Right in our own backyard, is an incredible design company that has made considerable impact in the design industry. I’ve driven by their studio in Yorklyn, Delaware hundreds of times and have always wondered what House Industries was. Recently, a friend of mine was talking about House Industries, which led me to reach out to one of the owners. Rich Roat kindly answered all my questions including all the details on their business and more.
Andy Cruz and Rich Roat began their venture with the start of Brand Design Co. in 1993. Their once-quaint business has grown rapidly over the years (currently 16 employees). Renamed in 1994, House Industries is currently recognized as one of the creative leaders in the world of typography.
The best way to get a true grasp of what they are all about is to spend a large chunk of time on their website. Starting with the “About” section, I recommend watching all of their films, which demonstrate the magnitude of their talent. After you’ve watched the films, check out the “house story” section that describes their company and all of their accomplishments.
You will notice under the “Appreciations” section, accolades from J.J. Abrams – the creator of LOST, director of Mission Impossible III, writer of Armageddon; Chris Cooper (Coop), a well-known artist along with many others. I’m creatively energized by all things House Industries!
Q&A with Rich Roat, Owner & Operator of House Industries
You sum up a lot of things under your timeline on your site, but could you give a brief description on what House has been working on lately?
We are working on a few commercial projects but mostly new product development and some new typeface families. Here’s a list of some recent projects.
This is actually an endless project that we’re constantly building upon, but our big release was this year.
> Display serif family for Lucky Magazine
> Two logos for Medicom Corporation (soon to be announced)
> Number tiles with Heath Ceramics
It looks like you started with mostly fonts as the core of your business. When did you start adding “objects” to your offerings?
We actually started as a design company that drew fonts for various commercial and personal projects. Most of the objects started out as expensive photo props to promote the fonts, but we figured if we could make one, we could make 100 or 1000.
Does House Industries often create products for interior design purposes? If yes, what kind of items – wallpapers, custom prints, lampshades, tableware…?
I don’t think that was the initial goal, but the nature of the products make them end up that way. As we got older and grew out of our small crash pads, we needed cool things to hang on our walls, put on the knick-knack shelves and take up floor space.
As a volunteer firefighter in Hockessin and a partner of House Industries, how do you manage to split your time?
It’s just like any other volunteer activity, just a little more exciting sometimes and with unexpected absences.
It’s obvious that you guys have a massive clientele. Which field are most of your clients in – design, film, music…?
It depends on what you regard as clientele. We have lots of customers who license our fonts, but I wouldn’t call them clients in the strict sense. We really don’t have lots of clients because we choose the commercial work carefully and try to not let it get in the way of our own product development. Sometimes a nice project walks in the door that we can’t turn away because it’s some we’re really interested in or it simply pays lots of money that we can use to finance our next big hustle (or the last one that went bad).
What is your business model?
I’ll letcha know once I write my Wharton School doctoral thesis. Seriously, our only model is to try to make things that look cool, learn from our mistakes and try to do it better the next time. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
You have these incredible products – font kits, free fonts, custom fonts, objects, books and clothing. How do you market them?
Again, marketing is kind of an afterthought. We’ve always leaned on our catalogs, of which we’ve done sixty something since 1993. The catalogs themselves are often little lithographic art experiments, so in this age of social marketing and search engine optimization we’re probably more like dinosaurs searching for food at the beginning of the ice age.
Want to learn even more about House Industries?
This film gives you an amazing perspective into the design mastery of House Industries…truly a must see. It brilliantly demonstrates their talent and dedication to the industry of design. Make sure to watch the other films that follow, as well!
See more about House Industries, including additional photos, at the Dilwyne Designs website.