The Story Behind the Name ICON

Communications Team Leader Meag Tessman shares the story of creating an identity for the ICON Solar House.
Close up of Meag
A name and logo are much more than artwork - they are the base of a whole concept that we are communicating. We started off by looking at our team's values and our goals for the competition.
Our Team Goals
  • Integration

    To create a prototype that demonstrates advancements in building integrated photovoltaic technology as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • Innovative Sustainability

    To create a prototype that demonstrates life - cycle focused sustainability.

  • Market Transformation

    To bridge the gap to widespread acceptance of solar - integrated, sustainable housing by 2015.

  • Regionalism

    To create a prototype that demonstrates regionally appropriate approaches to sustainable design that differentiates the house.

  • Learning

    To provide opportunities for hands on interdisciplinary learning among project participants.


    Our Team Values
    • Iconic (traditional)
    • Lifecycle (sustainable)
    • Nutrients (elemental)

    These values eventually came down to two aspects: how energy arrives at the house, and how energy is consumed at the house.


    There are two preconceptions towards solar technology:

    an older generation who lived through the 1970's boom and saw solar technology as impractical and aesthetically unattractive. And a younger generation who is growing up with prospects of limited electricity supply; who sees solar as a good investment, but is not in the position usually to invest in solar technology, or even to own a house yet.

    After some initial design iterations, we came up with an acronym: Integrated Cycle Of Nutrients, or ICON. Perfect! It was an awesome breakthrough, spoken in terms very deep meaningful words. We were so proud, setting up for our unveiling event at the Mall of America.

    Unfortunately, 'Integrated Cycle of Nutrients' meant nothing to the majority of people we talked to. The whole ICON concept was very undeveloped at this point, too. We made the classic mistake of being too engulfed in our work - designing internally.

    There were four main points that we found ourselves telling people about at a series of events we held last spring. These were the issues we needed to address!

    • Solar is Possible in MN
    • Solar can be beautiful and approachable
    • Solar is a responsible way to live consciously
    • Technology can be seamlessly integrated

    It was a wake up to hear the majority of people we talked to didn't think solar is possible in Minnesota! We knew right away that we had a lot on our hands. This concept we originally went with had it all. Too bad 'it all' was WAY too much. We decided to focus on one thing: market transformation. We dropped the acronym and began to build our message.

    Once we stripped ourselves down, we tried to build up again, really concreting our message in a tagline: Livable, Beautiful, Conscience, Iconic. But, we found this to be more of a description than a message. We needed to SAY something. We started going with "A New Tradition with Technology" and it was eventually shortened to "A New Tradition"

    The concept is based in years of history. Housing has transformed over the history of humans to conform to the technology and needs of people. We would like to introduce this solar house - that has an altered gable roof - as a natural step in the progression of housing. One that is conscience of how it's electricity is produced - one that is built to embrace and protect from the Minnesota climate - one that takes into consideration how every element might affect the environment at any part of it's existence. We have the technology; this is how it can be integrated into our modern lives.