“The basis of any word is a single letter,” says self-described “letterer, illustrator, and crazy cat lady” Jessica Hische, known for performing stunningly beautiful typographical feats for the likes of Wes Anderson, Penguin Books, The New York Times, and—be still our justice-loving hearts—John Hodgman. Among her latest projects is a stationery collection for the Luxe Project, a Moo initiative that pairs top creative talent with Moo’s deluxe business cards, letterheads, and notecards, and then gives 100% of net proceeds to the designer’s charity of choice (Hische’s feline-friendly pick: the ASPCA). She made time in her busy, bicoastal—San Francisco and Brooklyn—schedule to answer our questions about the luxe letterforms adapted from her Daily Drop Cap project, her book jacket for The Circle by Dave Eggers, and more.
For those not familiar with Daily Drop Cap, what is it and how did it come about?
I started Daily Drop Cap because, when I left working at Louise Fili Ltd., I wanted an excuse to draw letterforms every day, even when I wasn’t being paid to by clients. I wanted a way to experiment and develop my lettering skills since I was about to step out on my own, away from the daily mentoring of Louise. Originally, I had planned on doing an alphabet a week instead of a letter a day, but decided quickly that I wasn’t up for a challenge that enormous at the time. I gave myself the goal of twelve alphabets, a number that seemed daunting but doable, and for a year and a half I drew a letter every single day. It ended up becoming the thing that really kicked my career into full swing and made people pay attention to the work I was doing.
What did you create for the Luxe Project?
My collection for Moo uses a selection of my Daily Drop Caps, transforming the original artwork into sophisticated monograms by switching the complex original color palettes to two-color. I chose letters that I thought would appeal to many people—sometimes the letters I created for Daily Drop Cap specifically referenced something I was doing that day and wouldn’t work as stationery monograms— and tried to pick gender neutral letterforms when possible. The letters are integrated into simple but beautiful designs which could work for anyone, be they a designer or just a lover of letters. I used the typeface Router—which I love—made by a type design friend Jeremy Mickel.
What led you to select the ASPCA to receive all net proceeds?
I adopted my two cats from the ASPCA in New York and just love what they do to put misplaced animals in good homes. I’m a huge animal lover—it’s embarrassing how much I dote on my two cats—and love supporting an organization that obviously cares so deeply about animals.
We noticed that you designed the jacket for Dave Eggers’ The Circle. How did you approach that project?
Working with Dave is really fun because he always has something very specific in mind when he hires you for a project. I have a sketch from my first meeting with him about the book that is just a piece of paper with the words “The Circle,” then a large circle, then “Dave Eggers”. It ended up being almost a logo design project since the jacket design was so straightforward. I had a lot of fun dreaming up fake company logos that could take that center circular spot and even more fun using that logo to make the casewrap, which was complex and pattern driven.
What is your typographical pet peeve?
This is a tough one! Of course general mistakes bother me—like when someone uses an upside down M as a W: the letters are quite different!—but I think my biggest pet peeve is when people use a very trendy font that doesn’t conceptually make sense for their subject matter.
What is the most unusual or meaningful object currently on your desk?
I don’t have anything particularly meaningful on my desk at the moment, but I do have an original copper printing plate sitting atop a little organization cabinet from a project I worked on last year.
What do you consider your proudest design moment?
When I was in the Sundance Kabuki movie theater, watching Moonrise Kingdom [for which Hische created the film titles] with dozens of friends—we nearly rented out the top section of the theater—and everyone clapped when my name came on the screen at the end of the movie. I definitely cried.