Watkins Welcomes Design Star Jessica Hische on January 22

January 10, 2015

Jessica Hische (photo by Kari Orvik)

Jessica Hische (photo by Kari Orvik)

Letterer, illustrator and type designer Jessica Hische – at the age of 31, one of the most influential graphic designers in the world – will launch the 2015 Watkins Visiting Artists Series with a talk on Thursday, January 22, at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. The presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Watkins Theater.

The event is free and the public is invited. The Watkins Visiting Artist Series is funded in part by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

LECTURE TITLE: “My Illustrious Ascent Toward Less Exciting Work”
Designers try desperately to make work that’s impactful—to create work that will leave people breathless and hungry for more. Young designers in particular are endlessly trying to impress, their designs scream “Design!”, their type choices are bold, their color palettes are disruptive. Many designers carry this momentum throughout their careers, but there are a few people that begin to see differently. Instead of focusing on the flash, they hone in on the details, noticing things that others can barely perceive. Does this make their work better? Does it make it boring? Jessica will guide you through her own work and show you what happens when the small and imperceptible becomes even more exciting than the big, bright and flashy.

Seating in the Watkins Theater is limited, so please reserve online. Seats will be held until 6:15 p.m.


Known internationally for her award-winning lettering, illustrations and typefaces, Ms. Hische is also an avid “internetter,” with a special interest in the intersection of arts and technology through the lens of web typography (she has the word “Type” tattooed on her left triceps). A native of Charleston, S.C., who grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania, she graduated in 2006 from Tyler School of Art (at Temple University) with a degree in Graphic and Interactive Design, then worked for Headcase Design (Philadelphia) and at Louise Fili Ltd. (New York). In 2009, at the age of 25, she launched her freelance career; her extensive and impressive credits include projects in advertising, books, identity, editorial, marketing/merchandise for The Atlantic, Harper Collins, Target, The New York Times, Wes Anderson, Dave Eggers, Google, American Express, Nike, Samsung, OXFAM America, Speedo, Penguin Books, Neiman Marcus, Papyrus, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, MailChimp, Pinterest and Tiffany & Co., among numerous quirky and corporate others. She has been honored as an Art Directors Club “Young Gun” and in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 (twice).

Jessica Hische Minot font poster WwebWhile not primarily a web designer, many of her personal projects are web-centric and she has become as well known for her side projects as for her client work. In her project Daily Drop Cap (2009), she created a new illustrative letter daily, working through the alphabet a total of twelve times; at its peak, the site had more than 100,000 visitors per month. She has also created a number of educational micro-sites including “Mom, This is How Twitter Works,” “Should I Work for Free?” and “Don’t Fear the Internet” (with Russ Maschmeyer, whom she married in 2012), each as entertaining as it is practical. (She even coined the term “procrastiworking” to describe her tendency to procrastinate on client work by working on personal projects.)

Many of these sites reflect an engagement with new media and social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter (where she has over 88,000 followers), and they also demonstrate her advocacy for artists’ rights in an era of freelancing and liberal attitudes about intellectual property. Ms. Hische also embodies a new mode of presentation and marketing that rejects age-old distinctions between professional and personal identities. In all these respects, she is a designer whose career addresses the possibilities and predicaments of digital media for artists and creative people working today.

Jessica Hische at Title Case photo John Madere WwebMs. Hische works out of Title Case, a by-appointment-only collaborative studio in San Francisco (with fellow letterer and designer Erik Marinovich) as well as the Pencil Factory illustration and design collective in Brooklyn. An engaging, spirited presenter, since 2010 she has spoken at 50+ conferences and seminars all over the world—Auckland, Oslo, Dusseldorf, Dublin, Berlin, Barcelona, Guadalajara, Melbourne, Manila, Vancouver, Copenhagen and Capetown, for starters. She serves on the board of directors of the Type Directors Club, the leading international organization whose purpose is to support excellence in typography, both in print and on screen.

“Jessica Hische is one of the most influential letterers on the planet, inspiring our design students and faculty, in equal measure, with her prolific output of brilliant typography, illustration and pearls of wisdom,” said Dan Brawner, chair of the Department of Graphic Design at Watkins. “We are very proud to welcome her to Nashville to share her perspectives on art and design, the technologies she’s embraced in her unique way, and the rights and responsibilities of creative people.”

Examples of Ms. Hische’s work, writings, FAQ and more can be found at her website jessicahische.is, or follow her via twitter.com/jessicahische.

Jessica Hische OrchardParkMall ad head turner WwebThe Watkins Visiting Artists Series, now in its fifth year, welcomes nationally and internationally recognized fine artists, designers, filmmakers, educators and critics to the campus and the community. The guest artists, whose work crosses many disciplinary boundaries, give public presentations, sharing their expertise and perspectives on their careers and providing insight into issues facing contemporary artists and designers.

The VAS offers students and the larger cultural community a rare opportunity to engage the work and ideas of trendsetting visual artists, designers, filmmakers and intellectuals. The critically acclaimed initiative has not only brought a number of internationally renowned artists to Nashville—like first-time city visitors Harrell Fletcher, R. H. Quaytman, David Hilliard, Jonathan Katz, Alec Soth and Artemio Rodriguez—but it has also invigorated the local art scene by introducing artists working in new media and performance—artists such as Nick Briz, Jon Satrom and Liz Magic Laser (2013 New York Armory Artist)—or those expanding the parameters of traditional media and art practice—such as Chris Sickels, Deborah Luster (2013 Guggenheim Fellow) and Natalia Almada (2013 MacArthur Fellow).

Watkins is located at 2298 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard in MetroCenter; plentiful, free parking is available in the campus lot. For more information, including updates to programming and future guests, visit Watkins.edu or call 615-383-4848.

Jessica Hische Neiman Marcus gift tag WwebKey series participants from Watkins are Gallery Committee members Dan Brawner, professor and department chair of graphic design; Caroline Davis, director of external relations and assistant director of development; Mary Beth Harding, director of community education; Brady Haston, assistant professor of fine art and studio facilities manager; Morgan Higby-Flowers, assistant professor of fine art; Robin Paris, assistant professor and department chair of photography; Terry Thacker, professor of fine art; Tom Williams (committee chair), assistant professor of art history, and student representatives Holly Carden (Graphic Design) and Weng Tze Yang (Fine Art).

Jessica Hische Starbucks latte 04 WwebAbout Humanities Tennessee

Founded in 1973, Humanities Tennessee is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting lifelong learning, civil discourse, and an appreciation of history, diversity, and community among Tennesseans. Statewide programs include the annual Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word℠, the Appalachian and Tennessee Young Writers’ Workshops, a variety of History & Culture programs, Grants & Awards for teachers and community organizationsChapter16.org, among many others.

Mission: Humanities Tennessee nurtures the mutual respect and understanding essential to community by enabling Tennesseans to examine and critically reflect upon the narratives, traditions, beliefs, and ideas — as expressed through the arts and letters — that define us as individuals and participants in community life.

To learn more, visit HumanitiesTennessee.org.



Jessica offers a comprehensive listing of design, typography and web dev resources on her website: //jessicahische.is/heretohelp

Check out a couple [of the many] great interviews with Jessica in Rookie (2012) and Design Boom (2014)

Design sites to peruse =

Design Observer = Features news and critical essays on design, urbanism, social innovation and popular culture

I Love Typography = “It’s just about impossible to imagine a world without type, but at the same time type’s ubiquity has most of us taking it for granted. So take a closer look.”

The Type Directors Club = promoting excellence in typography for over 65 years

The Dieline and Lovely Package have featured several Watkins Graphic Design alumni, including
Stephen Jones

Julian Baker
on the Dieline
Julian on Lovely Package

Andy Gregg
on the Dieline