House.

No, not the TV show, but House Industries, the prolific type/art/design studio based out of Yorklyn, Delaware founded by Rich Roat and Andy Cruz in 1993.

Image created using House Inustries’ Photolettering App

I first encountered their work in 1996 at the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum at an exhibition called Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture. I remember seeing a meticulously crafted 3D cardboard cutout of a custom van with very interesting colors and type — reminiscent of 1960′s psychedelia with a touch ’70s creepiness. But what really stopped me was the attention to detail and the craftsmanship that went into that piece. And this project was created to promote a line of themed fonts. Brilliant.

Mother Trucker

House Industries continue to inspire and amaze — yesterday I received an email from them announcing new women’s shirt designs distributed and sold at Uniqlo. The designs are a type lover’s dream with some great patterns and color combinations. Check them out here.

But it’s not just the shirt designs. It’s the fact that these guys (and gals) are involved in so many diverse projects. They partner/collaborate with many different individuals and companies and have become notorious for their tongue-in-cheek viewpoint on American popular culture. Their passion and love for the craft is evidenced in everything they create. They are artists, typographers, craftsmen and excellent marketers, promoting their work within a broad range of design disciplines: fashion, architecture, furniture, print, web, environmental, industrial and much, much more. Check out this recent storefront display for Hermés in Japan. Wow.

House Industries has made an incredible impact on the world of design and they continue to inspire with their creativity and talents. Here’s to House!

Check out this highlight video of some their work.

Gotham: the new Helvetica

Man, I love the typeface Gotham and the foundry that created it: Hoefler and Frere-Jones. Gotham’s a great design and has been used successfully for many companies and organizations since its release back in 2001.

The problem is that it’s just been overused — and yes, I’m guilty.

In a world where distinctiveness and originality is more important than ever, it’s hard to justify using a typestyle that is reaching Helvetica-like status. Typography trends come and go, and Gotham has had an amazing run. From my perspective, it’s just time to move on.

Collected Ephemera: for the love of print

For years, I’ve collected folders full of old ticket stubs, receipts, catalogs, booklets, invoices, postcards, labels and other printed pieces dating from 1900 – 1975. These items are best defined as “ephemera” — things that were created to serve a practical, short-term purpose — not really meant to be saved (or written about in a blog post some 50+ years later). But being a designer who loves history and design history, it comes as no surprise that these items interest me. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever met a designer that doesn’t like rummaging through shelves of thrift stores or antique malls looking for cool printed “stuff”. I believe that collecting and studying these artifacts is really important — we can learn from the past and can find inspiration for current work.

I realize that some may classify all of this “stuff” as trash, but I see it as treasure. I appreciate the printing process, the craftsmanship, the hand lettering, the attention to detail and the history behind each piece. So I’ll keep on colllecting — I’ll just have to add some more folders to the filing cabinet.

Here are just a few samples I’ve collected over the years:

What a great script — and the perfectly tracked Futura typestyle.

1900 self-promotional brochure for a Chicago architecture firm

Back of an old photo card showing amazing lettering and detail.

Sheet music with hand-drawn lettering

Camera brochure cover. I love the Pilot logo.

A great example of good design for everyday purpose.

Kodak box cover

Great numbering style on a receipt from my grandfather's hardware store (1968)

Citizens Radio cards.

Invoice from my grandfather's hardware store - I forgive the spacing (kerning) between the W and the A in "Hardware" but love the typographic choice.

Beautiful lettering style and attention to detail on the back of this photo card.

 

What a nice lettering style and a capital "F". c.1925

Converge SE 2012: web designers paradise

Friday and Saturday, I attended Converge SE 2012, a web design conference in Columbia, SC. The conference examined the intersection between design, development and marketing and is the brainchild of Gene Crawford and friends from unmatched style.com and Period Three, a local web design firm. This year, the event coincided with Indie Grits, another wildly successful event that started in Columbia just a few years ago. This year, Converge SE sold out in just two days!

Converge SE attracts the design-conscious and the technically-savvy crowd from all over the country from a wide range of industries: education, government, small business, corporate, solo designers, and more. Experts and industry thought leaders conducted workshops and presentations that focused on topics ranging from the practical to the philosophical. Creativity, emerging technology discussions and the encouragement to push the boundaries of web design were common themes this year.

For the workshops, there were four different tracts attendees could participate in: Design; Development; Front-End Development; Marketing and Mobile. I participated in most of the Design workshops which covered everything from typography to design process to prototyping. I also participated in a lecture by J Cornelius who talked about the benefits of using HTML 5 markup language and why it’s so awesome.

And speaking of awesome, Leslie Jensen-Inman from UT-Chatanooga kicked us off Friday morning with an inspirational talk and encouraged everyone to follow their passion and to simply “make awesomeness.” Last year, Leslie spoke at Converge SE and discussed her involvement in CreateAthon On Campus at UT-C and how powerful the experience was for her and her students. Pretty cool to hear about the impact CreateAthon is making in other parts of the country. Yeah, shout out to CreateAthon!

A few notes and sidebars from some of the other speakers that I found interesting:

• From J Cornelius, a software/web developer:

- “IE7 is the new IE6″ (IE6 is a developers’ worst nightmare)

- 4.8 billion people have never seen the web

- HTML5 gives us the ability to do amazing things. Check out www.thisshell.com to see what’s possible.

- In the end, it’s our job {as web designers} to create an “experience” online.

- And lastly, J suggested that we “Go build some cool stuff.”

• Chandler Van De Water discussed typography and how he uses software to create original typeface designs. SIDEBAR: I won a typeface creation app for drawing a lowercase R! I’ll be using it to experiment with a new type family soon!

• Giovanno DiFeterici talked about historical and contemporary art and the psychology behind it. He discussed the importance of collaboration and talked about the process of creating the artwork for this year’s ConvergeSE marketing materials (which is amazing).

• Bermon Painter showed how he successfully eliminates wireframes and excessive documentation and jumps right into rapid prototyping by using sketches and actual content (as opposed to greek copy).

On Saturday, we heard from nine or ten more speakers who discussed topics ranging from mobile testing, building online communities and the importance of customer service, simplicity in design, coding for CSS, importance of social groupings and identity, design process and much more.

Overall, a great conference and a great venue to meet new people and to learn more about web design and development. Way to go Converge SE — I’ll be back next year!