Only 5-11% of creative director positions are held by women. Only .1% of creative agencies are women-owned. POINT. ONE. PERCENT. How does this make any sense when women drive about 80% of consumer purchasing?
Jessica Walsh launched her lifelong dream and launched her own creative agency &Walsh in 2019. Jessica now leads an agency that joins that 0.1% of creative agencies founded and owned by women. May her story inspire many other women to rise and succeed.
Jessica Walsh was born on October 30, 1986 in New York. She began teaching herself coding and designing websites at age 11. She created HTML and CSS tutorial sites that offered free website templates for blogging platforms that were popular at the time. Jessica then discovered google ads and realized how much money was coming in due to 15 thousand visitors a day. Jessica never imagined to make money from a hobby, her early success from web design fueled her confidence to go to art school and dedicate her life to design. Walsh went on to study graphic design at the Rhode Island school of design where she received a BFA degree in 2008. Soon after graduation Jessica was offered a job at Apple in California but declined to work with the design firm Pentagram as an intern https://www.pentagram.com after staying at Pentagram for a year, she worked as an associate art director at Print magazine https://www.printmag.com
During the time Jessica worked at Print, budgets were slashed for illustration and photography. She turned those budgeting limitations into an opportunity and began teaching herself photography and set design during nights and weekends. Jessica created the covers and interior artwork for Print magazine herself and from there developed her colorful design style. Her techniques involved body painting, 3D sets where she would paint objects, typography and people to create illustrations. After honing her craft for many years, the colorful photo illustration style began to grow and became very popular. Her design and illustrations were featured in various books, magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times and New York Times Magazine.
On top of external forces, sometimes the forces trying to stop us are ourselves. I suffered from severe self-hate and self-doubt in the beginning. I could never have imagined in my earlier years fighting mental health issues that I would one day find joy and passion and purpose, let alone success and the ability to really love myself and my life. Early in my career, I had so many moments of almost giving up, feeling I wouldn’t make it in this big city or that I wasn’t good enough.
In 2010 Walsh met Stefan Sagmeister. An Austrian graphic designer, storyteller and typographer. Jessica contacted Sagmeister to get some advice about opening a studio. upon looking through her portfolio he instantly offered her a job at his design studio, Sagmeister Inc. Sagmeister recalls that Walsh’s interests were very similar to his own and he hoped she would bring her own take on them to the table. “Her portfolio was good, but what impressed me more was her enthusiasm. It was very clear that she loved design and wanted to put everything she has into it.”
In June 2012, after two years at the firm, Jessica was made partner at age 25 and the name of the studio was changed to Sagmeister & Walsh. In their ongoing client work, Sagmeister and Walsh created bold new brand identities, campaigns, and commercials for MOMA, The New York Times, The Guggenheim, Levi's, Atlantic Records, HBO, and Adobe. After a few years of doing only commercial work constantly, Walsh was feeling suppressed. So she promised herself she would spend between 25 and 50 percent of her time on more personal work to balance things out.
I think making time for personal projects is like going to the gym. It’s hard at first to set aside time to do it, but if I do it regularly, it gives me so much more energy for life and work overall. I don’t think it distracts from the client work, in fact it fuels it.
In July 2019, Walsh announced she was going to leave Sagmeister and form her own studio &Walsh. Her studio is based in New York specializing in brand strategy, art direction, design and production across all platforms. &Walsh has worked with Apple, Converse, Snapchat, Netflix, and Twitch. Apart from founding her very own creative agency, Jessica started a non-profit called Ladies, Wine & Design due to the lack of representation and the pay gap for women and non-binary people within the industry. They offer free mentorship circles, talks and networking events in over 250 cities worldwide. Including events on topics such as creative leadership, design & business, diversity in design, and so much more.
In addition to the leadership gap, there is still a pay gap for women and an even larger gap for women of color. We cannot talk about feminism without including the varying intersections of privilege and oppression. All too often feminism only champions the equality of white, cisgender, straight women. Feminism should be inclusive of all people, championing equality for everyone — no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, age or ability. I'm excited to build an agency that provides equal opportunity for all to learn and grow creatively and climb the ranks towards leadership.
Get inspired and get to know her company + plus amazing work https://andwalsh.com