When Jessica Walsh was 11 years old, she taught herself how to code and design websites. After creating an HTML assistance site, she taught other kids how to make websites. It was around the time that Google Advertising launched, so she applied one of its banners to her website and started making money. Her assumption was that she’d never make money off of a hobby and that she’d pursue a “regular” job in the business of finance, but that proved to be untrue. This early success with web design was what gave her the confidence to go to art school and dedicate her life thereafter to design.
Walsh recently launched her creative design agency, &Walsh, and has worked on branding and advertising campaigns for a handful of renowned clients. In April, she partnered with Bombay Sapphire in its “Create from Home” series. For a full circle on her creative journey, she got back to the hosting assistance site to answer questions about design, but this time on Instagram.
Whitewall spoke with Walsh about these initiatives, as well as her others that shed light on women in business and mental health.
WHITEWALL: Why did you partnered with Bombay Sapphire for its “Create from Home” series?
JESSICA WALSH: Now more than ever before, it’s important to enable creative self-expression. In celebration of World Creativity Day on April 21, I teamed up with Bombay Sapphire for a Creativity Text Message Hotline where I engaged with consumers one-on-one, answering their questions live surrounding how to be creative at home during this new normal of quarantine.
It was great getting to interact with people in a different medium that still allowed two-way communication and a meaningful conversation. In general, I always try to personally respond to questions that come through Instagram DM, and this was another fun way to converse with those that may not follow me or use Instagram.
WW: What do you hope the hotline brings—to you and to the audience?
JW: My hope is that the hotline brings a little bit of inspiration to others during this difficult time. While recent studies have shown that self-isolation leads to increased stress and insomnia, creativity is one of the most effective ways to mitigate the impact. While we may not be able to connect in person, virtual connections including this text hotline are ways we can still communicate and inspire one another from a socially acceptable distance.
WW: With &Walsh, what do you aim to showcase with strategy, branding, and advertising?
JW: In the last few years, I’ve focused on fine-tuning our processes and strengthening our capabilities in brand identity, campaigns, commercials, and social strategy. We’ve also moved beyond design & art direction into deeper strategy and brand development work. We work with brands in early stages, advising on products, identifying audiences and helping to shape the brand from the ground up. We’ve been incredibly privileged to land some of the biggest and most exciting accounts in the last few years, including branding & advertising projects on Snapchat, Apple, Beats by Dre, Kenzo, C3/Live Nation Festivals, among many others.
WW: How do you typically approach a design project? What is something you aim to highlight each time?
JW: Emotion, warmth, the human side of things!
WW: Tell us about your other platforms—Ladies, Wine & Design, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
JW: Open a design history book, and you’ll see that almost all the famous designers mentioned are white men. Still to this day, only five to 12 percent of creative directors or CEOs are women, depending on the country you live in. Once I started gaining success in the design industry, I had many haters on social media. I began to notice that many of the haters were other women. It made me realize that sometimes women can be unsupportive of other women, and I think that’s in part because our chance of reaching the top is so much slimmer than our male counterparts.
This realization inspired me to create Ladies, Wine & Design. I wanted to bring together women determined to help other women and create a platform where women could share resources and exchange ideas and inspiration. We hold free mentorship circles, creative meetups, salon nights, and conferences. The initiative grew organically, and we’re now in over 250 cities worldwide!
WW: Your work has a transparent nature to it, especially when it relates to “downfalls” like anxiety and societal pressure. Why?
JW: Let’s Talk About Mental Health is a website and Instagram dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues, to help end the stigma. One in four people have mental health problems; it’s incredibly common. I struggled with depression and anxiety when I was much younger, and after I opened up about it online, I found it incredibly freeing. Our platform allows others to share their own stories, so people can find freedom in releasing their story, as well.
WW: How does working with design, and overall aesthetics, impact the way you digest the world? How do you feel it impacts how others perceive the world?
JW: Design is a communication tool. If design is done well, it can make communication more delightful, it can make someone’s day easier, it can make someone feel a little happier, it can start important conversations. These are all incredibly powerful things that can impact how people perceive the world!
WW: What are you working on now?
JW: Currently at &Walsh we’re working on a few brand strategy and brand identity projects for various startup companies. On top of that, I was excited to partner with Bombay Sapphire for World Creativity Day in April. The Creativity Text Message hotline was a great reminder of the power creativity holds in not only connecting with ourselves but also others during this challenging time of self-isolation.