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&Walsh: Jessica Walsh launches her own agency to disrupt the system

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ave you ever felt a deep voice inside telling you that it was time for a change, but you didn’t know why? Mine started last year. It grew from a passing thought into an internal monologue, until one day it was all I could think about” writes renowned designer Jessica Walsh, co-founder and creative director of New York design firm Sagmeister & Walsh, who is flying solo with her own agency in the creative industry.

Her brand new venture &Walsh is wholly owned by the 32-year-old founder, CEO and creative director who is regarded a longtime fixture in the design world with a stunning portfolio of works including branding & advertising projects for Snapchat, Apple, Beats by Dre, Kenzo, C3/Live Nation Festivals, among many others. Starting this week &Walsh takes the place of Sagmeister & Walsh, which will no longer accept commercial work together but will continue to collaborate when needed. 

“Why change? Since I was very young, It has always been my dream to have my own studio that was entirely my own. It was my intention 10 years ago to start my own company before I met Stefan. Life takes you on unexpected paths, and mine took me towards his studio on 23rd street on a cold day in February. That meeting turned into working on several projects together, and we became business partners a few years later” writes Walsh who is beyond excited to launch her brand new venture which puts her in a position of power in the creative sector -across which sexism is rife.

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for this privileged position I’ve found myself in. Very few women make it to creative leadership positions and even fewer have founded their own creative agencies” she notes as she joins a league few females were allowed to. FYI, with &Walsh its founder joins the .1% of Women Founded Creative Agencies. 

“The lack of representation in leadership & the pay gap for women and non-binary people has been a focus of mine through our non-profit initiative Ladies, Wine & Design. This initiative was born out of personal experiences I had with sexism in our industry, not only from men but from other women. I found that sometimes women were unsupportive of one another, possibly because our chances of reaching the top are much slimmer than for men. The numbers say it all: 70% of design students are women, but 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? Diversity in leadership at agencies drives profit” she adds.

Walsh is beyond excited to launch her brand new venture which puts her in a position of power in the creative sector -across which sexism is rife

“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. While we’re living in divisive times, it’s exciting to see the younger generations breaking down traditional ideas of gender, beauty, relationships, work culture, etc. towards a future that is more fluid, genderless and accepting of all humans as we are. My dream for our industry is to see much more representation at the top. This will not only make our work stronger and more inclusive, but make the creative work function better” writes Walsh who is determined to use her influence for social change through initiatives of justice.

Privileged and talented -“I’m white & cisgender in a heteronormative relationship. My family could afford my education without leaving me in debt. I found a career I am passionate about” she notes- Walsh and her team are ready to disrupt the male-dominated system when others don't, won't or can't.

“My dream for our industry is to see much more representation at the top. This will not only make our work stronger and more inclusive, but make the creative work function better”

“I’m confident and excited about this next chapter, but being human, I can’t help but have fears. What will people say about this? What will the haters find to pick on this time? Will we lose clients now that we're a woman-only led agency? Will we continue to land amazing creative clients? Will anyone care? But at the end of the day… does it matter? All I can do is what I’ve always done: try really fucking hard. I wake up each morning with a fierce determination to keep growing personally & professionally. To push our work and our studio culture forward. I want to invest even more into meaningful projects such as Let’s Talk About Mental Health or Ladies, Wine & Design. I want to give back to this amazing creative community which has given me so much. I want to find more ways to pass on my knowledge. All of this is at the heart of &Walsh, which I elaborate on in this article” writes this female force of creativity by the name Jessica Walsh, branded from now on with an ampersand.

“The ampersand is one of the most beautiful typographic characters and will challenge ourselves to continuously reinvent its form” 

After 1,230 designs the agency's branding uses an ampersand for both the visual identity and tonal expression. “This typographic system includes our clients, projects, collaborators, experiments & endeavors: hence the (Blank) & Walsh. We've drawn 50 final ampersands in our style and will draw a custom ampersand drawn for every new project or team member. The ampersand is one of the most beautiful typographic characters and will challenge ourselves to continuously reinvent its form,” writes the agency.

Explore more female-powered, gender-neutral creativity here.