How to Launch a Career in Freelance Design - with Jessica Hische36:49 with Nick Pettit
Jessica Hische is primarily a letterer, illustrator, and graphic designer. She also dabbles in web design. In the design community, she is well known for her Daily Drop Cap project, as well as the myriad of design and lettering projects she's worked on for clients, including the popular film director Wes Anderson. In this interview, Nick Pettit talks to Jessica about her design process, career development, work ethic, and several other topics.
Jessica, thanks so much for being here with us. We really appreciate you coming out. 0:00 [treehouse friends] [Jessica Hische - Letterer, type designer, illustrator, web designer] 0:04 For people who don't know who you are, how would you describe yourself? Who are you? 0:06 I am a letterer, illustrator, graphic designer-- 0:10 which I don't do that much graphic design anymore, 0:15 but that's the term that most people understand, 0:16 so on forms I always write graphic designer-- 0:19 and secret web designer. 0:21 The reason why I say secret web designer is because I don't do anything for clients 0:23 and I don't tell anyone actively that I have the skills to be able to do HTML and CSS, 0:27 but I have them just because they help me do my own side project stuff. 0:32 Lettering is like a very weird mix of graphic design and illustration. 0:37 It's like illustrations of words. 0:43 So it's far more on the illustration side than it is the graphic design side, 0:46 even though designers kind of want to have it as theirs 0:49 because they think of typography is being in their realm. 0:52 But yeah, so I work for a big variety of clients. 0:56 I do a lot of stuff for book covers, I do a lot of stuff for advertising, 0:58 and then the most notable recent stuff that I've probably done 1:03 is the titles for Wes Anderson's most recent movie, 1:05 and I also am a part of a big series of classic books that Penguin is releasing now 1:08 called Penguin Drop Caps, which will be 26 books all featuring my art. 1:14 I just saw those. I saw Dracula and-- 1:18 Oh. No, those were the ones for Barnes & Noble. 1:21 So there's a new set. >>Oh, okay. >>So you did those. >>Yeah. 1:23 I did a series for Barnes & Noble that were really fun, 1:26 and they were the full titles and very illustrative and lettering all over them. 1:29 They were leather bound with 2-color foil. 1:34 But these are through Penguin, and so Paul Buckley when he saw my drop caps 1:37 that I made for my Daily Drop Cap project, which started in 2009, 1:43 he was like, "We've got to figure out a way how to do something with these." 1:48 And it took him a year or year and a half to get them to really get on board with the idea of it. 1:51 So now I'm doing a new series of classic re-releases, 1:57 and they're all based on the author's last name, 2:01 and we're going through the full alphabet. 2:04 So it starts with Austen, Bronte, and every book, the main cover art is a giant letter 2:05 that's on the front that I draw based on the story. 2:13 That's amazing. Everyone kind of knows what it means to be a graphic designer. 2:16 And you answered this a little bit already, but what does it mean to be a letterer? 2:20 Is that strictly fonts, or is that hand drawing fonts, or what does that mean? 2:24 I love when this topic gets brought up just because a lot of people 2:29 don't understand the difference between fonts and lettering and calligraphy. 2:33 They're all very different fields. 2:38 They're very different to me as a nerd because all the nerds are very, 2:41 "Oh, my God! Can you believe how crazy different it is?" 2:45 But to common people, it's all the same umbrella. 2:48 Type design and making fonts is a lot more involved in terms of making systems 2:51 than the kind of work that I do for clients, which is lettering work. 2:59 So if you think about it, if I'm going to put it in web terms or anything too, 3:03 being a letterer is more like being a designer for the main focus of the site, 3:08 and being a type designer is the person that has to develop the full back end system 3:17 for everything to work in. 3:22 So type designers, of course there's a lot of artistry that goes into what they do, 3:24 and they are crafting all the letter forms from scratch. 3:28 But unlike what I do as a letterer, all of the letter forms have to work together 3:31 in endless combinations and being put together by people that do not know what they're doing 3:36 in design software. 3:40 So you have to idiot proof it 1000%; you have to technology proof it like crazy. 3:43 There are typefaces that were digitized 15 years ago that still work on your computer now, 3:47 and not many people understand that's why typefaces cost what they do, 3:53 because when was the last time you bought software that lasted for 15 years? 3:57 You really have to future proof it, and it's very, very involved. 4:01 And lettering is very different because it's more like if type designers are like architects 4:05 or engineers, then letterers are like people that make beautiful handcrafted boxes or something. 4:10 It's not meant to be reproduced. 4:17 It's not actually meant to be perfect, it's just meant to be very human 4:19 and be made for a very specific situation. 4:23 So if I'm doing lettering for a book cover, 4:27 that lettering is never meant to be used anywhere else. 4:29 I'm drawing it specifically for that instance. 4:32 So when people write me and say, "Hey, do you have the T to that alphabet?" 4:34 I'm like, "Nope. I only drew that 1 word." [laughs] 4:37 A lot of people don't understand the reason why you would do lettering 4:41 when there are so many typefaces out there. 4:44 The main thing, and this is shocking, but sometimes you can't find a typeface 4:47 that will really work for what you need. 4:51 For instance, with the titles that I did for Moonrise Kingdom, 4:54 they really wanted to use a script, but there's very few typefaces 4:57 that come in optical weights. 5:00 Optical weights are different than normal weight of a typeface, 5:03 like a bold and regular and light, 5:07 which are meant to be a very different version of the typeface. 5:09 Optical weights are meant so that you can scale the typeface to a different size 5:14 and it looks like it's the same weight to the tiny size. 5:17 So you have to make all these little, subtle changes between them 5:21 in order to make them look like they're the same weight. 5:23 There are a lot of really great instances where letters come into play, 5:25 and one of them is for book covers and stuff like that. 5:29 So if you had a book cover and you had a 4-letter title, a 15-word subtitle, 5:31 and the author's name and you wanted them all to be set in the same typeface, 5:36 it's going to be really hard for you to find a typeface that isn't a workhorse textface 5:41 where you can use it at all those sizes that you need. 5:44 So that's where a letterer would come into play. 5:47 We could draw everything from scratch exactly as you want it 5:50 so you end up with ultimately precisely what you would want 5:52 versus almost what you want. >>That's amazing. You're educating me here. 5:55 Let's back up and start from the beginning. Where did you grow up? 6:00 I grew up in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which is in northeast PA. 6:05 We are a wonderful part of the nation, full of scandal, also home to Joe Biden, 6:09 though he is from 2 towns better than my town in terms of malls. 6:16 We had to drive 40 miles as teenagers to go to the mall in Scranton 6:21 instead of going to ours. 6:25 It's funny because there's a good amount of designers that have come out of that area, 6:28 and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it is a small town. 6:34 So the people that got really artistic got to bond together, 6:41 and we did have a pretty good art program in our high school, all things considered. 6:45 Thanks to the public school, which I transferred into to take more art classes, 6:49 I was able to sort of leave town and make it into real art school. 6:54 Where did you go to school? 6:58 I went to school at Tyler School of Art, which is part of Temple University. 7:00 Temple has all the separate schools just like how Wharton is at Penn. 7:03 I got a BFA from that program. There's a BA and a BFA, so I was a BFA student. 7:10 Okay. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a designer? 7:16 Was it long before that, or did you just kind of have to pick something going into college? 7:22 I lucked into a school that had an excellent design program, 7:27 but I had no intention of being a designer when I applied to art school. >>Really? >>Yeah. 7:33 What did you want to do? >>I just knew I wanted to make art 7:37 in some way, shape, or form. 7:39 It was the only thing that I loved to do and was passionate about. 7:41 I also loved to write when I was in high school, 7:46 but I didn't really feel like I wanted to be a novelist 7:47 and I didn't feel like I wanted to be a journalist. 7:51 Art was something that ever since I could walk I was drawing. 7:54 It was just my whole life. 7:59 I went to school to be kind of like a painting/drawing major 8:02 because I didn't know what graphic design was at all, 8:06 and it wasn't until I got to school that I was able to take a design class 8:08 and really have the light bulb go off of, 8:12 "Wow, this is actually what I should be doing for a living," 8:15 and not because it's the practical thing 8:18 but because it's the thing that I most easily acclimated to. 8:20 I didn't feel like at 19 I wanted to make paintings about my feelings. 8:24 I was very happy to be able to express on behalf of others 8:28 instead of having to be very self-expressionistic. 8:32 So design was really awesome for that because I got to solve problems. 8:36 I got a brief that I had to attack like a crossword puzzle 8:40 and figure out how to visually solve it. 8:43 It was really eye-opening. 8:46 What you went to school for was very directly related to what you do now, 8:47 which isn't always the case. >>Yeah. 8:51 But what's really amazing is that I went to school to draw 8:54 and be an image maker essentially, and then I found my way into graphic design. 8:57 Most graphic designers aren't image makers. They're more curators. 9:01 They're taking this content and manipulating things around the content 9:05 to make it really sing. 9:10 They find the right images, they find the right typefaces, 9:12 and then they put it all together in a really awesome layout. 9:15 But they're not often the creators of the images or the creators of the photographs 9:19 or the creators of the typefaces. 9:23 So I went through the graphic design program and sort of found my way into lettering 9:26 a couple years later, which gets me far closer to my original goal, 9:30 which was to make images for a living. 9:35 Do you feel like the transition from college to career was a natural one, 9:37 or were you unemployed for a while? Did you have an internship? What's your story there? 9:43 It was pretty smooth for me, and I think that's just because when I was in college 9:49 I did intern a lot. 9:52 I interned first at a publisher, Quirk Books. They're in Philadelphia. 9:54 They do funny, gifty books. 9:59 Probably the most recent thing that they've done that is widespread 10:03 is the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies stuff. 10:07 They're the ones that originally put out those books, at least I believe so. 10:10 And then I had discovered--well, I knew of the work but also fell in the love with the work 10:14 of these dudes at Headcase Design, who were also in Philly and also taught at my school 10:19 while I was interning at Quirk because they published the books that they had put out, 10:23 which are very illustrative and really funny, 10:27 and they're doing a lot of authoring of the content. 10:30 And so I ended up interning for Headcase Design after having 1 of them as a professor, 10:33 and I was their first intern. 10:37 It was just 2 dudes, and then I was their first intern. 10:39 I freelanced for them after I graduated because they were just too busy. 10:42 They were like, "We have all these books we've got to work on." 10:46 "Are you around? Can you help out?" 10:49 And I ended up being a full-time freelancer for them for 6 months and loved it. 10:51 And then they cut my hours because they weren't sure 10:57 if they wanted to hire a third employee 10:59 because that was obviously a big step for the business to do that. 11:01 So when they cut my hours, I tried to push myself out there as an illustrator more 11:04 and sent out promos, and that's when I got hired by Louise Fili in New York 11:08 and just had to completely uproot and change my plans and move to New York in 3 weeks. 11:13 Was it a big decision for you to strike out on your own? 11:19 Was that kind of nerve-racking for you? >>It was a big decision. 11:23 It was something that I knew that I wanted to do. 11:28 I had everything in line to make it not nerve-racking. 11:32 I think 1 thing that's really important that not a lot of people consider 11:36 when they are thinking about going full-time freelance 11:39 is to have enough money in the bank. 11:41 I thankfully did because I was freelancing like crazy while I worked for Louise. 11:44 I would work for her from 9:00 to 6:00 and then go home 11:49 and work from 7:00 until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning every day 11:53 and then work at least 1 day on the weekends, and this went on for almost 3 years. 11:56 I was working nonstop, I had plenty of money saved, 12:00 but a big thing that a lot of people do when they want to go freelance 12:05 is they branch out thinking that whatever they're doing now will pay the bills. 12:07 But whatever you're doing pays the bills 6 months from now, 12:12 it doesn't pay the bills now. 12:14 So having that reserve made it less nerve-racking, but it was still really scary 12:16 to go from complete order to no order whatsoever. 12:20 Was there 1 particular project that you feel like really launched your career? 12:25 Definitely. >>Yeah? >>Yeah, yeah. 12:30 I felt like my career was going really well. 12:32 I was doing more editorial illustration--hardly any lettering at the time. 12:35 I was doing a lot of lettering for Louise during my day job 12:40 but not doing quite as much lettering for freelance stuff. 12:43 But when I quit working for Louise, I started my Daily Drop Cap project, 12:47 which was a project that I made so that I could do lettering every day 12:52 after I left working for Louise. 12:55 I gave myself a goal that I was going to draw a letter a day every workday 12:57 until I made it through 12 alphabets. 13:02 I would just go alphabetically through 12 times until I made it all the way through. 13:05 And it was just a way for me to be able to give myself a longer term project 13:10 that wasn't as intimidating because I was doing it in these little chunks 13:14 but that also allowed me to do lettering every day and really get more lettering work 13:17 into my portfolio. 13:21 So it was because of that project that my career just completely went crazy, 13:23 because I had been getting consistent work. 13:27 I was going to all the illustration events, and I had this posse of illustration friends 13:30 in New York that were all really awesome and very motivating 13:35 because they all had great careers and really pushed me to go further. 13:39 But when I launched Daily Drop Cap and when it started really getting into the design blogs 13:44 and making the rounds, that's when people started to recognize my name more 13:48 and I was less of another illustrator that does cut papery kind of vector illustration 13:53 and people really saw me 13:58 for the stuff that I really wanted to do, which was the lettering work. 14:00 And I started to get more and more lettering work because of that project. 14:03 That's really fascinating because I'm actually doing the same thing myself right now 14:07 but with numbers. >>Oh yeah? 14:11 Sometimes I just get an itch to design stuff. 14:14 I was like, "You know what? If I just go with numbers, I'll never run out of them." >>Nice. 14:16 But in a way, you'll never run out of them. [laughs] >>That's very cool. 14:22 What's your process for developing a lettering project 14:29 from a design perspective but also a technical perspective? >>Sure, sure. 14:34 Depending on the kind of client that I'm working for, the process changes a little bit. 14:39 Ultimately, most of my lettering work takes place in Adobe Illustrator. 14:45 That's my prime time program. 14:48 I draw everything with the Pen tool. 14:51 I don't use a lot of crazy, fancy tricks and stuff 14:54 because if you can master the Pen tool in Illustrator, 14:57 you've essentially mastered Illustrator. 14:59 That is the base. It's like the bread and butter of that program. 15:01 I mostly use a mouse. 15:06 I have a Cintiq that I bought that I thought I was going to be completely in love with, 15:09 and I do love it, but I love it for doing sketches and not for working in vector as much 15:13 just because I am so much faster with the mouse 15:18 because of all the practice that I've had with it. 15:21 But in general, when I work for clients I'll get the brief from the client, 15:24 we'll figure out how many sketches that they need up front 15:28 and what level of sketches that they need-- 15:31 in general, something like a logo, which the end client would be 15:33 just kind of a normal person and less someone in the designer field. 15:36 Things would need to look a little more finished up front, 15:40 whereas if it was something for advertising, I can work a lot more with the team 15:43 at the ad agency and present pencil sketches first 15:47 and then get them to approve 1 of the pencil sketches, 15:50 and then we do a rough and then maybe at that stage they can show the client. 15:53 I generally start with pencils or with drawings on my Cintiq that I just do in Photoshop 15:57 and then send that off, do 3 or 4, get approval for 1, and then jump into Illustrator. 16:03 I don't often trace my sketches because I think that there's a lot that happens 16:09 in the translation between sketch and final if I don't trace them, 16:15 whereas if I do trace them I'm a little too loyal to the sketch 16:19 and maybe the sketch wasn't as perfect as I'd like it to be. >>That's interesting. 16:22 For me it's kind of like if I don't trace the sketch it's like I get to draw from life. 16:26 It's like going to a figure drawing class because your mind reinterprets what you want, 16:30 it idealizes things, and you can really let the tools that you're working with help you 16:34 instead of having to be very mechanical when you're doing your pencil drawing. 16:40 And so I work in Illustrator and in general, if people need the layered files 16:43 or they need the AI files, I can give them to them. 16:48 But a lot of times they can be really complex depending on what kind of work it is. 16:50 Of it's illustrative lettering work, sometimes it gets so crazy 16:54 that it won't preview anymore in Illustrator. 16:57 So I have to export everything as TIFs and send them the flattened artwork. 17:00 You wouldn't think that something that's math-based in vector would get so crazy, 17:04 but once you start adding all kinds of blurs and stuff, it gets a little bonkers. 17:09 As a designer, I feel like I only have an intuition when picking fonts. 17:14 I'll approach the project and I'll need to have letters someplace, 17:19 and I'll just kind of scroll through and look through different fonts. 17:25 How do you figure out how to take a message from a client 17:30 and then turn that into letters? 17:35 Well, if you're talking about picking typefaces, that's a totally different process 17:39 than doing the lettering stuff. >>Which I understand now. >>Yeah. 17:44 And picking typefaces, I think trusting your intuition isn't a terrible way to go. 17:47 But a big thing that you have to consider when you're choosing typefaces too 17:52 is what is the use of this typeface? 17:55 For me, a big part of choosing typefaces is figuring out what content is the most important 17:58 or the most prevalent throughout what the client needs. 18:04 If it's a poster, it's very different than an annual report. 18:07 For an annual report you definitely want to pick your text type first 18:14 because it's going to be the most prevalent thing there, 18:17 whereas if it's a crazy poster or something that's going to be single use, 18:20 big display, fine, pick your display first and then pick a text type that matches 18:24 and still goes with everything. 18:28 But you really have to think about what needs that you have of the typeface. 18:30 If you're working for a client that's international, 18:35 they might need a typeface that has a non-Latin component to it, 18:38 like maybe you need the Greek version of the typeface 18:44 or you need to find something that has an Arabic that matches it well. 18:47 That's a whole other ballpark of typeface choosing. 18:51 But really, you can get pretty nerdy about it. 18:56 It kind of depends on what your priorities are. 18:58 You can totally trust your intuition because typefaces do have personality, 19:02 they have feeling. 19:06 You look at something and you can tell if it makes you feel warm and fuzzy 19:07 or if it makes you feel like austere and being very charming or something. >>Elegant? 19:09 Yeah, exactly. 19:18 You can completely trust that, but if you feel like going the next level, 19:20 you can investigate the history of typefaces. 19:24 Say you're working on something that's meant to be alluding to the 1930s or something. 19:26 You can choose a typeface that was designed by someone that had designed it around then 19:32 and was maybe redrawn recently by some crazy person. 19:37 Clients love to hear stuff like that where you can give them these kind of facts 19:42 to re-say to their friends at parties because we all-- >>And tell them the story. Yeah. 19:46 We love to tell stories and we love to be nerds 19:50 and we love to have these secret facts about the things that we've made 19:52 that no one else knows about but it's like a secret Easter egg for us 19:56 and for people that would care to know. 19:59 I think that you can get really fun when you choose typefaces, 20:02 but I think that it's not wrong to choose based on intuition for sure. >>That's really cool. 20:05 One thing that really impresses me about your work is just your work ethic. 20:10 I feel like you just kind of never stop working. 20:15 Yeah. [laughs] >>Would you say that's the case? 20:18 It's like both a problem and great. [laughs] 20:20 I make jokes all the time about how I'm a terrible relaxer. 20:25 I just got married recently, and going on my honeymoon was like, 20:28 "Okay, let's figure out how we're actually going to relax," 20:32 because when you really like to work so much, 20:35 it's really hard to stop yourself because you're like, "I have an idea. Let's do this thing." 20:39 I think Russ and I are the same where we would so much rather take a night 20:43 to devote to something that we're really, really like, "Oh, my God, 20:48 "I suddenly had this crazy idea and it has to happen now," 20:51 versus taking the time off to have a chill night in or something, 20:55 which I do plenty of as well. 20:59 But yeah, it can be tough to stop. It's addictive. 21:02 I think part of it is when you have ideas-- 21:06 I feel like I have a lot of harebrained ideas. 21:10 But my harebrained ideas aren't so harebrained that they shouldn't be real. 21:13 And I think that's the distinction that allows me to work a lot more 21:17 and to create a lot more is that a lot of the ideas that I have 21:21 tend to be on a smaller scale and are very helpful to a certain amount of people. 21:25 So I really want to make them because I know that they'll be amazing 21:30 and will help someone when they're made, 21:33 and I know that they'll take me a long weekend if I really just dive in. 21:36 So I think that that's the main reason why I can be so productive and work all the time 21:40 is because I don't give myself, "Write an 800-page novel" assignments. 21:45 I give myself, "Spend 8 hours doing this 1 thing" assignments. 21:51 And I think if you give yourself more realistic goals, you can be a lot more productive. 21:55 And then after you feel like you can accomplish a lot, 21:59 then you can give yourself bigger goals. 22:02 Or if you're the kind of person that needs to work on giant projects, 22:04 then those are the kind of projects you should give yourself. 22:07 I feel like you do so many side projects. 22:10 Do you feel like it's just a big mix of side projects, 22:13 or are there things that take your primary focus? 22:16 A lot of the side projects that I've done have been one-offs, 22:20 which I kind of like those better because they don't require constant maintenance 22:23 and constantly having to make new things for them 22:28 because I do have a really short attention span when it comes to creation. 22:30 I'll have an idea and I want it to be real, 22:33 and then it's real and then I'm happy and then I move on. 22:36 But I have a couple projects that are longer term projects, 22:38 like Don't Fear the Internet, the video series that I made, 22:40 and I love that project so much just because I've gotten such amazing feedback from it 22:43 and they're really enjoyable to make, and I feel like I learn a lot through making the videos too. 22:48 I love putting them out there, but each video takes 30 hours to make 22:54 just because we write the full scripts in advance and then we read through the scripts, 23:00 then we have to come up with images for it. 23:05 And if you're coming up with images and slides for 15 minutes of a video, 23:06 it's a lot to cut in. 23:12 So we end up spending so much time on these videos that we release for free online. 23:14 And we have a little Donate button, but we definitely have not even gotten enough 23:20 to cover half of what the hosting costs. [laughs] 23:24 So it's definitely a labor of love, but it's still really worth doing 23:28 because I feel like I get so much joy out of helping other people 23:33 be able to do what they want to do, 23:37 and making these videos, getting those emails from people saying, 23:40 "Oh, my God, I now can make my own portfolio website, blah, blah, blah," 23:45 I'm just like, "Thank you. Yay! Go do it." 23:48 And then that makes me motivated to go do my work 23:50 because I know that there's other people that are getting motivated by things that I've made. 23:52 That's really cool. 23:55 I think part of being a designer is editorializing your work. 23:57 And with social media there's this big temptation to just kind of post every step 24:02 of everything that you're working on, but you don't do that. 24:08 I've noticed that in your portfolio you just post really complete work. 24:10 Would you say that's the case? 24:17 I definitely don't abridge my portfolio much. 24:20 That's partially because of the illustration background. 24:24 Graphic designers can have a very minimal portfolio. 24:28 As a graphic designer, you want to show your 20 best pieces 24:33 and show them very in depth, like case studies. 24:35 But as an illustrator, you need to show a lot of work, 24:39 especially if you want to work for the advertising field 24:43 just because a lot of times your clients are a little less-- 24:47 they can't look forward quite as much as other clients. 24:52 So if they're hiring you to do something for a Christmas campaign 24:56 and you don't have a Christmas tree in your portfolio, 25:00 you'll get questions like, "Well, we just don't know if she can draw a Christmas tree." 25:03 And it's like, "But I've drawn thousands of other trees! Look, I did this whole arboretum thing." 25:07 "It's so many trees." 25:11 But they need to see it in your portfolio because oftentimes 25:13 the agency needs to be able to sell you to the client. 25:16 You might get contacted by an agency that says, 25:19 "Send us all of your Christmas themed work," 25:22 which is pretty specific, and some people might only have 1 or 2 pieces. 25:25 But if you have it all online, it's really easy for them to grab. 25:29 It's a lot easier for them to sell you through to the client. 25:32 So that's why my portfolio is really, really big 25:34 and also because I really like having students be able to go through 25:38 and see the older work too. 25:42 There's very few pieces that I don't post to my portfolio, 25:45 but there's of course some bread and butter work that didn't make it on. [laughs] 25:48 But yeah, in general, I like to share but I also don't like to-- 25:55 I think that in general, whenever I post new work to my site 25:59 I don't go totally social networky crazy talking about it online 26:02 because for me, I've found that social networking has been a really wonderful way 26:06 for me to just talk to strangers every day 26:12 and far less of a way for me to be like, "Look at me! Look at all these things!" 26:14 I would never want it to steer towards the way of people thinking 26:19 that I was using it as strictly a self-promotional tool. 26:23 It has been of course wonderful in terms of promotion, 26:26 but the thing that I enjoy most about Twitter and about any of those social networks 26:29 is that I get to engage with people on a real level and not be like a fake version of myself. 26:34 And I think that people have responded to that too 26:40 because I get so many emails from people that are having life crises 26:42 and want me to help solve them and stuff like that 26:47 just because I am myself online, I'm not a very filtered person. 26:48 One thing that fascinates me is how different designers decide to price their work. 26:54 As I understand it, you don't price hourly, do you? >>No, no. 27:00 That's just because most of the work that I do is not design. 27:05 Design can make sense to price hourly if you're working with a client 27:09 in a long-term way and especially if you're not the best at pricing a project full out 27:14 or you don't quite know the scope of the project yet. 27:21 But with all the work that I'm doing, I know the exact scope of the project. 27:24 And so it's all priced based on creation of work and then usage of the work. 27:28 That's just how illustration works. 27:33 Lettering is within the illustration realm in terms of pricing for sure. 27:35 When a client comes to me and says, "We have this assignment; 27:39 "what do you price for it?" there's a lot of factors that you take into consideration. 27:44 It's like, who is the client, because you're going to charge very differently for Coca-Cola 27:48 than you are for a cheese shop around the corner from your house. 27:51 And then what kind of usage do they need? 27:56 Do they need it to be domestic or international? 27:58 Do they need web and print? 28:00 Do they need it be web, print, and media, like broadcast television stuff? 28:02 And do they need it 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, indefinitely? 28:07 Do they want exclusive rights to your artwork, 28:10 or are you allowed to resell your artwork to other people after a certain time? 28:13 All that stuff kind of adds up to what the price ends up being. 28:16 What's really nice about pricing that way is instead of just having a flat fee of, 28:19 "This is what it costs," you can break things down in a way that they can be like, 28:24 "Well, if you want it forever, all the artwork on every media, it's going to cost this." 28:27 "But if you just need it for 2 years, 28:34 "which of course it looks like that's what you're only going to need it for, it costs this." 28:36 "And if you only need it for 2 years but you don't need it exclusive, it costs this." 28:40 So you can give them little stepping stones along the way 28:45 and they can figure out what usage that they want. 28:48 So in the end, it allows me to price more fairly to smaller people and individuals 28:51 and to be able to fund all of that kind of work and my side projects, 28:57 which are totally for free and I make no money on essentially, 29:03 by pricing standard to aggressively for the bigger kind of client work. 29:07 As you mentioned, you just had the opportunity to work with Wes Anderson 29:14 on Moonrise Kingdom. >>Indeed. >>Can you talk about that experience? 29:18 It must have been pretty cool. >>Sure, sure. That was a ridiculous experience. 29:22 For one thing, since we're jumping from the pricing thing, 29:26 whenever you work for cool people, it's far less of a bag of gold 29:29 than when you work for dorky things. [laughs] 29:36 It was a great experience, but I definitely did not get paid in gold bricks for that project. 29:39 Working with them was crazy. 29:45 I got an email from one of their co-producers that was just super normal 29:48 first client contact email, "Hey, Jessica. This is Molly." 29:54 "I'm just one of the co-producers on Wes Anderson's new movie." 29:59 "We're starting to think about the titles, and we're wondering if you were around 30:03 "to do some tests for the titles. Thanks." 30:06 Just super normal contact email. 30:09 And I was losing my mind over it. 30:12 I got it in, I took a screen grab of it and sent it to Russ, 30:14 and then he calls me because he's freaking out. 30:18 So of course I was like, "Yes, absolutely. Yes, yes, yes." 30:21 At the time, I wasn't sure if they were working with other people 30:26 because a lot of times as a letterer or illustrator, you're 1 among several people 30:28 that they hire just to try things out and see who's the best 30:33 and to sell through to the end client, 30:36 but I got the real impression that they weren't working with a lot of people 30:38 at the point when they hired me. 30:41 And then Molly, the woman that I worked with, verified it afterwards 30:44 that they weren't, that they had tried to hire someone else 30:47 but that they decided to not use them and then were sort of scrambling for a person 30:50 and then came up with me and were like, "Okay, do it." [laughs] 30:55 But they originally hired me to do a couple samples for them for a few hundred dollars 30:58 just to try out a few styles and see how we worked together and things like that. 31:03 It originally started based on Edwardian Script, which is a pretty formal typeface, 31:09 and that was drawn by Ed Benguiat, who is an amazing legend. 31:14 So it was sort of a tall order to draw something based on this crazy legend's typeface. 31:18 But ultimately, we ended up steering away from that 31:25 and going towards something that was a bit more hand-hewn feeling, 31:27 that was based on some film titles from--I'm not even going to try and pronounce 31:32 the director's name--Chabrol or something like that. I'm terrible with French pronunciations. 31:39 I understand. >>So we based it on some lettering that was in one of his films 31:44 but then of course moved it in the direction of Wes's work. 31:49 And my work is extremely American too, so it's kind of hard to do anything 31:54 that's European feeling. 31:59 And then they originally hired me to do lettering for the front credits 32:02 and a typeface for the end credits, 32:07 but ultimately, I ended up doing a typeface in 2 weights instead 32:10 and then setting the front credits for them, 32:14 and that was because once I had done the lettering they were like, 32:16 "Okay, great. We need to pick a typeface to use on all the posters and stuff 32:20 "because obviously, we can't use the text type that you made for the back on it 32:23 "and we're running out of time, and we can't make another typeface." 32:27 And I was like, "No! I'll do it." [both laugh] 32:33 So essentially, I ended up sort of doubling my work a little bit 32:36 just because I really wanted them to be able to use it on everything that they wanted to, 32:39 and it was so worth it because they used the typeface so extensively 32:44 on all the posters and stuff that I saw around. 32:47 Their original posters that they released was just the type all over the poster. 32:50 It was awesome. 32:56 Working with him was super amazing. 32:58 Originally, when I first started the project, Molly was communicating Wes's direction to me 33:01 through email, but when we really got into the thick of it, 33:06 it was just Wes emailing me doodles and stuff 33:09 and occasionally writing in all caps by accident and stuff like that. 33:13 It was really fun. 33:16 He really knows his stuff and would give direction--very, very specific direction-- 33:18 for the type that most art directors wouldn't be able to give. 33:25 He would make distinctions within the lowercase r that I was making 33:30 and wanted me to try something new and would suggest things. 33:34 I've worked with a lot of art directors that have worked for years with type 33:37 and have hired a lot of type designers and letterers, 33:41 and the decisions that he made were more gut decisions 33:44 because he didn't use proper terms because this isn't his trade, it's not his specialty. 33:48 But they were so correct. 33:55 All the decisions that he was making were correct and were right for the project. 33:57 It was really interesting to work together. 34:01 It ended up being a major collaboration, far more than me going off on my own 34:03 and being Miss Type Expert. >>That's amazing. 34:07 Wrapping up, for designers that are just starting out, 34:12 what piece of advice would you give them? 34:17 What do you feel like is the 1 thing that maybe you did for yourself 34:18 that really put your career in motion? 34:22 I think the biggest advice is to not be intimidated to start. 34:26 A lot of people write their 5-year plan, 34:29 and then that 5-year plan just destroys them because it just seems so big 34:34 and they don't see the steps along the way. 34:39 I think that the biggest thing that a lot of designers suffer from when they're starting out 34:42 is not being able to see the forest through the trees. 34:45 I think the biggest thing would be make small goals for yourself that are attainable, 34:48 things that you love to do, and start there, 34:55 and a lot of times that can really impact what you end up doing 34:58 and what you find that you really love, 35:02 because if you make a decision just based on a job title, 35:05 you might not actually like what you're doing day to day, 35:08 whereas if you make a decision based on the things that you enjoy doing-- 35:11 Some people love tedium and some people hate tedium, 35:15 so not everyone can be a type designer because so much of it is very, very tedious. 35:20 And if you're not that kind of person, being a type designer 35:24 sounds like it could be a fun thing to do, but if you don't like the day to day, 35:27 you would hate your job. 35:30 Same thing with if you wanted to work at a branding agency. 35:32 If you hate long-term brand extension projects because you have a really short attention span 35:35 and you love just being able to bang stuff out, 35:40 then maybe you don't want to work there. 35:42 So it's kind of doing your homework and investigating the work that goes into 35:43 doing what you think you want to do and trying it out 35:49 and deciding if it's right for you. 35:51 I've talked about this a couple times, but the big way that I figure it out 35:54 is look at what you're doing when you're procrastinating from work-- 35:59 the work that you're doing, not just what you're doing. 36:03 If you find yourself focusing in on a really specific part of a project 36:06 because you love doing that part of the project and hate doing all this part of the project, 36:10 that's a sign. That can really help guide what you want to do in the future. 36:13 And really take time to step back and notice those things 36:18 because that's how you guide your career without actually having to make a 5-year plan. 36:21 You just do things based on how they feel and whether you enjoy them, 36:27 and then you can create your own career. 36:31 It doesn't have to be a career that's even been established already. >>That's awesome. 36:33 Jessica, thanks so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. 36:37 Yeah. Thanks for having me. 36:41 [??] [treehouse friends] 36:42
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