Speaking of Al Merce...

As we blogged a few days ago, our old parter Allen Mercer briefly came out retirement to create a poster for Phish’s Hampton reunion show. Then, just a few days ago, we had surprise visit from Allen, who was in Wilmington for a few days before returning to his home in Hungary.

For the uninitiated, please indulge me while I break down a piece of House Industries history. Andy Cruz and Allen Mercer were classmates at Delcastle Vocational and Technical School in Belvedere, Delaware. Upon graduating, Allen went on to Temple’s Tyler School of Art while Andy decided to ply his newly-minted trade in the cruel world of graphic design. Andy and I ran into each other at Wilmington’s Miller Mauro group, where he and Al Merce had a co-op gig. While Andy and I were getting into trouble and pissing off a few bosses, Allen did the college design thing and went off to study in Europe for a semester. Before leaving, Allen told us to count him in if we ever started our own gig. While Al was getting his walkman stolen on a train from Venice to Rome, Andy and I quit our jobs, kicked out my roommate and turned the back bedroom of my apartment into Brand Design Co., Inc. Upon returning from Europe Allen had one more year at Tyler, but he did his best impression of Joe Pro from Art School Confidential and proceeded to crank out high concept design work for us while gracefully indulging his professor’s silly projects. Allen was the creator of this promo for DuPont Clysar shrink film…

…the lettering for which became our Funhouse font and, consequently, worked its way into some major corporate branding.

Allen gained national notoriety and received lucrative job offers from several large design firms, but turned them down for the privilege of rolling around our small studio on $79 Staples office chairs and suffering multiple allergy attacks from the cats who still resided in our back room. We eventually evicted the cats and most of their dander so Allen could draw some incredible lettering for Custom Papers Group without plugging his nose with tissues.

Later, that lettering would manifest itself into the Street Van collection and Allen’s hopelessly complex die cut Street Van packaging complete with a spoiler, bubble window, hood scoop, fully paneled interior and secret under-bed compartment for a floppy disk.

As the 90s rolled on through dotcom fortunes, post industrial chic and the premature death of print, Andy’s and my lives became more complicated with employees, bigger clients and crunks tripping over cracks in the sidewalk in front of our downtown Wilmington studio.

Somewhere near the end of the millennium, Allen decided that the exciting world of graphic arts wasn’t fulfilling his life’s mission and chose the more arduous but perhaps simpler and more satisfying path of saving souls. But not before drawing for 72 hours straight to finish these Phish European Tour posters.

It was great to see Al Merce.

Posted by on March 13, 2009