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Interview with Andy Cruz

Aggiornamento: 4 giorni fa

Andy Cruz [1972] is the founder and creative director of the eclectic font foundry and design studio, House Industries. A standard-bearer of graphic design for over 30 years, House has created art for some of the most dynamic contemporary brands, products, and people such as: Hermès, Jimmy Kimmel, Lego, Fortnite, Muji, Heath Ceramics, The Eames Office, and The New Yorker. Cruz’s work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Artifacts from the House Industries & The Eames Office Font and object collaborations. Photo courtesy of Carlos Alejandro & House Ind.

From selling typeface collections with toy-inspired packaging, to developing type-inspired design collections, House Industries has always managed to find novel ways to pair its digital products with physical objects. Even your show A Type of Learning at Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is described as “a physical representation of the creative process”. Why does this focus on tangibility? Why make objects out of letters?

The creation of letters & numbers for House has always wandered somewhere between a functioning font and fine art. I was always more interested in the sculptural significance of glyphs and figuring out ways to get them to live beyond pixel or vector format.

Our early cardboard packaging of the fonts was the first version of sharing our enthusiasm. We used to say “you can’t physically touch font software, but here’s a font box that is real”. From there I tried my damndest to get our letterforms to live in the form of toys, ceramics and even furniture.

House Industries & Heath Ceramic number tile products and prototypes. Photo courtesy of Carlos Alejandro & House Ind.

While many type designers feel akin to software developers, focusing on current trends and innovative shapes, you’re constantly producing work that connects to American modernist heritage and vintage pop culture. Why is that? Is nostalgia driving your creative process? And why do so many contemporary graphic designers connect to that and to the letterforms evoking the near past?

Nostalgia isn't driving my creative process, my taste is. Working with personal interests has had a nice side effect when it comes to letterforms…people feel they’re familiar but handled or presented in a way that feels new. Historically I’ve preferred to bet on my taste rather then the safe bet of designing a beat or two behind my peers. Trust me, I've lost a good amount of money gambling like that but our fonts (and ultimately customers who supported us by seeing the value in our fonts) provided us the autonomy to choose projects that are driven by personal tastes.

“I feel our House design revolution is behind us. Now it’s about our evolution.”

House & Herman Miller collection featuring House’s Eames® Fonts on Eames LTRs.

House for Arc-Com “ i ” textile pattern design upholstered on a letter “ i ” bench and seat.

Through three decades, House Industries has been able to keep its strong identity and voice, producing an amazing output of consistent typography through an era of radical changes and technological evolution. But is today’s House the same as the 1993 one? What has changed in your work and creative philosophy in these years? What has remained constant? And what about the graphic design scene around you?

The constant is the love of the letterform….and constant change of business. I appreciate you calling it a design “scene”. Scenes are exciting but once too many people get hip to it, things get stale. But that is what keeps things moving and interesting. I feel our House design revolution is behind us. Now it’s about our evolution.

House for Maison Hermès “Alphabetic Equestrian” design. Cedar wood type in the form of a galloping Horse and H’s in the Hermès flagship store, Ginza, Japan. Photo © Copyright Satoshi Asakawa. Courtesy of Hermès Japon.

"Imitation is the most annoying form of flattery. We all learn by imitation, but there comes a time that good designers see that line that shouldn’t be crossed."

With over six hundred thousand typeface families available online and almost five hundred new ones being published every months on sites like MyFonts, type design seems healthier as ever… or isn't it Are we risking overcrowding the design space? And what would be your advice to any young designer interested in a career in the world of type design?

It is a bit overwhelming, but imagine discouraging new musicians because there are already too many songs! When we were starting, the support we received from friends and colleagues in the font world was incredible. Even when we were sharing things that really sucked, some of the elders, heroes and more talented peers were so cool that we ended up collaborating on many future House projects.

Don’t get me wrong… imitation is the most annoying form of flattery. We all learn by imitation, but there comes a time that good designers see that line that shouldn’t be crossed. Like other industries and products, there is a large group of users and/or companies that are happy with the cheaper, fake, knock-off versions of the genuine article. This is where a designer starts to figure out what value they can bring to the party.

House Børge Mogensen Ø-slash cabinet by Stellar Works featuring inlaid veneer a pattern of stenciled Øs. Photo courtesy of Stellar Works & House Ind.

As a foundry with such a cult and marvelous connection to the past, what do you think are the future challenges for type and graphic designers?

With AI image generation we’re getting a taste of how easy it is to talk to a machine and create compelling art and objects based on our visual history. Tech will reset a lot of the roles creatives have, but the cream will rise.

House Industries “The Process is the Inspiration”: a fearless look at how curiosity and collaboration drives lasting work. JJ Abrams says in the forward: “You’ll marvel at the creativity, leadership, community, authenticity, talent, and spirit that is House Industries.” Photo courtesy of Carlos Alejandro & House Ind.

This interview is part of the Type Trends 2023 Lookbook / Vol 5: The counterspaces – Typography in the Age of Black Swans

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The Lookbook is also available on Amazon as a printed version in black and white. A useful tool to inspire your design days, to consult in your free time or simply to make a gift.

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A project by Typecampus / Sponsored by Zetafonts

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