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Oct 18, 2012 at 12am

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bsessions can often act as a form of escapism, but for Jessica Hische and Erik Marinovich, they feed their livelihood. Worshippers of illustrative lettering, they are hailed in the design industry as masters in the art of typography. Jessica recently created the movie titles and credits for the Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom, and Erik has done work for clients like Wired, The New York Times, and Maxim. In addition, they both run popular type blogs (Jessica at Daily Drop Cap and Erik at Friends of Type).

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Stepping into their shared San Francisco studio, Title Case, it’s clear you’ve entered into a designer’s environment. Bookshelves lined with beautiful hardbacks, curated tchotchkes, and framed eye candy sit along the western wall, along with their findings from flea markets and paper fairs. Just opposite are two desks bearing acutely organized workspaces. Soft contours of hand-lettered art adorn the wall, and a mural reading “Curves are a thing of beauty” enlivens the bathroom.

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They’re known to fall into periods of deep concentration lasting at least three to four hours at a time. Since Erik works by hand, he executes countless options for one type. He spends his time practicing and practicing until the lettering is pretty much flawless. “You’re just waiting for that one moment when you’re like ‘Oh my God, it’s right.’” Once Jessica gets a handle on what she generally wants her type to look like, she iterates unendingly until the final version emerges.

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Neither of them can estimate the amount of time they spend creating a piece. Erik says, “There are two answers: Either it’s finished five minutes before it’s due, or it’s finished when you recognize that it’s perfect. I think for [Jessica] and me, it’s not finished until we can say, ‘This is it – it’s ready to go.’” When pressed to put a number to the hours they spend lettering, Jessica says that, in three years of work, she’s put in 12,500 hours. In Erik’s first two years, he often stayed up until 4 a.m. finishing personal projects after he left his 9-to-7 day job.

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hey both attribute their success to countless hours of dedication, noting that lettering isn’t a practice you can take a workshop for and become good at overnight. Although their typography appears in a multitude of permanent and fleeting platforms – blogs, ads, books, and magazines – their pursuit is of a timeless perfection. “This is a craft of a craft. No matter what kind of design you’re doing, it’s all a craft ... you can’t automate it.”

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This story originally ran in Volume 4 of The Bold Italic magazine – Obsessions – which is available for purchase in our Shop. 

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