Interview: Jessica Hische – Don’t Fear the Creativity

Jessica Hische


Name: Jessica Hische
Place of residence: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Age: 27
Profession: Illustrator, Designer

“If I were a real German I would pronounce it “Hish-ah” (first syllable emphasized), but since I’m American and we have our own way of pronouncing foreign words it’s pronounced “Hish” (just like “fish” but with an H),” explains Jessica Hische.

Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator and designer working in Brooklyn. Just five years out of college, she currently serves on the TDC board of Directors and is one of the more accomplished young designistrators working today. While she doesn’t consider herself a web designer, many of her personal projects are web-centric. Jessica Hische has been named a Print Magazine New Visual Artist (20 under 30), an ADC Young Gun, a Person to Watch by GD USA, and one of 25 Emerging Artists by STEP Magazine. She’s been personally profiled in many magazines including Eye Magazine (UK), Communication Arts, Grafik Magazine (UK), and Novum Magazine (Germany). Hische divides her time fairly evenly between San Francisco, Brooklyn, and airports en route to design and illustration conferences.

How would you best describe your style of illustration and design?
“Jessica Hische’s work combines equal parts design, typography, illustration, brown sugar, and heavy cream.” (Thanks, Jason from the Heads of State, for perfectly summarizing my work!)

What is the design/illustration scene like in NewYork/Brooklyn?
The art scene for each discipline is fairly tight knit. Illustrators tend to hang out with illustrators, designers with designers. The American Illustration party and Society of Illustrators parties make it easy to run into other illustrators and get to know other people in the city. Design is a bit different because it is more diverse. The advertising scene is very different from the boutiquey design scene. There are events for everyone.

Why did you start drawing type?
Really, out of necessity. I was broke in college and couldn’t afford to go on an awesome font spending spree and didn’t have the time to pour through the free font sites for something actually worth using. I noticed in school that my hand drawn type would make the project feel more cohesive and special, so I tried to make custom type as much as possible for projects. Now almost everything I make has hand-lettering in it. One major disadvantage to being good at hand-lettering is that I am TERRIBLE at picking out fonts for projects. Every time I’ve needed a crazy display font for something, I’ve just made it myself because it takes me less time to make it than it does to scour the internet for something good. Don’t ask me to recommend a similar font to anything I’ve made, I won’t know what to tell you and then I’ll feel like a lame designer.

Jessica Hische

So, going back to your illustration and design work. Can you tell us something about the project and lettering to remember Doyald Young?
I was asked by Josh Higgins to help out with a project to remember his teacher and mentor Doyald Young. I of course agreed without hesitation as Doyald has been an incredible inspiration for me as well as countless other letterers and designers. I’m saddened that I was never able to thank him in person, but thankful that I was able to take part in this wonderful tribute. Josh had been working with Doyald on a gift for a mutual friend when he became too ill to complete the project and after Doyald’s passing, contacted me to craft the phrase Design is Everything is Design in a copperplate script that hopefully Doyald wouldn’t cringe at. Proceeds of the poster sale will help set up a type scholarship in Doyald’s name. The poster is beautifully letterpressed and it was an honor to be a part of the project.

What fonts do you like?
There are too many to name! I’m of course a big fan of anything H&FJ does, I love Hannes Von Dohren’s tyepface Brandon Grotesque and his new typeface Pluto, Mark van Bronkhorst’s Sweet Sans has become one of my new favorites to use, but really most of my font excitement surrounds web fonts because of all of the internet projects I’ve been doing. For this site, I use Benton Modern enabled through Web Type as well as Mark Simonson’s Coquette enabled by Typekit.

Jessica Hische

Typenerd for Tattly

Jessica Hische

Bezier Girl for Tattly

What do you do when you’re not working?
Mostly playing with my cats, watching the internet (netflix watch-instantly and hulu), treating myself to pork-fat heavy meals (and therefore slowly draining my bank account), riding my bike around Brooklyn, impulsive procrasti–cleaning, and hanging out with my fiance/friends.

What advice do you have for designers and illustrators that want to draw type?
If you want to be a good letterer, you have to make as much of it as possible and look at as much of it as possible. Buy old type books (if you can find them). Buy art history books about vintage type (Euro Deco is one I’ll always recommend—tons of great examples). Practice, practice, practice. If you have the patience to keep plugging along at it, you’ll be great in no time, I swear. There is no fast track to being a great letterer. No matter what tool you use, it takes time to master it and then once you’ve mastered your tool and developed your eye for detail the real fun happens.

Logo for Kate Murphy Photography

Logo for Kate Murphy Photography

Lastly, on your blog you have written about “How do I get freelance work??” Can you sum up the most important advices for our readers?
Befriend other designers. It seems so simple, but so many young designers see their peers as competition rather than the folks that will eventually be sending them all of their work. If that restaurant owner’s friend is a bit savvy, she might have recommended a really great designer to her friend. That designer’s pricing was far above what the restaurant owner could afford, so she recommends a designer friend that is slightly less expensive. That friend really wants to do it but is a little too busy at the time (and the budget is decent but too low to warrant several all-nighters). But wait! Didn’t some really nice recent grad just send her a (VERY SHORT AND NICE) email with a link to a really great portfolio? Maybe that new designer would be willing to work within the budget? Problem solved. Restaurant owner gets a beautiful new logo, and fresh-out-of-school designer gets paid all by making use of her network of friends.

Have a website. This might be a no-brainer, but a ton of young people looking for work don’t have a functioning website because they’re still struggling to build some crazy flash bonanza themselves. STOP. Unless you want to do web work for a living, sites like cargo collective, indexhibit, and carbonmade are perfectly fine ways to make portfolio sites. Many professionals use them as they are easy to update, which you will learn is THE MOST important trait a portfolio website should have. Illustrators, this goes for you too.

Do work for friends. The first point is more about networking with designers, by “work for friends” I mean actually do work for the people that you hang out with day to day that aren’t designers. If you went to art school, you undoubtedly have a slew of friends that need design work, be it business cards, logos, websites, etc. Work something out with them where you can either be paid a friendly fee, or barter with them for something you need, even if it’s a few extra hands the next time you move house. A lot of people will want free work, but if you’ve ever leant money to a friend, you know the chances you’re going to be paid back are around 30/70. It’s the same with your design skills, giving them away for free, even to friends, probably means no future return. If you have any doubt about whether or not you should do something for free, I made a handy flowchart.

Contact charities.Charities are a great jumping point for getting freelance work. You won’t necessarily be paid anything, but at least you can feel good about the free work that you’re doing and hopefully garner some good portfolio pieces out of the experience. Also, people that work at charities know people that work at non-profits (paid work) and THEY usually know people that work at legitimate businesses (well-paid work).

Enter competitions.They might not immediately get you client work, but having a few accolades under your belt will certainly make potential clients feel confident when they hire you, which can often times translate to less of a struggle to get things approved (if they trust you, they’ll be less likely to question every move you make). You can of course build up a rep without winning competitions, see Don’t be a dick.

Pay attention to the industry. You have to keep up with what’s happening with design, who’s who, etc. You’ll end up in a ton of professional social situations where you will feel like a total moron if you can’t hold an intelligent discussion about a crazy famous person/campaign in the industry. At least work on your ability to fake knowledge about things. My favorite method is what I would call the delayed reaction acknowledgement, where you look confused at first, ask for one more detail about the event, and then let a fake eureka moment flood over your face Ohhhh THAT person, of course!. Works every time. ❚

"Detail" ADC Paper Expo Poster

“Detail” ADC Paper Expo Poster

ADC Paper Expo Poster

ADC Paper Expo Poster