Rich Roat, Co-founder of House Industries
Cool Tools Show 083: Rich Roat
Our guest on the Cool Tools Show Podcast this week is Rich Roat, co-founder of the graphic design firm, House Industries. I’ve been following their work since the early 1990s and love everything they do, from font design to ceramics. Rich is also co-author of a stunning new book House Industries: The Process is the Inspiration with Andy Cruz and Ken Barber.
Kraft Tape Dispenser ($460)
“Beats any tape gun. You just load it up, fill up the water reservoir and pull the lever. It even cuts it for you, to the length you specify with the lever pull. We’re always packing up of samples, gifts, and general goodies to send all over the world. Plus we have this online store too, so we need to ship that stuff too. If you don’t mind getting a skidload of the the tape, you can get your logo printed on it too. It sounds pretty mundane, but we always get great comments on it.”
French Paper Co.
“In the old days of graphic design, premium printing paper was a B to B thing and you had to buy the stuff through a print shop who had to buy it through their local distributor. When Andy and I first started House Industries, we were in Delaware and no Delaware distributors carried French, we posed as a print shop so we could order their paper direct from a Baltimore distributor and have it shipped to another printer, sort of like the CIA set up a shell corporation to buy titanium that they needed to build the SR71 blackbird from the Russians during the cold war. We were friends with fourth-generation owner Jerry French, but, at the time, it was verboten for paper mills to sell direct to designers. Still, Jerry would see that some “fell off a truck” every once in a while to fuel early House Industries font catalogs. Then the internet came along and fucked a bunch of shit up, but also eventually made it okay for French to sell direct to consumers. Anyway, about the paper itself: unbeatable color palette and delicious textures, mostly attributed to hero graphic designer Charles S. Anderson. Their swatch books are more valuable than a PMS chart and if you have a pernickety printer who doesn’t feel like doing a little sourcing, you just get out your credit card and order it yourself. French is also a really cool company, surviving as an independent mill in a time when most other such businesses are long gone. And they were generating their own hydroelectric power, recycling and being environmentally-friendly before those kind of things were cool, like almost 100 years ago.”
S & S
“These make it possible to break a full-sized 700C bike down into airline-checkable luggage. I’m a cycling nut, and I like my bike. When I travel, especially to bike-friendly places like most of Western Europe, Seattle, San Francisco, etc., I like to take my own bike along because it’s all dialed in, fits me perfectly and doesn’t make any strange noises. I just break it out of the box, assemble, and ride out of the front door of the airport. Seattle even has a bike assembly area for idiots like me.”
House Archive Boxes ($38, set of 3)
“Shameless self promotional plug here in addition to the other self-promotional plugs that you ask about below. We’re good ol’ American hoarders and we work in a building without much closet space, so we wanted somewhere we could dump all of the valuable junk that piles up on our desks that also looked cool when we stack them around the studio. We didn’t like any of the designs that were available, so we made our own. We even got a design patent for the box die.”
Son dynamo hub
“There are other dynamo hubs out there, but none quite as beautiful as this one. I ride my bike to and from work every day, and in the winter it’s often dark both ways. USB-powered LED lights are nice and all, but there’s something cool about being able to throw a leg over the bike and not having to worry about remembering to recharge. This may sound weird, but the hub also makes this great little vibration that gets slightly more pronounced when under load. I just keep my lights on all the time because I like the feeling of generating electricity when I’m riding.”