DEARBORN, Mich. — To say that graphic designers are obsessed with fonts would be a very true statement, but it would also be a little bit like saying architects are obsessed with walls, windows, and roofs. Fonts are the mechanism that gives form to printed language, and their impact is profound, whether one is aware and obsessed with them, or not.
Andy Cruz is undoubtedly obsessed with fonts, having created them for 20-plus years under the auspices of House Industries, a design firm cofounded with Rich Roat in the early 1990s. House Industries: A Type of Learning at the Henry Ford museum showcases House’s reach and the extent to which their fonts have thoroughly permeated an entire cross-section of pop culture.
“We’re all ’80s kids,” said David Dodde, co-owner and designer at House Industries. “We’re not inventing anything, we’re just stealing really well. It’s all about the honesty of the theft. In a way, we’re paying homage.”
A Type of Learning is directly informed by House’s longstanding practice of close collaborations with clients across a variety of media. For us Generation Y-ers, precariously balanced between Generation X and millennials, it will leave your synapses blazing in remembrance of iconic pop culture ephemera: Shag stickers; Rat Fink hot rod kits; the HOUSE33 clothing line that directly referenced California skate culture of the early ’90s; the imagery of artist Chris Cooper, whose iconic “smoking devil” design bears more than a passing resemblance to Cruz himself. Other visitors may instead light up with recognition at the “Neutraface” font collection, a minimalist san serif developed to make street-facing address numbers for custom homes by famed midcentury modern architect Richard Neutra. Still other visitors might experience an eye-opening moment of connection in seeing aspects of their daily culture invisibly shaped by House Industries fonts — for example, the font design for the marquee-style logo of Jimmy Kimmel Live!