Founded by the same team that launched Katerra, Onx is a new deep-tech construction startup resetting the standards of how homes are built. Recognizing that buying a home includes selling a style of life, Combo was required to go beyond simply defining a new method of construction into creating an aspirational lifestyle. And with changing demographics in the suburbs, that lifestyle was diverse, inclusive, and welcome to all.

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Redefining Construction

A New Way to Build Homes

Traditional construction techniques in the homebuilding industry have changed little, if at all, over the centuries. That is, hammer-and-nail, stick-by-stick construction, organized as separate tasks to be completed by several different subcontractors. On average, it takes 22 subcontractors seven months to complete a home—a long and disjointed process. But advancements in technology allow for more efficient and reliable ways to construct a home ©. Onx was a company doing just that. Employing machine learning and robotics, Onx invented a new way to build homes as a single system rather than a construction site of uncoordinated groups.

© On average, it takes 22 subcontractors seven months to complete a home, according to a 2019 US Census Bureau report. This siloed approach leaves room for error at every turn, and stick-style homebuilding has not been seriously advanced since its invention just before the Civil War.

Aspiring to Become a Brand Name Home

When people consider buying a home, it’s often viewed as the biggest purchase of their lives. Along with that, there is a strong perception among consumers that connects quality to being handmade. With a construction process enabled by advanced technology and automation, Onx had to overcome this perception. It needed consumers to understand the Onx style of construction as not simply faster and more efficient than the old way of building but as producing a better home with better qualities worth prioritizing in the homebuying search. Moreover, Onx’s ambition was to achieve brand recognition in a category that did not currently operate in that way. To that end, the company hired Combo to help it do what Ford did in the automotive category—to create a brand synonymous with a higher-quality product consumers trust, and therefore prefer, over any other unknown manufacturer—but in the homebuilding category.

Translating Technological Innovation into Consumer Demand

While Onx truly offered a faster and more efficient build (60 days as opposed to the seven months it takes competitors)—at scale, no less—the Combo strategy team had to find a way to translate Onx’s technological innovation into consumer demand. Through strategy and market research, the team identified a massive opportunity: Although buying a home was quite literally buying a lifestyle, no home developers were taking cues from the fashion and apparel categories to express their identity as a lifestyle brand. Another insight was how, even as the suburbs become more diverse, their depictions have remained quite stereotypical. In light of this, Combo strategists pushed for the Onx brand to highlight the company’s technological innovations in a way that celebrates what it’s like to live in an Onx home, expressed through the lens of greater diversity among homebuyers. This led to a category position that was a blend of an innovative tech company and an elevated lifestyle brand.

More new immigrants to the U.S. are landing in the suburbs, not in the central cities.
Pew Research Center

Creating a Balanced and Eclectic Brand World

That balance was at the core of Combo’s work on the project. The Onx identity was crafted to celebrate the contradictions and create an eclectic world where heavy machinery and a Sunday barbeque could feel cohesive. Combo designers captured a lifestyle that was clearly inclusive and celebratory, much like a party that everyone’s invited to. This was balanced with extremely detailed expressions of engineering innovations, celebrating technology as an advancement of craft rather than just a mechanism for efficiency.

Because there was so much contained within the Onx brand, designers packed meaning into each graphic element, which allowed it to work closely with the brand voice and across different channels. For example, from the letterforms in the wordmark, the X became the icon for Onx that spoke to collaboration, to things that don’t normally go together working together in new ways, and to X as a symbol of finding what you’re looking for.

The brand voice was crafted to be visually led and expressive of an aspirational lifestyle made up of everyday comforts while also being able to tie Onx’s better living spaces to details about its innovative materials and superior building methods. Combo helped coin and trademark X+ Construction™ to define this new, better way of building, also derived from the X device used across the brand.

Launching Onx

As the strategy came to life in the visual and narrative identity of the brand, Combo moved into a production phase to bring the Onx brand to market. The brand identity was activated through original lifestyle content, diagrammatic animations that explained the unique X+ technology, and a new style of interior and exterior home renders that were more elevated than anyone else in the category. All of these elements were brought together in an easy-to-understand narrative and shopping experience on the new Onx website that Combo designed and built out in its entirety.

America’s demographics are transforming, but our housing supply is not.
Brookings Institute

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