House is Where the Font is
As a magazine and a font foundry, House Industries is one of the most creative catalysts of design. Recently, the company released its latest in a series of pop-culturally minded font packages, "Vegas," described as an "homage to the illuminating ingenuity of the golden era of Las Vegas signage. Long before today's prosaic pylons swallowed the Strip, Las Vegas offered some of the finest examples of mid-century lettering ever created. These legendary edifices of cement, stone, steel and neon were enchanting landmarks if unprecedented inventiveness." Just as House—the design company—pays tribute to excess, so does House—the magazine—illustrate the premise on which the foundry flourishes: originality.
"From Bauhaus to dune buggies, the House Industries combo spans the full spectrum of international pop culture," admits FSI founder Erik Spiekermann. The collective of creatives reads more like a rock band than corporate conglomerate: Ken Barber as type designer, Andy Cruz as art director and Adam Cruz as illustrator. Consequently, these three Housemen also play drums, bass guitar and lead guitar respectively—the full spectrum of which was recently exhibited at Font Shop Germany's 2001 Conference in Berlin. An example of the company's multimedia sensibilities, the trade show featured 400 types of House art and typography—including font packages, merchandise and clip art. Throughout the musical presentation, House partner Rich Roat recited House-honed products aloud, as if part of an enormous performance piece rather than traditional retail ruckus. House's fonts can be seen on everything from magazines to packaging to record albums. The ideology (and the delivery) behind the products is what makes House stand out from other more mainstream font design studios
Its magazine is also as much retrospective as it is modern. The latest issue of House salutes the design family's heroes, described honorably as "intrepid vanguard" blazing "uncharted territories." Readers must not look too far to understand that the hero worship is served up in House's own pantheon of font and clip art—everything from tikis to Vespas to other 50s-styled interior trinkets. Typophiles and graphic designers alike enjoy features on such preeminent designers as Ed Benguiat and Rene Chalet, both idols and namesakes for the foundry's publishing design work.
More conventionally, House's online home discerns PostScript and OpenType versioning. Specifically, links are included to download Adobe Type Manager for Macintosh and Windows platforms, as well as general support for Suitcase, Master Juggler and Font Reserve applications. House Industries is also currently shipping its Las Vegas font in OpenType format to work with at least Macintosh OS 8.1 or Adobe Type Manager 4.5. The OpenType font files are cross-platform compatible, however, for either Macs or PCs. For instance, Adobe InDesign 1.5 and Photoshop 6 are the only major design applications that support OpenType features. But InDesign allows users to set up programs to automatically substitute optimized ligatures found in many of House's font collections.
The CD-ROM collections (many of which come with music) are as follows:
Bullet: Inspired by the connecting-script lettering characterizing cast metal name plates on industrial products during the early 20th century
Chalet: Based on clothing designer-nee-type designer Rene Albert Chalet's Haute Couture
Popart: Thirty full-color high-res images of clip art (i.e., trophies, big wheels, martini shakers and bongo drums)
Latino: Latin American kitsch inspired by 1940s jazz—and coconut culture
House 3009: Space-age fonts mimicking Art Deco designs
House-A-Rama: Think bowling meets the family Bar-B-Que: everything "home"
Tiki Type: Hawaiian-themed fonts and clip art
Sign Painter: Lettering commonly associated with traditional American signage as seen along Route 66
Typography of Coop: Tattoo art meets computer illustration meets she-devils
Flyer Fonts: Remember the magazine letters you cut out as a kid for your first garage band show?
Rat Fink Font: Vaudevillian style with Las Vegas leanings
Monster Fonts: Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman were important enough to disperse themselves throughout cinematic history; they also inspired clip art
Streetvan Font Kit: The art of the bumpersticker—and the Volkswagon mini-van from 1969
The Bad Neighborhood: Graffiti is as much an art as it is a state of mind; this one's crumbling down and ramshackle
Scrawl Fonts: Along the lines of Bad Neighborhood, but fashioned more towards the lost art of handwriting
House Gothic: The cover of the CD-ROM features a Nancy Sinatra look-a-like in white knee-high boots; the starkness of the design is reminiscent of a Stanley Kubrick odyssey
General Collection: A basic hodge podge of retro Art Deco and space-age fonts
Two free fonts, Spaceage Round and House Slant, are also available for download.
-Natalie Hope McDonald