essica Hische’s fans know she’s great at everything she does. But even her most avid followers might not know that Jessica Hische is a neologist. She’s coined the terms procrastiworking (the work you do when you should be doing client or assignment work) and designistrator (a designer who is also an image-maker). Both words describe her process and what she does: she’s a letterer and an illustrator (and, according to her website, “a crazy cat lady known for her silly side projects and occasional foul mouth.”) We can’t vouch for the cat craziness. Her twitter feed gives a tiny peek into her foul mouth. But what catches most people’s attention are her unique style, insane talent, and yes, “silly” side-projects.
Jessica grew up in Pennsylvania, “raised by two non-creatives who decided it would be okay to let their little girl pursue a seemingly impractical career.” As a child, she had a tendency towards all things creative. She’d draw architectural blueprints of her home and illustrate maps of her family dog’s daily travels. In high school, she found a teacher who would later help her get into Tyler School of Art at Temple University, despite her self-described “under-developed portfolio” (judge for yourself here). “I mostly went to Tyler because it was a good school that I could afford, and they accepted me with a pretty unimpressive portfolio of student work – just the standard self portraits, wonky ceramics, and elaborate drawings of shoes (my high school art teacher sold me pretty hard to Tyler’s admissions counselor)”, she says.
In school, she remembers being a “serious over-achiever”. She couldn’t help herself. She loved every single class she took. Before long, though, design started to stand out. As she told Method & Craft:
Design was satisfying in a completely different way than fine art—everything was like a puzzle you had to solve and it wasn’t (for the most part) self-expressionistic. As a nineteen-year-old from Nowheresville, Pennsylvania who lived a relatively charmed existence, I didn’t feel like I really had much to “express” yet. Being able to think and execute artwork on the behalf of others—to address their needs rather than my own—was a giant “Eureka!” moment.
At Tyler, Hische invented the term procrastiworking when she found herself putting off painting and other fine art work in order to do design work. The term embodies a philosophy she’s lived by ever since, and it’s her best advice to young designers: “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
At Tyler, she also discovered her passion for hand-lettering. Too poor to buy fonts and inevitably dissatisfied with free font options, she began drawing her own type for her school projects. She discovered that not only did she enjoy the work, but it set her projects apart from her classmates’. At the time, she didn’t realize it would become her specialty (or, for that matter, that it was even something one could specialize in).
After graduating in 2006, Hische worked for Headcase design studio in Pennsylvania. That winter, she put together a self-promotion piece: a hand-illustrated set of cards depicting the 12 Days of Christmas. Some weren’t as traditional as others:
Working for Fili was challenging: Hische spent every waking hour designing, illustrating, and lettering. But working nine hours a day for Fili and seven (sometimes more) at night for freelance clients had benefits, notably praise like this from her boss and design hero, Louise Fili:
Jessica’s energetic approach to type, lettering, and illustration is boundless. Can you make this type look like a ribbon? Sure! Like embroidered Moroccan lettering? Of course! Like a shiny wax seal? Love to! Like an old oatmeal box? She never misses! (via)
After working for Fili for two and a half years, Hische left Fili’s studio to pursue her own work. One of her first side projects was “The Daily Drop Cap” (see the first letter of this article). For 12 alphabets, she designed one letter every day and posted them on her website. The rest, you might say if you’re familiar with the design world, is history. The project earned her the nickname “that drop cap girl” and catapulted her career even further, earning her an all-star client list which currently includes Wes Anderson, The New York Times, Tiffany & Co., Target, Victoria’s Secret, and Nike.
In addition to client work, Hische has become extremely well known for her personal projects, like this website, which helps designers and creators answer the often-tough question, “should I work for free?” This one, “Don’t fear the internet,” outlines HTML and CSS for non-web designers. And Hische built this site to show her mom how Twitter works. We especially love her sketch blog, where she shows us the pages of her notebook and how they translate into final designs.
Despite the quality of Hische’s side projects, she makes a clear distinction between them and her professional work. For example, she’s learned a lot about front-end coding in the last year, but she’d never offer that service to her clients. “If I were looking for a web designer, I would want someone whose main passion and interest was web design,” she explains. “I advocate for specialization because if I were a client, I would want a designer that was self-aware and knew when to delegate and when not to. I’d never hire a carpenter to build a skyscraper.”
Like other artists we’ve profiled, Jessica is open and honest about her life, her process, and her work. The URL of her FAQ page is http://jessicahische.is/aseriousoversharer/ , and she’s not kidding. She shares details about how she comes up with font names (“You kind of can’t go wrong if you name typefaces after wine, women, or food."), advice to young designers (“Be nice to people.”), thoughts on style (an illustrator should have a distinct style, a designer should not), and why she has so many followers on Twitter (“The best way to be successful on a social network is to be yourself.”) She even answers the question, “Why are you such an over-sharer?” She says she loves it when people email her, write her, or approach her at conferences and it feels like they already know each other. She says it makes the initial stages of working with clients much easier, and “I love hearing everyone’s stories, I love making others feel enthusiastic and encouraged about what they’re doing, and I love living my life as me and not some polished version of myself.” On her bog, Hische writes about pricing your work, internships, getting freelance clients, Inspiration vs. Imitation, and web design. She even shares screencasts so her admirers can watch her process:
Inspired by Hische, we thought we’d take a stab at neology and give “Jack of all trades, master of none” a little rework: from now on at Miro, someone who is good at every single thing they do will be known as a “Hische of all trades.” Alas, for now, the term only applies to Hische herself.