Review: In Progress by Jessica Hische

Jessica Hische is another one of my idols. She is a lettering artist who has done work for well-known companies all over the world, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Fortune Magazine, Penguin Books, Dove Chocolate, and Starbucks, to name a few. It is very likely that you have seen her work even if you have never heard of her. Last year, she published a book called In Progress, which I looked at several times and eventually just had to have. I’ve been through it multiple times and keep learning things.


Jessica Hische in her office.

In the book, Jessica explains what a lettering artist is and how she turned her hobby into a career. She then explains her lettering process, from what tools she uses, to how she researches, sketches, and eventually how she draws her lettering in vector format. The last bit of the book is full of examples of her work and the process behind it, from creative brief to sketch to final artwork. In the book, she explains how it started as a book of examples of her work, and then somehow it became a lettering resource.


A page from In Progress, showing Jessica’s sketch and the final digital artwork.

As an avid letterer, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about lettering. Not only is it incredibly useful and helpful, it is beautiful. You can see Jessica’s influence in every aspect of the book, from the hand lettered end pages to the marvellous drop caps at the beginning of each chapter. I also loved getting to know a little bit about her in the introduction and getting a feel for her personality. As a student, I appreciated learning about her backstory and how she got to where she is today.


Jessica explains different aspects of letterforms.

Jessica places a lot of emphasis on what she calls the analog aspect of her process. Although her final pieces are digital, much of what she does happens off the computer. This resonated with me because I feel like a lot of art and design today loses a little bit of authenticity when it is done from start to finish on the computer. Don’t get me wrong, computers and software and the internet are all great, but I miss the grit and implicit imperfection of a pencil and paper. I try as much as I can to keep things traditional for as long as possible, using the computer to enhance my work instead of replace it.


Series of Penguin Drop Caps by Jessica Hische

Some of my favourite work that Jessica has done is her Penguin Drop Caps. She illustrated the covers of twenty-six  Penguin classics, which took her almost two years to complete. Each book cover is custom artwork based on the story it illustrates. She read every single book that she designed and tried to capture something “specific and magic” about each of the titles. I can’t imagine redesigning covers for classic stories that millions of people have read and hold close to their hearts – let alone designing a single letter to encapsulate those books! I think that is why this project of hers is my favourite – because she managed to communicate so much in one illustrated letter.

If you want to learn more about Jessica, please visit her excellent website. Not only can you learn more about her and her work, but it has oodles of great resources for letterers, designers, and artists.


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