The Interviews

Jessica Hische


on the Art of Procrastination

Interview by Leif Steiner & Emily Potts
August 16, 2016

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If it seems like design darling Jessica Hische’s rapid ascent in the design world came easy, she’ll be the first to tell you that she worked her ass off to get where she is today, pulling all-nighters pursuing her passion. And she’s still kicking ass and taking numbers.

Known for her illustrative hand-lettering, Hische has worked for an impressive roster of clients including Starbucks, Wes Anderson, The New York Times, Target, Tiffany & Co., and Samsung. Last year she released her first book, In Progress, for Chronicle Books, which details her exacting process for drawing type. Part information, part inspiration, part eye candy, this is a fun romp through her sketchbook and how she approaches her projects.

Always one to share (or as she says, “over-share”) on her website, Hische offers great advice when it comes to creative burn-out, getting paid, and being productive. Here, we talk to her about her penchant for procrastination and how it’s actually benefited her over the years.

You’re a self-described procrastinator … in fact, you’ve coined the term “procrastiworking.” What does this mean, exactly and how bad are you?

To me, procrastiworking just means putting off the work you’re supposed to do by working on something else [that is also productive / challenging creatively]. It doesn’t always mean putting off work until the last minute—sometimes I procrastiwork by hopping around on different projects in a single day (when I start losing steam on one, I’ll work on another, assuming I don’t have an immediate impending deadline). Sometimes it means rearranging my schedule so that I can fit in passion projects. When I am really fired up about a personal project, I work on it during the work day, and work on client work in the evenings (because I know I HAVE TO stay up to finish it, because of a deadline, versus the personal work).

I do it quite a bit. But the thing that’s odd is that the more I do it the more productive I am. I’m probably more likely to hit a client deadline and make great work if I have bounced around on a lot of things in the process of getting there.

How has procrastination worked to your advantage?

I’m generally really good at starting projects, and terrible at finishing them. I get 80% of the work done in 25% of the time it takes me to complete something. When I notice I’m starting to drag my feet, because I’m in that last 20% of work as I approach the finish line, if I can work on something different—something small and exciting—it can re-energize me.

I work well with deadlines. I tell clients constantly “If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not getting done.

Sometimes if I wait until a deadline is a little closer, the pressure kicks me into gear productivity wise. It’s a fine balance—I can’t overload myself so I feel like it’s impossible to complete things.

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What kinds of side projects do you do when you’re procrastiworking?

Most of my procrastiworking projects fill a void for me creatively. I love to write, but don’t often get the chance professionally, so sometimes my side projects are writing intensive. I love to make things that people can use, so there is usually a utility element to my side projects. There are exceptions, but my usual rule is if I can’t get it done in a long weekend, it won’t get made. My more successful side projects are static websites (which took a lot of time to write /create but don’t require regular upkeep) or projects where my day to day commitment is small, even if the project itself is big (like Daily Drop Cap).

Can you give us an example of a project that got totally out of hand due to your procrastination, but then fell into place in the end?

Honestly, I don’t think a project has ever gotten truly out of hand for me because of procrastiworking. I am more likely to put off paperwork-esque things and then get myself in trouble (like putting off invoicing someone for two years or fail to respond promptly to interviews). There have been a few times I’ve worked with clients where the very end of the project dragged on, because there were loose deadlines or it was left open ended. I need to get better at staying on top of things when that happens, but if I have a hard deadline I don’t let my passion projects get in the way.

I do find if a project goes south, it usually happens either very early on (when there was a miscommunication which becomes apparent in the first round of delivery) or very late in the game (when I’ve created final art after approved sketches but then I find out there is a whole other group of people that should have been approving the art all along, and they have feedback that differs from my art director).

What is your favorite word to hand-letter?

The word I end up doodling in the margins of my pages while on phone calls is “Yes” in script. I don’t know why. It’s just really satisfying to draw.

What is your favorite curse word?

Definitely “Fuck”. And my favorite iteration of it is a slow, “Oh God I just realized something is amiss …” Fuuuuuuuck.

Young artists & students often ask you for advice. What is the most frequent question you’re asked and how do you answer it?

The most frequent question is usually some form of “How do I get myself out of this creative rut?” or “How do I create when all these roadblocks are in front of me?” To those questions, there is never a prescribed answer. Everyone’s situation is different, and I try to give the best advice I can based on their situation. Mostly I try to encourage people, to tell them that everyone has dealt with (or constantly deals with) whatever it is that they’re going through. It’s ok to be frustrated, if you weren’t dealt the best hand, but that doesn’t mean you should fold.

What’s the stupidest question you’ve been asked (assuming it isn’t above)?

I am SO TIRED of being asked what “the future of type” is.

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