Preview: Who’s in the House?

4 November 1999

If you’ve ever bought a typeface from House Industries then you have some idea of what makes this a slightly different experience from the usual ‘disk in an envelope’ delivery. Sometimes it may seem that the font is the minor part of the equation.

Rich Roat of House Industries tells us a little about how the company started out, where it’s been, and where it’s going.

From humble beginnings in 1994, just Rich and Andy Cruz, House now has six staff members, a type library of over 100 designs, a wealth of related paraphernalia and a new magazine – ‘House’. So, how did it start?

‘We met working at a little design firm here in Wilmington. Andy started as an intern there right out of high school and really had some serious talent. We pushed the owner to do new and different things (one of which was a font collection), but he wasn’t having it. We parted ways amicably, set up an office in a back room of an apartment and started working. Andy’s really the driving force behind the “House Industries aesthetic”, I’m more of the “ways and means committee”. Ken Barber joined us in November ’95, and since then he’s drawn most of the type and directs a lot of the illustration.’


Packaging for the Street Van and Rat Fink font collections, which are heavily influenced by Rich and Andy’s hot rodding backgrounds. Each Street Van is made to order, they feature both interior and exterior detailing, with the font disk residing under the queen size bed in the back of the van

You’re probably best known for your fonts, but that’s by no means the full story is it?.

‘Let me start off by saying that we always had an ulterior motive for doing fonts. In the beginning, they were just an excuse for doing some cool design work… we didn’t think anyone would actually buy them.’

And the “cool design work” is the effort you put into packaging those fonts?

‘We were looking at FontShop, Adobe and some other folks who were selling a lot of different fonts. The dealers and distributors have really strong identities but we felt that a lot of cool, unique typefaces lost their identity when they were “tossed into the mix” of those huge font collections. We watched our collection grow and had the same concerns. Doing the catalogues was also getting kind of monotonous, so we started cooking up the themes for the typefaces and the packaging just kind of fell into place. It gave us so many more places to go with the creativity and lots more media on which to apply it.

We spend a lot of time creating the collateral surrounding the font kits, which is totally unnecessary in today’s e-delivery world (actually before, too). But it’s what we like to do.’