Jessica Walsh is striking out on her own by launching &Walsh while parting company with Stefan Sagmeister, with whom she has co-run New York-based Sagmeister & Walsh since 2012.
The split – which appears to be amicable – will see Walsh focus on commercial work under &Walsh, while Sagmeister will only work on “self-generated design projects” under Sagmeister Inc, he tells Design Week.
Sagmeister hired Walsh in 2010 on the back of an internship she had undertaken with Pentagram partner Paula Scher. Two years later he had made her a partner (when she was just 25) and the consultancy was renamed and relaunched to recognise this. It has become known for its provocative work and clients include Adobe, The Jewish Museum of New York and Levi’s.
“All commercial work on Jessica’s shoulders”
Walsh will continue to work in the studio she shares with Sagmeister and their team for the time being, and will work with many of the same clients.
“All of the commercial work will be placed on Jessica’s capable shoulders,” says Sagmeister. “She has been leading these projects for some time and it makes sense to make it more official.”
It is clear that the main distinction with the new set up is that Sagmeister will focus on self-initiated art and design projects. “I feel I have done my fair share of commercial work,” he says.
“I do believe it is important that people who truly care about design are creating commercial work, as commercial design influences the look and feel of our world more than most other design categories,” he adds.
Sagmeister & Walsh is known as much for its own experimental, self initiated work and exhibitions as it is for client work. These include The Happy Show, an exhibition exploring happiness, and Beauty – a book and now exhibition, looking at the importance of beauty and design at the MAK museum, Vienna.
“Jessica and I will continue to work together on the [development of the] Beauty exhibitions, as well as the Beauty project under Sagmeister & Walsh,” according to Sagmeister.
&Walsh has been positioned to reflect Walsh’s broad palette of interests and experience. One notable difference with the new consultancy is that she will solely own and run it, and this is something she wants to capitalise on.
She is explicitly looking to help underrepresented demographics succeed and take on positions of leadership at her new consultancy, which wants to help individuals “grow, thrive and lead”.
Walsh founded Ladies, Wine and Design, a non-profit event series set up specifically to help women and non-binary designers around the world, through a global talks programme.
The collaborative nature of the consultancy will be emphasised in the name &Walsh by redesigning the ampersand whenever the studio is working with a new client.
“We will have a custom ampersand drawn for every new client or creative partner,” says Walsh. “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.”
She also thinks that philosophically &Walsh will be different from other consultancies.
She says: “In recent years, you can see many design studios and agencies trying to replicate the ‘start-up brand’ look and feel. The result is that all these brands look practically identical.
“When you follow what everyone else is doing and create a trendy brand, you’re putting a ticking time bomb on your branding. In a few years, it will be outdated and irrelevant. We aim to create memorable and timeless brands that, above all else, function for our clients’ goals and resonate with their audiences.”
Walsh says that her team will help clients “find their weird”, by working with them to understand “the honest truth”, including their “strengths, weak points and blind spots” to produce “lasting brands that people care about”. &Walsh is effective from today.