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How did your interest in design start? My true design education came from growing up in the garage as my dad restored cars and built hot rods. Form, mechanics, branding, interiors, performance, color theory and maintenance were just a few of the “courses.” Inside the house, my mom was always knocking down walls and redecorating on a DIY budget. Later, BMX, video games, skateboarding, punk rock and my vocational-technical high school, which had a commercial art program, connected the dots for me.

When did you realize that House Industries had developed its own voice as a type foundry and design studio? I know that copying is a bad word, but it is how we all learn to communicate. Talking, cooking, playing music—insert whatever you like here—is learned by copying our parents, teachers, peers and heroes. The good stuff usually happens when people wring out those influences and distill the drippings into something that tastes good. Not everyone can get past the copying portion of the program—and that isn’t always a bad thing. We started to get our heads around this in the early ’90s while we were experimenting with illustration and fonts at a time when we didn’t know too much about illustration or fonts. Continued practice and collaboration helped coax our voice out.
Not everyone can get past the copying portion of the program—and that isn’t always a bad thing.”

Do you think storytelling is an important element in type design? Type is the actor that helps words tell their story. We’ve all been conditioned by letterforms and their association with people, places and things. Designers use type as a tool to lead the witness, by triggering memories, functions and emotions associated with forms.

House Industries has described itself as having a “blue-collar approach to design.” What does it mean to have a blue-collar approach to design? What’s the future of this approach? We were born into the manual side of the labor force. This helps us appreciate what it takes to make an idea happen by physically doing. Until the machines can handle everything for us, we need to keep the “blue-collar” approach to production and the relationships with the people who make it “real” in mind as we push pixels around with one finger on a flat screen.

In the process of researching for a project, have you ever fallen victim to archive envy? In an effort to reduce anxiety, I twist the meanings of envy and jealousy into inspiration and get off your ass and work a little smarter. I know that smells like a bad Instagram hand-lettered motivational poster, but it’s been working for me.

How do you and the rest of House Industries decide to take on new projects? Projects and collaborations have to stick a landing on our satisfaction scale. Balancing it between cash and fulfillment is the tough part, but I’ve met too many designers who have a bit more money than satisfaction.

House Industries: A Type of Learning is running until September 4th at the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. From the get-go, what attracted you to putting this museum exhibit together? I love how the Henry Ford Museum shows visitors how artifacts and ideas connect, from everyday objects to some of the most important inventions in history. When it invited us to exhibit our work, we wanted to mirror the museum’s concept by sharing how we learn from what we like and how we use letterforms to connect everything from hot rods and fonts to ceramics and space technology.

How do you try to get people to see the human beings behind House Industries’ work? We’ve always celebrated the people behind the art. Whether it was us collaborating inside the studio and painting ridiculous images of ourselves to explain our roles, or sharing the work of those who inspire us: Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Alexander Girard, Coop, Charles and Ray Eames, Jimmy Kimmel and Richard Neutra... the list continues to grow.
Andy Cruz spent his early years learning the dark arts of hot rodding from his father and skating the mean streets of Wilmington, Delaware. After graduating from Delcastle Technical High School with a “shop” certification in commercial art, he opted to skip art school and get right to work. As the art director and creative nerve center of House Industries, Cruz uses his calm, quiet demeanor to cajole frustrated House artists, designers and collaborators into forgetting the rules for a just moment to figure out the best way to create something worthwhile. His work is in the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. Cruz recently completed the book House Industries: The Process Is the Inspiration with coauthors/long-time conspirators Rich Roat and Ken Barber. If he’s not collecting furniture, Japanese folk art or other junk that will somehow turn into a House Industries design project, Cruz is spending time with his ladies: wife Stephanie and daughters, Ava and Mia.
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