Jessica Walsh: Unfiltered
By Brett McKenzie Posted on May 02, 2018
Acclaimed designer and Young Guns 8 winner launches empowering initiative
When superstar designer, art director, oreative leader and Young Guns 8 winner Jessica Walsh has something to say, she packs a pretty big megaphone. With nearly 400,000 people following her bold and brash Instagram posts, the “Walsh” half of famed design studio Sagmeister & Walsh uses her platform to spread messages and initiatives that go far beyond the design community. Last year , her Pins Won’t Save The World project kicked the fledgling Trump presidency in the balls. Today Jessica launches a new initiative entitled “Sorry I Have No Filter”, an audacious collection of swag created to support an important cause.
We caught up with Jessica to discuss the launch, from conception to creation to unveiling. Jessica opens up about the Ladies, Wine & Design initiative that “…No Filter” supports, and fires off about the many challenges many women face in the creative industry today — sans filter, of course.
After the success of last year’s Pins Won’t Save The World project, what was the inspiration behind this year’s collection?
Last year we raised over $100,000 with Pins Wont Save the World, and donated 100% of all profits to charities under threat of Trumps administration. With “Sorry I Have No Filter", we’re hoping to raise money for our not for profit initiative, Ladies, Wine & Design.
I started Sorry I Have No Filter five years ago as a Instagram series of thoughts I was thinking in my head. Through this and other personal projects, I've realized that many of my own feelings or insecurities are largely universal, and I've gained quite a bit of confidence through sharing. In the last years, I've learned to let go of expectations and stop caring so much about what others think of me. There are so many external pressures on women to live / act / look / dress / eat / smile a certain way, and I am just over it all. My sister calls this my "I don't give a fuck" attitude. This was part of the inspiration of the "Sorry I Have No Filter" merch site being a middle finger logo; it's 2018 and women should be able to live however we want without the constant judgement. I think supporting women in our own unique paths and ways of expressing ourselves is what’s important.
There are many girl power-themed illustrations in the new collection, but I didn’t want everything to be around success and power, because that’s not real life either. You can be a “boss babe” while also feeling “burnt out” or being “a mess of contradictions”. That’s why I like the range, I’ve come to realize no matter who you are or where you’re at in your journey we all feel a range of feelings and emotions.
"It's 2018 and women should be able to live however we want without the constant judgement."
How did you decide what graphics made the cut? Gut instinct? Informal office poll? What’s your favorite image?
I usually have a strong gut instinct on which illustrations I think people will resonate with, but there were many favorites this round, so we did do an office poll as well! This helped decide which to make into jackets or pins, which we have more limited quantities of.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from these e-commerce projects? After all, artists don’t always make the best strategists or marketers. What’s your “if I knew then what I know now” slice of sage wisdom?
From the start I knew I didn’t want to get into being a fulfillment house, so most of the items we do print on demand. This means we don’t own stock of most of what's on the site, if someone orders a tee or mug or poster, it's printed, packaged and sent to the customer without us lifting a finger. That makes things much easier for us, and there is less risk involved. The only items we stock in-house are jackets and pins and stickers, as those you can’t do print on demand at a quality we were happy with. There is much less profit involved when you’re doing print on demand vs. your own fulfillment, but I wasn’t ready to open up another company with a dedicated staff for these projects.
For the uninitiated, what is Ladies, Wine & Design? How has it been growing and evolving since its inception? How can someone get involved, in-person or remotely?
Ladies, Wine & Design launched two years ago, after realizing that sometimes women can be cruel to one another or don’t want other women to succeed. I wrote a longer article 12 Kinds of Kindness, if you want to read the full story.
Depending on the country you live in, only 5-12% of women hold creative director or CEO positions. Now more than ever, women need to work together to foster healthy and positive connections, dialogues, and help empower one another. That was the inspiration behind starting Ladies, Wine & Design. We hold free mentorship circles, portfolio reviews, talks and creative discussions on topics relating to creativity, business, leadership & life around the world.
We’re already in over 180 countries and growing each month. You can join by going on our newly launched website, selecting your city, and getting in contact with your local group. If LWD is not in your city, email us if you want to be a chapter leader and start your local chapter!
It’s been amazing to see what can happen when women come together. The stories that have come out of LWD have been so inspiring. We’ve heard stories of women who have met through the events have gone on to form studios together, come up with product ideas together, or helped one another find jobs. Ladies have told us how our events have inspired them to confront their boss who was sexist, inspired them to leave their toxic work environments to pursue their true passions. We're excited to continue to grow our community and have big ambitions for future events and to give back in other ways.
It’s important to me to keep these events free and accessible to all women. Thats part of why we started this merch site, so we can use some of the profits to help us fund larger events and give back in other ways. We have lots of ideas in store that we’re working on, such as connecting women mentors to younger girls from under-resourced communities.
"It’s been amazing to see what can happen when women come together. The stories that have come out of LWD have been so inspiring. We’ve heard stories of women who have met through the events have gone on to form studios together, come up with product ideas together, or helped one another find jobs."
Since you have no filter, as bluntly as you can, tell us what needs to change to smash the design boys club.
There are many reasons for the lack of women in leadership roles historically:
Sexism in the workplace
There are studies that show that companies are often consciously or unconsciously biased towards male candidates, which leads to more male being hired, getting raises and receiving promotion. While this is changing, there is still a pay gap today between men and women for the same job titles. If you’re in a leadership role, I suggest being cognizant of this bias, and making sure raises and promotions are given out based on merit.
Women traditionally holding child bearing responsibilities
Many women start families and have children around the age when their careers might just be starting to take off. As women traditionally have held most or all of the responsibitliteis for raising children, this has led to a gender imbalance in terms of career success. This has been changing in recent years with many companies offering paternity leave to men as well as women, and hopefully more and more companies adopt this policy moving forward. In addition, in many modern families men are splitting or assuming all child bearing responsibilities in their families.
A lack of women mentors or idols historically
When I was in school, almost all of the famous designers I’d read about in books were men. Design used to be a boys club at the top, and with a lack of women mentors to idolize, this can deter younger girls from creative positions when they don’t see other ladies at the top. This has of course been changing quickly, in fact many of my favorite designers who I admire and respect who are working today are other women! We can continue to push forward by championing and celebrate other women’s success and offer guidance and mentorship for younger creative ladies. If you’re a women in the creative industry and can offer your mentorship or guidance to other women, that’s a great place to start.
"We can continue to push forward by championing and celebrate other women’s success and offer guidance and mentorship for younger creative ladies. If you’re a women in the creative industry and can offer your mentorship or guidance to other women, that’s a great place to start."
You’re judging Young Guns 16 this year. As a Young Guns winner yourself (YG8), and one who earned that honor very early in your career, what advice would you give to anyone get ready to submit? What will you be looking for when you start judging?
Winning Young Guns was a big boost in my career early on, I started getting many more freelance commissions after the award. When judging, I’m always looking for people who bring a unique voice or style or perspective from their work. Don’t be nervous if you don’t get in the first time, many people who win submitted three or four times before they get the award.
What’s on the horizon for you, creatively speaking?
We have been working on a new video piece for the Venice Biennale, we’ll be in Italy in May for the opening. In June we have a retrospective of our studios work opening at The Holon Museum outside Tel Aviv. We’re also working on a number of interesting branding and campaign projects which will launch later this year!
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