This question has been bugging me for years. I remembered it when I read this: Toilet flush buttons

In A/C most of the times is easy. Generally there is a snowflake for cooling mode and a sun for heat mode, or simply selecting the temperature:

enter image description here

But in some A/C and particularly other machines (like the heater) is not so easy or intuitive, at least when there is only icons without text. So you don't know if there is a sun for the summer mode or it represents heating.

I haven't seen a consensus on different interfaces. It can be both ways.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Have you ever seen a good, clear design, that is really intuitive? Do you know of any standards for this?

3 Answers 3


Well, recently there's a trend in automobiles to implement "automatic climate control" explained here.

Basically, instead of cooling or heating, it maintains a certain temperature. So the UI becomes straightforward. There is On/Off and hotter/cooler(or up/down etc...).

I can't think of a more intuitive way to control it.


My two cents:

I always thought that the only input that matters is the target temperature of the room. Selecting the "mode" (heat/cold) is a UX anti-pattern. As a user, I don't care how the machine internally should work to achieve the temperature I want (i.e. if the machine has to heat, or if it has to cool) I only care about the target temperature. So to me, there should be only a temperature value input, no heat/cool selection.


I think the usability depends on the position and proximity of the buttons as well as the icons. For example, if the button with the sun icon is directly above the button with the snowflake (with other buttons a little further away), people will see them as a pair similar to the way they understand up and down volume buttons.

I am not sure what the sun button does, but it is paired with the snowflake button which normally means "cold".

The context of other buttons is also important with these controls, as it helps the triangular icon to mean different things:

Volume control enter image description here

Play button

enter image description here

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