Celebrated Designer Plans To Build Brands and Open Doors
Jessica Walsh was only 25 when she became full partner at Sagmeister & Walsh, helping build it into one of the most in-demand studios in the industry. Now, seven years later, she launches her own creative agency &Walsh. Through collaboration, strategic process, and irreverent imagination, the goal of &Walsh is to help brands unlock untapped potential. She sees the new venture, also based in New York City, as “a fresh direction and the culmination of her evolution as a creative, mentor and entrepreneur.” If her track record as an award-winning designer, sought-after speaker, progenitor of the 40 Days of Dating phenomenon, and self-taught coder are any indication, there are more good things to come.
Walsh says that, in addition to providing effective solutions to brands’ business needs, she will also be unafraid to bring attention to often ignored social issues. In a class of agencies that is extremely small — those founded, owned, and run solely by women — some have estimated that number at 0.1% — &Walsh wants to open the door wide for the underrepresented to similarly grow, thrive, and lead. For example, in response to the fact that only 3% of all creative directors are women or gender non-conforming, Walsh founded Ladies, Wine and Design to empower women and non-binary people through mentorship circles, portfolio reviews, talks, and creative meetups.
Walsh has spent her entire career using design to draw brands, and society at large, into deeper thought and conversation. Her process, in which she helps brands “Find their weird,” begins with brand therapy which hones in on the idiosyncratic parts brands tend to suppress. “Most brands need help discovering their ‘personality’ or ‘voice,’ but we go deeper,” Walsh explains. “We unearth what’s truly unique – whether that uniqueness is quirky or seemingly unremarkable, we believe that exceptional quality is a brand’s most valuable asset.”
To highlight the collaborative nature of its offering, a custom ampersand lies at the heart of the agency’s all-new brand identity. “We find the ampersand to be one of the most beautiful typographic characters, and we challenge our team to continuously reinvent its form with every new partnership,” Walsh says. Past partnerships have included Snapchat, Adobe, Apple, Izze, Beats by Dre, The Gap, and Meetup while more recently, &Walsh has announced projects for several new clients, including luxury fashion house Kenzo and website builder Wix.
The birth of &Walsh marks the end of an era for the designer, but also opens up a range of new opportunities. She and former studio partner Stefan Sagmeister remain close, and will continue to work on art and exhibit projects together under the Sagmeister & Walsh umbrella. As for &Walsh, she promises to use a broad range of disciplines to push for work that is risky and differentiated and to combine emotion, personality and beauty to shape ownable, lasting brands.