House Industries has certainly evolved since it was founded in 1993 by Rich Roat and Andy Cruz in Wilmington, DE. From a type foundry it has become a wellspring of generational typographic attitudes, styles, movements, schools, a melting pot of old and new, revived and invented. “That’s what design is supposed to be, isn’t it?” asks Roat, “mixing all of those things in some sort of memorable and hopefully unique visual synthesis.” Known for their typographic stagecraft and promotional ingenuity, House now has a book that tells their story: House: The Process is the Inspiration. I asked Roat to talk about the book and the house that he and Andy built.
Obviously, this book has been a career in the making. Did you ever think when you started House, you’d come this far?
It’s hard to put a finger on what “far” is. It took an interest from a publisher for us to look back and decode what we’ve done over the last 25 years and organize it into a process that we could then articulate in words and pictures. So, to answer your question, we never thought much about the significance and/or insignificance of what we were doing—we were too busy working on whatever came next.
What is the most satisfying aspect of being House Industries?
It’s the theme that underscores the book. We started off learning from what we like, and compounded those lessons into a self-sustaining operation that let us keep learning from what we like. I personally feel pretty good about helping to create a business (or whatever House Industries is) that provides that atmosphere.
How would you say type, and especially your type and related wares, have and are influencing our culture?
We’re not philosophers or professorial types, but it’s hard to deny the power of letters and symbols in popular culture—and in civilized society in general. We stood on the shoulders of some design giants, but we’d like to think that we inspired people to look at type, lettering, art and design in a completely different light by crossing genres and mixing media in ways that hadn’t been done before.
The House “style,” as it were, is clear as a brand but there’s more. What is that more, in your terms?
The “more” is that there is no “style.” Sure, there are logos and trademarks and even some *cough* branding, but what makes it special is that it’s always in motion and we’re always working on the next thing before the last thing is even done. There is a certain continuity to what we do, but that’s only because we’re compounding the lessons from the last project into the next one.
Books often are capstones. Is this a compilation or a capstone of an era for you and House?
The book represented where we were in that moment, quite literally, when we were packing the last files off to the publisher so that they could make their production deadline. Andy was still trying to figure out how the cover was going to be made when the car was waiting to take him back to Hong Kong so he could fly home after eight straight days on press. I’m not joking.
That’s why we wanted to provide a narrative and use our work as a way of illustrating the thinking behind each project, rather than how the project itself was created. We’d like to think that the book is more of a roadmap or textbook for people searching for creative direction. The word “capstone” has a sort of finality to it, and that’s the exact opposite of what we want it to be. The book is just the beginning of the next chapter.
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