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Build-A-Bear Workshop & My Love of Letters

I love letters. Always have, always will. Some tiny part in my brain has always been keen to notice different fonts, which probably explains why my designs are so heavily influenced by typography rather than image. My love of typefaces goes all the way back to age four and the wonderful Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Build-A-Bear’s original logo from 1997.

In February 2000, my family took a vacation to Orlando, Florida, and I was thrilled to make my very own teddy bear at a Build-A-Bear Workshop there. Build-A-Bear’s brand at the time used a terribly wonky comic-style typeface from House Industries called Funhouse, and it was plastered all over their store and their merchandise. As a child who was completed obsessed by their products, I quickly began to associate those uniquely shaped letters with the Build-A-Bear brand. I recall seeing Funhouse used on the side panel of a cereal box a few months later; I was perplexed because, as I told my mother, “those [were] Build-A-Bear letters,” yet there they were being used in a way that had nothing to do with Build-A-Bear!

At age four, I had no idea what a font or a typeface was, but I understood that letters could hold an association beyond the words that they were a part of. When I began to use Microsoft Word a few years later, a whole new world of fonts was revealed to me; these different kinds of letters all had their own names, and they could be used in so many unique ways! Today, of course, I have a much more expansive and thorough knowledge of typefaces and type design, and paying attention to letters is part of my everyday life. Build-A-Bear was certainly an unorthodox introduction to the world of typography (I doubt I will ever use Funhouse in any design), but at least I’ll always be able to remember where my passion started!

Footnote: Build-A-Bear was rebranded by Idea is Everything in 2013, and their new logo uses a cleaner (and more generic) sans-serif typeface. It’s a much needed update, but sadly I doubt a four-year-old would be able to recognize that font on a cereal box!

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