It’s not every day that you get to meet your career idol, but we made it happen for ModCloth graphic designer Erynn when we asked her to interview star typographer and illustrator Jessica Hische! This edition of Best Job Ever follows the conversation between Jessica and Erynn, and covers some of Jessica’s most epic accomplishments, from viral design projects to her much-applauded lettering for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.
On top of being featured in Forbes’ latest 30 Under 30 list (along with ModCloth’s Susan and Eric!), and she’s been gaining tons of fans in response to projects such as this wedding invitation that went ultra-viral, and her co-founding of San Francisco typography studio Title Case with fellow artisan Erik Marinovich. Yup, Jessica’s career is definitely worth the title of Best Job Ever.
ERYNN: So… in college, all my friends and I loved your Daily Drop Cap project, and I got one of the letters as a tattoo right before I graduated.
JESSICA: What? Holy moly! Okay — that’s awesome.
ERYNN: Yea, I’ve been pretty excited to meet you!
JESSICA: So cool! You know, it’s funny — when that project was over, we wanted to figure out a way to commemorate it where we would do a free tattoo day and anyone who wanted it could come get one. Then I realized that’s probably unreasonable, and that the tattoo place would probably hate me for making them stick around all day. That would have been awesome though. Maybe in the future, maybe in the future.
ERYNN: When you started the Daily Drop Cap, why did you choose to spend your time on something that was for fun, rather than a paid gig?
JESSICA: I knew I wanted to do more lettering, but none of my clients were asking me to do it (I was mostly illustrating), so it was a way I could make sure I was doing lettering even when I wasn’t getting paid to do it. Also, having a project that wasn’t affected by anyone but myself was really nice. That’s how I approached my whole art career — when I applied to undergrad, I didn’t really know how I was going to make money creating art, but I knew I was going to make it.
If you think of money first, it’s hard to stay motivated. If you’re passionate about the work you’re doing, then hopefully it becomes profitable in the future, and if it doesn’t, at least you have work you’re really interested in.
ERYNN: What was it like to work with Wes Anderson on the lettering for Moonrise Kingdom?
JESSICA: It was just amazing — really tough to put into words! It’s so rare that you get to work with a client whose vision you completely trust, especially when it’s someone who is really picky, but you still trust that everything they say is the best thing possible.
ERYNN: He moved away from Futura for you!
JESSICA: I know! When I first got that job, I was losing my mind. I still don’t think I’ll ever work with a client who will completely delight me that much. I trusted his artistic vision so completely that I would draw an ‘R’ a hundred times, or you know, wake at 5 a.m. two days before the trailer launch to make revisions. It was just a super-amazing process in general, and the most astounding part was that Wes was literally the art director on the project — it wasn’t assigned to someone else, so I was getting all my feedback from him directly. I really felt like I was on the team versus being a contractor who was assigned to do something.
ERYNN: So, what’s it like building a typeface from start to finish?
JESSICA: It depends on what kind of typeface you’re making. Certainly, if you’re doing something more systemized or geometric, you can bang that out fairly quickly, like a display typeface that appears on a sign once. Stuff that really has to be hyper-well-made can be laborious. People don’t understand that type isn’t just 52 characters — you do all the accent characters, the punctuation, you do some alternate characters just to clean up the ends… At the minimum, you’re talking 150 glyphs. General text typefaces have thousands of glyphs because they have to support different languages and there’s just so much to consider. Text typefaces can take years to complete. I haven’t done one yet, but would like to. They’re very tedious.
ERYNN: What do you see yourself doing in the near future?
JESSICA: Less public speaking, actually. I love traveling and teaching, but when you’re overbooked you tend to not be able to enjoy as much. Time away from the office is time you’re not working and doing the thing you love and are built to do.