The best part about teaming up with those you admire is the opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with your heroes.
For those designers with an affinity for type, just saying the words House Industries conjures up images of stylistic fonts with seductive curves and bold personalities—personalities imparted by the team behind the type. House Industries founders, Andy Cruz and Rich Roat met at a local studio in Delaware where they found themselves often collaborating on projects. In 1993 they rolled the dice, struck out on their own, and started a studio called Brand Design Co. They wanted to find a way to let their personal interests—like skateboarding, heavy metal, and hot rods—influence their work, so they created a set of hand-lettered fonts that reflected the grungier, subculture side of design that they loved. Releasing fonts that pushed the envelope was a risky move (and they were pretty sure they would flop) so they put them out under the name “House Industries.” Well, in that one risky move they created a font foundry, and have never looked back.
We asked House Industries’ type designer and letterer, Ken Barber, if they consider themselves entrepreneurs, and how the team collaborates within the studio and in their many partnerships. He said, “House has always been driven by an entrepreneurial mindset, and although much of the work that the studio produced during its formative years fit the conventional work-for-hire model, it was the elaborately packaged font collections that set the stage for the myriad self-initiated projects that the studio continues to pursue.”
A large amount of House’s self-initiated work results in tangible products—tables, house number tiles, blocks, a endless variety of posters and books…the list goes on. Physical products aren’t the typical output of most type foundries and we asked Ken if they consciously decided to make “things” outside of digital type to set the foundry apart. He said, “The hard goods produced by House are a result of our attempt to satisfy the graphic designers in us. Developing typefaces is rewarding, but sometimes it’s more satisfying to be able to hold something in your hands at the end of the day. Digital vapor doesn’t validate work in exactly the same way that a tangible product does.”
The House team has grown a lot since the early days, yet they’ve managed to maintain a distinct aesthetic that infuses everything that comes out of the studio. Ken said, “Regardless of each person that joined the crew, collaboration has remained crucial to the way we work. We may not agree on every little detail, but House Industries is definitely a joint effort—I can’t imagine it working any other way.”
They not only manage collaborations within the studio, but have taken on a number of partnerships with companies and people like Heath Ceramics, the Eames Office, and the Girard Estate. We asked Ken what’s so rewarding about partnering up on these projects. He said, “The best part about teaming up with those you admire is the opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder with your heroes. Not only do you get a close and candid glimpse into their process, but you also gain the opportunity to further the legacy and to become a part of it.” We love the idea of companies that embark on a journey together, to create something bigger than they could have individually.
House Industries has gone on to become something of sensation in the design world, and people love them because their work is still such an authentic reflection of their collective passions—whether it’s mid-century sign painting, custom road bikes, or Japanese packaging—they love what they do, and it shows.
Check out this short House Trailer that showcases their work in all its hand-drawn, hand-pulled, and hand-inked glory. If you didn’t realize the sheer breadth and range of work that these guys (and girls) have put out over the years, this short film puts it all into perspective. If you missed the recent Photo-Lettering exhibition in California, like us East Coast folks, and you want some large-scale type to dig on, it’s on view on their blog. In fact, we recommend that you just go ahead and add their blog to your daily reading list for a constant stream of visual goodness.