Self-authored projects become the perfect place for me to stretch my wings and be silly and irreverent, and show the world I can do more than draw curly cues.
Design’s resident multi-talented “designistrator” Jessica Hische is many things to the design community. She writes transparently about design and the creative process, she starts side projects that are as beneficial to the design community as they are fun, and she puts her whole self online and into her work. If you’re one of the 37,000 people that follow Jessica on Twitter, you probably feel like you really know her, and that’s important to her. She told us:
“Sharing your whole self online and in your work has pros and cons, but to me the pros far outweigh the cons. For me, it is really important that people know me before they hire me. It’s wonderful to have every email feel like it’s written from an old friend and not from a stranger. I’m a people person. 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 agency version of myself.”
It has been a pleasure to follow Jessica’s work throughout the years and to see her evolve from a talented illustrator and letterer to one of the most prominent, original voices in the design community today. She graduated from Tyler School of Art (Temple University) in 2006, and worked for Louise Fili for a few years while she maintained a busy freelance practice. Jessica left Louise Fili in 2009 to “replace her night job with her day job.” She has since taken on jobs that many designers can only dream of—from the small-scale (stamp design for the USPS) to the big screen (movie titles for Wes Anderson).
We asked Jessica what the word “designer” means to her today. She said, “How I define myself changes almost every year, as I discover what it actually means to be a letterer, typographer, graphic designer, or type designer. ‘Designer’ is a pretty broad term, so if I have to define it, I’d probably say that a designer is anyone that sees the world around them and tries to make it better through whatever medium they can.”
Jessica balances the client-driven side of her practice with a number of entrepreneurial side projects. We asked her if she considers herself an entrepreneur, and what motivates her personal work.
She said, “I am an entrepreneur, but rather than focus my time on making revenue models, I focus my time on making something useful, or just beautiful and fun.” Her self-initiated projects include The Daily Drop Cap, Inker Linker, and Don’t Fear the Internet—most of which started off as resources that she wished existed for herself. We asked Jessica what she loves most about her self-authored work. She said:
“To me, the biggest joy in creating self-authored projects is being able to conceptualize, write, and make artwork. Writing is something I love to do, and have loved all my life but never felt like I had a proper outlet for. Self-authored projects become the perfect place for me to stretch my wings and be silly and irreverent and show the world I can do more than draw curly cues.”
Jessica credits the positive response to her writing and side projects to the fact that she doesn’t try to be academic about design theory. She says, “I offer practical advice and insight, albeit from a limited perspective (my own). The main thing that I try to convey in all of my writing, and what I constantly reiterate when public speaking, is that it’s okay to not know what you’re doing as long as you’re self aware and try to improve. Never stop learning about everything else around you. You’ll be able to delegate well and respect those in related industries.”
We love Jessica’s advice to learn from what’s around you. We created Kern and Burn as a place to discover, and learn from, creatives with varying backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. We want their stories to move our readers to create meaningful work and have fun along the way.
For more of Jessica’s wisdom, check out her blog and get motivated to make work that makes you happy.