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A Dozen Questions for Ms Hische

Jessica Hische [Detail]

Jessica Hische is an illustrator, typographer and designer living in Brooklyn, New York. She shot to internet notoriety through her Daily Drop Cap series, where she continues to share her exquisitely hand-crafted letter forms “for the beautification of blog posts everywhere”.

With a commitment to, and love for, typography and more recently letterpress, her work harks back to a golden age when type was crafted by hand. Her work is often infused by the aesthetics of the nineteen hundred and fifties, when the art of the letterer was last at its height.

As one of the headline acts of the fringe events at this year’s Build Conference in Belfast, we felt it pertinent to find out a little more about her before her visit to our fine city.

We asked Ms Hische a dozen questions.

Daily Drop Cap 'ABC' [Detail]

Where did you learn your craft?

Mostly at Tyler School of Art and in Louise Fili’s office.

Who inspires you?

All of my awesome illustration friends that are way more motivated and talented than me. Many of us have studios in the same building in Greenpoint Brooklyn (The Pencil Factory) and it is endlessly inspiring to be surrounded all the time by talented folks that are also genuinely nice people.

I’m very inspired by the work students are doing now and since I only graduated a few years ago it fills me with fear and excitement to think of what they’ll be capable in a few years.

What are your influences?

Working for Louise was my major influence, but I’m also an avid internet scourer and could look at fancy type and illustration all day on sites like FFFFOUND!, we love typography, and LetterCult. I also find crap television and heavy brunches to be very influential.

Daily Drop Cap 'L' [Detail]

You’re operating somewhere along the ‘Designer-Typographer-Illustrator Continuum’. Where would you place yourself on that continuum and why?

In the past I’d probably have placed myself dead center but I’m much more in between typographer and illustrator now.

I find that, while I love design, typical design projects aren’t as thrilling to me as they were in the past. The design industry is very different to the illustration industry in terms of who you are working for and how you promote your work.

As an illustrator and typographer, I’m generally working with art directors and creative directors, people used to working with artists, so the projects tend to go much more smoothly (or at least predictably). With design work you can be working with someone that has never hired a designer before, so there’s a lot more hand-holding and you have to be very assertive about your role in their lives and theirs in yours.

A great deal of your work has a feeling that it belongs in a different era; is there a decade, or indeed a century, that you would have enjoyed working in?

I think I would love to vacation to a different decade but not necessarily work in one. I think a lot of the opportunities that I had wouldn’t have been present in other decades and there would have been far more hurdles and road blocks along the way.

I would of course have loved to design in the golden era of album covers or to do lettering in the early 20th century when literally everything was hand-lettered, but I’m pretty happy to stay where I am and just be influenced by these rich periods instead.

You’re well known for your beautifully crafted work on the Daily Drop Cap. What’s the people’s favourite and if you had to pick just one letter which would it be and why?

Judging from print sales, the favourite seems to be the C from the second alphabet (with birds and leaves). The ones that seem to get the most love online though (through Tumblr likes and reposts) are the more illustrative letters such as the O made out of an LP or the V made out of a slice of pizza.

If I had to name my favorites (so far), it might be the L from the first alphabet because it reminds me of old story books and the U from the third alphabet.

Daily Drop Cap Business Cards [Detail]

How has the industrial and craft heritage of Brooklyn, where you’re based, affected your outlook on the design process?

I think it hadn’t affected me much until recently since I’ve fallen in love with letterpressing. Letterpress is less of a product of Brooklyn than of Ohio or some of the mid-western states, but because it is so prevalent here now that there are spaces to print at such as The Arm in Williamsburg, I tend to look at new projects with a “will this letterpress well” point of view.

You quite rightly have strong feelings about the question of plagiarism. Did you ever create your letterpress ‘Certificate of Valor’ to send to other designers and illustrators that point out plagiarists to you?

I haven’t yet, but it’s always in the back of my mind. I think in the end it might become some sort of “neighborhood watch” membership badge or something. I’m so thankful for all the internet eagle eyes that keep the plagiarists in check!

Your comprehensive FAQ 1 ensures that writing questions for you is a challenge; we’d appreciate if you’d allow us to plagiarise one. Will you send us high-res images of your work for us to print?

Ha! Isn’t this for online publication?

Steal My Idea: 'Paypal it Forward'

What’s your favourite typeface?

My tastes in typefaces change all the time, but if I had to name a few standards they would be: 1. Almost anything H&FJ produce (Archer, Gotham…); 2. Several of Alejandro Paul’s typefaces (these are great to recommend to people that have no budget for lettering since he and I have some similar script aesthetics); and 3. Engravers gothic set very small.

What’s your favourite plain text editor?

I use TextEdit, but just because it’s free, not because I like it.

What’s your favourite tea?

Jasmine Tea or Earl Gray with Lavender.

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