the Wind

Have you noticed how designers are using photos of wind turbines to try to communicate renewable energy?

The Midas Center is currently working with a forward-thinking client in the renewable energy industry. In researching the imagery that is currently being used to represent this emerging industry, we are "blown away" by the over-use of the three bladed wind turbines.

First of all, wind represent only one area of renewable energy and doesn't take into account the amazing solar powers that are about to create a positive charge in the renewable energy world. Mostly we are disturbed that the actual wind turbines being used to symbolize this industry are not only trite, but are already technologically out-dated. The three blade fan is the first product manufactured and people are learning ways to improve this first-born product. See the photo below to view how technology is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of this product, thanks to the U.S. Department of Energy's initiatives to initiate innovation.

It can be difficult to capture an image to symbolize a market that is quickly innovating and improving. Just like technology, it evolves and it can be challenging to develop it visually to stand the test of time.

Take the communication industry for example. Today, you may consider a computer or an "@" sign to represent communication. Some people may still consider a newspaper, radio or telephone. Although we all frequently use them, our reliance on them solely as our communication methods are diminishing. So when you think of a communication icon, images of a pen and paper, or quill and ink bottle for that matter may be somewhat passé. Regardless where you are on the communication-continuum, it is important to consider how quickly industries change and evolve. When your business invests in a logo or icon to represent your product or service, make it sustainable or else you will loose your luster like Cinderella when the clock hit twelve, especially in the markets where it is always 11:59.

Remember when people used icons of the floppy disc to represent technology? Floppies? What are floppies? What image do you consider when you think of technology?


Meghan July 14, 2010 at 7:42 AM  

Wondering what kind of turbine design was depicted in this photo, I checked out the link above. But the info in that article is from two years ago, and as far as I can tell the design is still in development, though the company seems to be moving forward with it, according to the press releases here. It sounds like an exciting effort, and I wish them luck.

However, it's probably not necessarily wise to assume that design will become a new energy icon, just based on the claims of the company that plans to produce it, U.S. D.O.E. support notwithstanding. I'd also argue that three-bladed turbine designs are not trite or technologically out-dated: they are used
widely as icons to represent the wind industry because they work and have a long history of success from an engineering standpoint. (They are also the design that is most widely deployed, and therefore most widely seen in real-world settings; the main requirement for an icon.) It's not that there are no technological improvements being made by manufacturers of three-bladed turbines; just that technological innovations tend to focus more on improving efficiency & durability than on reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

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