jessica sq
By Britt Appleton

jessica hische

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Jessica Hische is a world-famous letterer who has worked with everyone from Wes Anderson to Starbucks to Barnes & Noble. She is as well known for her side projects as she is for her professional work. Her wedding invitation went viral. Her Daily Drop Cap project has inspired thousands, and she loves to give advice. Curious how Twitter works? She'll tell you. Wondering if you should work for free? She's got a helpful guide. She can even teach you to code.

On Friday, Jessica came to Portland to lead a WeMake sketchXchange at Tillamook Station. (Tillamook Station, if you haven't been, is a gorgeous creative space in North Portland.) They brought in the Taco Peddler, sold booze, and Jessica talked about the evolution of her career, and then showed us how she takes a project from pencil sketch to Illustrator file.

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Like many of us, her early high school work included lots of fairies. After designing several fonts for use in her senior project (a board game about divorce) at the Tyler School of Art, she realized that typography was where she was happiest spending her time.

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During her talk, Jessica emphasized the importance her side projects have had on her career.

"People won't feel comfortable hiring you for something they don't see much of in your portfolio," she advised.

She credits her Daily Drop Caps with helping get her more lettering work, because at the time she was mainly illustrating. "Make something that shows you have a brain in your head, not just hands on your body," she said.

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For the grand finale, she took a pencil sketch she made at the beginning of the night and digitized it in Adobe Illustrator, while explaining her methods and offering suggestions.

Advice from Jessica:

•  Print your work and make your edits on a paper copy. "There's something that happens when you print stuff where your brain is like, 'This is permanent! Notice stuff!'"

• Don't do research during the project. You will just rip it off. Let it sit. You'll make inventive work.

• If you're interested in type, spend a lot of time looking at type you know to be good. Look specifically at lowercase "a" and "g." Also, check out Inside Paragraphs by Cyrus Highsmith.

If you would like more advice from Jessica, she offers student portfolio reviews as well as professional consultations.

Keep up with WeMake's events on their Tumblr and Twitter.