FEATURES : DESIGN

House Rules

By Sarah Williams

Published May 9, 2011

House Industries founder Andy Cruz at his home office.

Photo: Rose Callahan

House Industries founder Andy Cruz at his home office.

Andy Cruz's house is furnished with vintage Herman Miller and Knoll

Photo: Rose Callahan

Andy Cruz's house is furnished with vintage Herman Miller and Knoll

Left: Ampersands can be found throughout the house Right: A hand carved carp found at a flea market in Japan

Photo: Rose Callahan

Left: Ampersands can be found throughout the house Right: A hand carved carp found at a flea market in Japan

More than fonts, the Neutra Boomerang Chair was one of House Industries's early products that was produced.

Photo: Rose Callahan

More than fonts, the Neutra Boomerang Chair was one of House Industries's early products that was produced.

A chair designed by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A chair designed by Alexander Girard for Herman Miller.

A prototype of a divider sits behind an Eames Compact Sofa

Photo: Rose Callahan

A prototype of a divider sits behind an Eames Compact Sofa

The dining room: a testing ground for some House products.

Photo: Rose Callahan

The dining room: a testing ground for some House products.

A room used for Andy Cruz's home office.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A room used for Andy Cruz's home office.

A collection of Mid-Century Modern books ranging from type and design to homes and gardens.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A collection of Mid-Century Modern books ranging from type and design to homes and gardens.

An artistic obsession, Andy's tiki mug collection on display.

Photo: Rose Callahan

An artistic obsession, Andy's tiki mug collection on display.

Their wood burning stove that resmebles a tiki head.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Their wood burning stove that resmebles a tiki head.

A scaled model of the house.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A scaled model of the house.

The House

Photo: Rose Callahan

The House

The Studio

Photo: Rose Callahan

The Studio

A giant H hangs in the center of the studio in House Industries's trademark orange.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A giant H hangs in the center of the studio in House Industries's trademark orange.

The studio

Photo: Rose Callahan

The studio

Posters from a House Industries event in Austin, Texas.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Posters from a House Industries event in Austin, Texas.

Left: Andy Cruz going through different House 33 logo sketches. Right: Cruz points to a page from PLINC

Photo: Rose Callahan

Left: Andy Cruz going through different House 33 logo sketches. Right: Cruz points to a page from PLINC

A House 33 logo along with past House Industries promotional material.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A House 33 logo along with past House Industries promotional material.

House Industries printed material.

Photo: Rose Callahan

House Industries printed material.

Various items sitting on a desk including mockups, sketches, and various materials.

Photo: Rose Callahan

Various items sitting on a desk including mockups, sketches, and various materials.

"Freehand Pinstriping"

Photo: Rose Callahan

"Freehand Pinstriping"

A print based on John and Marilyn Neuhart's 1969 Christmas card.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A print based on John and Marilyn Neuhart's 1969 Christmas card.

A Herman Miller Japanese exclusive block set sits ontop the Eames Blocks.

Photo: Rose Callahan

A Herman Miller Japanese exclusive block set sits ontop the Eames Blocks.

House Heath tiles

Photo: Rose Callahan

House Heath tiles

Right: Eames Block boxes Left: Wooden Kois align the shelves

Photo: Rose Callahan

Right: Eames Block boxes Left: Wooden Kois align the shelves

Founding partner Rich Roat with Andy Cruz

Photo: Rose Callahan

Founding partner Rich Roat with Andy Cruz

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Ogling the archives at the House Industries studio in pastoral Delaware can only be likened to digging through the crates of a great record collector. All sorts of gems are strewn out across tables and desks as Andy Cruz recalls anecdotes about each one. He pauses on an early inked sketch of a House 33 logo for their UK clothing line and reminisces over their critiques. “How full do we make the stomach sack and and how far should it hang off the body of the character? What’s the best angle for the plucked chicken wing? The cavity with dripping insect eggs…are they better tucked back in the shadow, and should the Band-Aid holding them in have a few more perfs?” It’s made up entirely of entangled guts and bristly hairs, a masterpiece of grotesque typography of a different breed– more Rat Fink than Akzidenz.

This instinct to obsess, collect, and perfect runs deep in the House family tree. “I’ve got to blame a lot of it on my Dad, because he’s been a car guy since he was in high school. He restored Corvettes for years and then moved onto freehand pinstriping. When he wasn’t working on real cars, he collected models. There was also a strong musical influence. He played in a band and eventually taught me how to bang on the drums. When his band split up he started to DJ in the late 70s and would take me record shopping.”

Nuggets of family history like this make it easy to see why a hotrodding mentality stuck with Andy from an early age, and laid the foundation for House Industries. “Most of the guys at the studio come from blue collar homes and the work ethic comes through. If you want something done, you have to DIY it.” Printing posters for a punk band, cutting grass to buy a new skateboard deck, and messing around with paints in his Dad’s shop were formative experiences that translated into House’s current appetite for risk and reward. “If we want to make a chair, it has nothing to do with type, but if we’re passionate about it we’ll figure out a way.” Andy and the House crew found themselves viscerally drawn to the design vernacular of their youths. “When you look at the Kiss logo or a Hot Wheels package, there was something there that sucked us in on some emotional level, that is still what we try and capture or recreate today when we do a logo or piece of type. How can we try and channel the same emotions we got out of this stuff as kids?”

From their onset in 1994, House Industries built a reputation for highly stylized fonts that cut through the uptight and mundane. Collections like Bad Neighborhood, Rat Fink, Sign Painter, and Tiki Type translated Americana into alphabets, and they garnered a cult following by trusting their guts. Their catalogs and packaging were endowed with novelty that made buying type feel like getting a shiny new toy. Andy recalls seeing their early work pop up in places like Wayne’s World, Green Day liner notes, and Saab commercials—like a band hearing their song on the radio for the first time. “I don’t think it really crystalized until we had a couple products out there, I hate to say that it was almost an intuitive process. That was our go-to, ‘What do we like?’ Whether it was a musical reference, flipping through LP’s, Tiki mugs, or sticker collections—that was our Tumblr site. Now it’s tough to not see [our typefaces] because they’ve saturated pop culture in a weird way. Fortunately the fonts continue to pop up out there and we still get a few butterflies in our stomachs.”

Mining Americana for inspiration evolved into cultivating relationships with their design heroes, and House found a kinship with hotrod icon Big Daddy Ed Roth. “Fortunately Ed Roth was still alive with Rat Fink and a friend-of-a-friend hooked us up. To have the opportunity to work with one of our heroes was amazing. The stuff he was doing in the 60’s was incredible.” Having no formal training or engineering background, Roth built far-fetched custom cars, and his legend only grew with the creation of the Rat Fink character. “This was before the Beatles hit, kids were into cars and he was the guy that fueled the imagination, and got kids to start drawing or picking up a wrench and got them to get their hands dirty.” He was an original DIYer, something that clearly resonated with House. Feeling the momentum with the Roth type collection, they began to pursue more collaborations with the design estates of Richard Neutra, Alexander Girard, and The Eames. “Some of those formal design influences came into play and we’ll jump from Ed Roth to Neutra… Let’s take what we learned from Neutra and share it, tell the story and history then create a tool that other designers can use that will transcend the original source.”

COMMENTS

mj
said at 5am
May 14, 2011

I really dig the unlimited creativity these guys put out. I used to be inspired by there work from their catalogs when I was in school. Then a couple of years later when I moved to SF, I went to see them speak at the Apple store (07 or 08) and they were talking about either buying or had just bought the Photo-Lettering archive. I still have my notes from that day, cause their "this is what we wanted to do, so we just did it" attitude, really inspired me.

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