Lettering Artistry with Jessica Hische
You’ve probably seen Jessica Hische’s work in a lot of places. She has designed everything from chocolate lettering to Wes Anderson movie title sequences. In this installment of Art School, San Francisco artist and author Jessica Hische takes us into her design studio with a demo on custom lettering from pencil sketch to vector paths.
- So, lettering is a really weird profession.
I get paid to draw words and letters
and phrases all day.
There's calligraphers who write letters.
There's letterers who draw letters,
and then there's type designers who draw letters
but as a part of a system that all kind of works together,
and that's where you get your fonts from.
So, lettering's kind of like...
I'm not the engineer or architect that builds the skyscraper
that can then be replicated in Hong Kong,
which would be the type designer.
I'm more like your weird uncle who builds you
like a really special dollhouse
and, then, will never do it again.
I'm Jessica Hische and I'm a lettering artist
and author living in San Francisco.
(light rhythmic music)
Well, what happened for Moonrise Kingdom was
that I drew everyone's name in the beginning of the film,
and then I made typeface to use for the end credits.
It's very rare that I get to collaborate, directly,
with another artist on a project, like that.
It was really awesome and special
to feel like it was this very artistic collaboration
and didn't feel like a cut-and-dry client project.
(upbeat percussion music)
I got started in lettering...
Well, if I had to roll it all the way back,
it would probably be me drawing all
of the popular kid's names on their Trapper Keeper.
I went to art school to just study drawing and painting,
and when I was in college, I discovered graphic design
which I was completely obsessed with.
Being able to solve problems and work on the behalf
of clients just totally blew open my world
in terms of being able to have an excuse
to create every day.
So, when I'm brainstorming,
what I first do is I do research.
When it comes to doing anything for a book,
it means reading the book.
When I'm doing editorial illustration,
it means reading the article.
I good place to start is by redoing the design
of something you already love.
Like, maybe, there's some fantasy book
that you grew up loving,
but you always hated the cover.
(upbeat instrumental music)
I get much more out of making these, sort of,
like verbal brainstorming lists.
When it comes to harmony, the first words
that came to mind were smooth, grace,
musical, nature, natural, flowing.
But the thing that's great is that
because I'm not making pretty art, at that stage,
I don't judge myself for whatever I'm gonna write down.
The only thing I worry about is
that someone is gonna discover my notebooks, later,
and think I was like a total maniac.
Everything that I do starts off as a sketch,
whether that sketch is done in a sketchbook
or on an iPad or on a piece of loose-leaf paper
or on a napkin at a bar.
Like, it just depends on how I feel that day,
and how prepared I am with my materials.
And then, once I kind of have my layout figured out,
then I'll use a more intense pencil.
So when people look through my sketchbooks,
they think, like, "Wow, you do it perfect
"the first time, every time."
When really there's like layers and layers and layers
or erased, very light sketches, underneath of what you see,
First, what I'll do is I'll lay down my baseline,
which is what the letters sit on top of,
and, next, I'll figure out what I want my x-height to be.
So, the x-height is the height of the lower case letters.
So, if I made my x-height really tall,
and I wanted to fit my words within this space,
it would mean that my letters would be really, really skinny
and if I made my x-height really short
and I wanted to fit the word within this space,
it would mean that my letters would be really wide.
So, I'm gonna do something kind of in between.
And, what I'll first do is sort of set down
a very light drawing.
So, I think one of the things
that you should remind yourself when you're starting out,
in lettering, is that being naive can be really amazing
because you do weird things
that people with experience do not know how to do anymore.
So, don't think about your lack of experience
as being a disadvantage, think about it
as being an advantage because you can make stranger art
that can be super cool, and random,
versus that has a ton of experience,
they have a really hard time breaking the rules.
I'll go in and add my thicks and thins.
I know that anyplace where a pen
would have made a downstroke, instead of an upstroke,
is likely where that thickness is gonna be.
I'm gonna scan my art
so that I can put it on my computer.
Now, I have a proper scanner,
but I haven't used it in, like, five years
because of amazing apps.
I have a perfect scan.
The biggest advice I can give you is don't let
the intimidation of actually starting down the path
to do anything be what stops you,
because it's hard for everybody.
It's hard for people with all the confidence
and talent in the world to start projects.
I'm a big, like eraser, dust everywhere person.
Just, like, that's it, cut! (laughs)