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Jessica Hische discusses her struggles and triumphs in the honest, authentic and inspiring way that only she can.

Writing about Jessica Hische can be a challenge, because most designers probably already know some version of the following: “Lettering artist Jessica Hische is hilarious yet poignant, eloquent yet fond of the occasional F-bomb, elegant yet not averse to tossing back a bourbon—and moreover, every element of her character feels genuine, and every element of it appears in her work.”

I wrote that in 2017, after Debbie Millman and I returned from a PRINT magazine photoshoot of San Francisco’s best creatives, Hische among them. (After 48 sleepless hours of shooting and interviewing more than 70 people, we wound up with two strong cover contenders—one of the inimitable Tim Ferris, and one of the inimitable Hische. We couldn’t choose a favorite, and ran both in back-to-back issues.)

If you feel like you know Jessica Hische a bit from her output, you might not be all that off-base, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone. It’s been written that her work has “personality,” but it might be more accurate to say that her work has presence—her presence. In my experience, what you see is really what you get.

Then again, as this episode of Design Matters and the one that preceded it in 2011 prove, the more you think you know someone’s story, the more you don’t. Something that might blow your mind, given Hische’s prolific output and perpetual talent: She almost didn’t get into art school. (She transferred high schools in 11th grade to be able to take more art classes, and as a result of a late start, emerged not with a massive portfolio, but instead, thankfully, with a teacher’s recommendation.)

And then there’s the reason she started experimenting with lettering in college—she couldn’t afford good fonts. The fateful mailer that landed her a job with the legendary Louise Fili. How she evolved from designer and prodigious lettering artist to bestselling children’s author.

Journalists make a career of briefly talking to people and then presenting them to readers who often presume they’re getting a complete biographic profile. But there’s a great joy in admitting that you’re not telling the full story—rather, every article, every interview, every printed page and spent pixel forms a mosaic that hints at it.

In other words, there’s always more to discover about the brilliant minds who create culture today.

This interview offers a deeper conversation with Jessica Hische. As you listen, I recommend dropping by her perpetually delightful and comprehensive website and browsing her work—some of which you might know well, and some of which you might be meeting for the first time.

—Zachary Petit, Design Matters Media Editor-in-Chief

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