One of Delaware’s brightest lights went dark late last month, when Rich Roat passed away unexpectedly on November 29.
Roat was best known for being a cofounder of the hugely successful House Industries, a design firm that gained international acclaim for its work with A-level businesses and brands including The New Yorker, Lego, Disney and the Jimmy Kimmel Show, to name a few.
Like anyone familiar with the firm, we were big fans of House and their work, marveling at Roat and his partner Andy Cruz’s modesty as they led a global type face and graphic design empire from a cool, quirky old compound in Yorklyn. Indeed, along with Dogfish Head Brewery, House Industries stands as one of the truly great Delaware business success stories of the last twenty years.
A product of AI du Pont High School and the University of Delaware, Roat collaborated with Cruz on The Process is the Inspiration, a series of reflections and case studies cataloguing the House Industry story – a masterclass study of the sublime intersection of innovation and style that characterized House products.
But his professional success at House Industries was just a small part of who Rich Roat was: somehow in between and around building one of the world’s top graphic design shops he was an elite swimmer, a serious cyclist, a coach, a major supporter of local nonprofits and schools and he served multiple hours each month as a volunteer firefighter and more.
Roat’s obituary offers a beautiful, moving testament to his Renaissancean interests and abilities, and you should read it. It is a head-spinning rundown of a life well lived, 52 years of immense, eclectic achievement and the kind of engagement with our world that will inspire all of us to dig in and push to leave nothing on the table.
He was able to convincingly work topics like super ellipses, artist Big Daddy Roth, and local cheese making into the same conversation and will be remembered for his inspiring passion, extraordinary generosity, stubborn loyalty and strong dislike of Oxford commas.
We were fortunate to have enjoyed an open house event at House Industries this past summer, when they hosted the Mattson 2 – a hot California duo and House client – and came away with arms full of exquisite House-created paraphernalia including t-shirts, stationery and a map of the US made of children’s blocks. Normal things made beautiful and important, the essence of art, a reflection of life itself.
Our deepest condolences to Rich’s family and his House colleagues.