In this blog series, we shine a light on women trailblazers in the design industry – women who have earned a Wikipedia page (or are likely to very soon). You might not know them by name, but definitely by their work and influence on the design world as a whole.
This month, we’re highlighting Jessica Walsh, a bright star in the design field and an all-around creative. Her agency, &Walsh, founded in July of last year has become one of only 36 female-led creative studios in the United States.
Unsurprisingly, Walsh was a self starter from the get-go. Teaching herself coding at age 11, she soon had a growing client base of middle school students looking to launch their own websites. Although web was her first introduction to design, her style really flourished years later at art school and then during her internship at Print. Described as daring, surreal and bold, she cleverly utilizes the tools available to create thought provoking, hilarious, clever and heartfelt pieces.
Jessica Walsh unapologetically commits to the big idea. While some of us might struggle with execution, she commits to the idea first and executes without compromise, often without the use of a computer. In this way, she is operating in a world where technology is used as a tool, but not the only tool. Her creations, more than just graphic works, commit to a big idea first.
“What I have learned over the years is that a computer is a great tool, but it’s just a tool. Sometimes when you just get off the computer and start working with your hands, you end up having a lot of accidental discoveries and ideas that never would have happened if you are just sitting there all day pushing pixels on the screen.”
Walsh joined Sagmeiter INC., in 2012, making partner 3 years later. Remarkable as that may sound, her true accomplishments during this time are in her personal projects. First, in 2013, Walsh catalogued in video and graphics (later becoming a book) her experience dating Timothy Goodman, a designer friend in “40 days of dating”. A film is currently in the works. Then in 2016 she teamed up with the same friend in “12 kinds of kindness” , exploring ways to be kinder and other similar themes. These social experiments are fascinating, thought provoking, beautifully designed, and ultimately very personal and exposing, appealing to young people familiar with the reality TV experience.
Walsh is aware of her responsibility as a female leader in a male dominated category. She includes Paula Scher, Gail Anderson & Maira Kalman as sources of inspiration as she acknowledges that the agency world has in the past been a tough place for women leaders. She also is aware of how her position as a female can be used as a competitive advantage. When Walsh posed naked with Sagemiter to announce their partnership, (a call back to a similar image Sagmeister himself released when he founded his company in 1993) they received instantaneous notoriety through social media, according to a February 2013 interview with The Creative Influence Director Mario De Armas.
To quote Ms Walsh, it achieved its goal… “it was quite a functional piece of design.”
Now, at 33, with Walsh running her own agency servicing clients such as Museum of Modern Art, The New York Times, and The School of Visual Arts, it is still her genre defying personal work that stands out above the rest. While her former partner Stephan Sagmeister takes 1 year off in every 7 to recharge his creative batteries, Jessica Walsh seems to keep her creativity flowing by focusing on the human experience, something we can all relate to. By sharing her inner world, we the audience are invited to take a look at our own personal creativity to see where it can lead us.