Graphic & Interactive Design

Back to Blog February 14, 2023

Jessica Hische (BFA '06) On: Making It Work as a Professional Illustrator

Author: Emily Herbein

Jessica Hische (BFA ‘06) is a leading creator in her field, dominating every corner of text and typography, logo refreshing, and literary cover design. Her most acclaimed projects include a collaboration with director Wes Anderson on his film Moonrise Kingdom, for which Hische designed a signature title and credit text; a new take on Fender’s classic Squier guitar logo, and branding Neiman Marcus’ 2022 holiday culinary collection. With more than 15 years of experience, Hische has worked jobs within every niche between corporate and freelance — typography and film credit design, children's book illustration, and big-brand identity  — and now works for herself, on her own time.  

Having attended Tyler’s Elkins Park campus, Hische reflected on how “Tyler was the ideal college for me, and it was so wonderful to be in such a nurturing environment with so few distractions. Everything about it was exactly what I needed.” Hische declared her major in Graphic and Interactive Design at the start of her junior year, and credits Tyler’s principle of trying every discipline before declaring a track as “incredibly helpful.” She said that trying other mediums only solidified her love of graphic design. “As a graphic designer coming out of Tyler, I learned a lot about making my own images, media, and collaging. Things that led me to be more of an illustrator than a designer,” she said. 

Jessica Hische's custom logo prototypes for Fender's Squier guitar

Immediately after graduation, Hische took an internship position with Adjunct Associate Professor Paul Kepple’s firm, Headcase Design. While there, she then pivoted to working as a freelance illustrator when she found more of a solid career direction, and eventually earned a job working under Louise Fili, a graphic designer based in New York, handling typography projects and layout design. “I felt like I had two really different full-time jobs during my time in New York—during the day I designed for Louise and at night I worked on freelance illustration projects. Most of my illustration work at the time was image based rather than lettering based as well, so it felt quite different from my typographic day job." she says. “If you have a period in your career where you’re pursuing freelance, make sure it’s different than your day job or else you’ll burn out. Eventually I took the leap, and I’ve been able to work for myself now for almost 14 years.”  

Hische credits her break with Wes Anderson as the project that transformed her way of working with clients. “Wes is an intense art director, and that was so awesome. Now, I try to treat everything as a partnership.” Other illustrious endeavors on her long list include exclusive book covers for Barnes & Noble’s leatherbound classics series, a partnership with Penguin classics, an album cover for Wyatt Cenac, a Love postage stamp for the USPS, and the opportunity to have spoken at over 100 conferences. 

Hische's custom font for Moonrise Kingdom, 2012

Though much of her career is focused in the literary space, Hische said she doesn’t prefer one type of project over another. “I need variety. The children’s book projects are huge for me. I love doing those but it’s such a labor of love — nearly a year of work. I try to take other client work to balance that out with smaller and quicker projects. I also love analog making. I have a risograph and a letterpress. I like having physically made work — it’s hard to create just for the sake of sharing it on social media.”  

Despite having all these incredible experiences, Hische isn’t about hustle culture. “I look at my work ethic as less about achieving a goal and more about achieving a way of life. I would love to just be in a place where I can be choosier about projects, take big breaks to take research trips, and be more present in art communities. Having tunnel vision for an opportunity or goal isn’t always a good thing.”  

Hische also credits the “entrepreneurial aspect” of Tyler’s curriculum to pushing her to pursue specific design projects, such as her children’s books Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave and Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind. She said, “I always felt very encouraged to illustrate my own projects,” thanks to classes like Art Direction, in which she created her first children’s book.  

You can see Hische’s next typography project come to life in Kelly Fremon Craig’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret starring Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates, in theaters April 2023. 

Hische's custom font for Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, 2023
Cover photo by Helena Price