- Reposted from The New York Times Published Jan. 30, 2020 Updated Jan. 31, 2020
LIKE A BOSS . As told to Katie Robertson
The Work Diary of Jessica Walsh, Designing (and Wining) Woman
Jessica Walsh is in the 0.1 percent. That’s how few founders of ad agencies with national or international accounts are female, according to Ad Age.
Ms. Walsh, 33, a graphic designer and art director who started the firm &Walsh last year, is determined to increase this astoundingly low-sounding figure. And so she also started Ladies, Wine and Design: a nonprofit that runs free events, talks and portfolio reviews for women and nonbinary people.
“It was just always a dream of mine to have an agency that was entirely my own,” Ms. Walsh said. “There are so few women-founded creative agencies out there. I want to see more of them.”
A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Walsh evolved her lush, tactile style partnering with the graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister when she was in her mid-20s. She also worked on a number of personal passion projects, including 40 Days of Dating, a popular blog written with Timothy Goodman, an artist, that they turned into a book.
And she’s hired around 30 people at &Walsh to strategize branding, advertising and social media campaigns for clients from tech giants like Apple and Snapchat to small start-ups such as the Riveter and Pet Plate.
Ms. Walsh keeps long hours, extended by social media. “Work is my passion and I love that work and life is intertwined,” she said. “I work with a lot of my family. I work with a lot of my close friends on projects together. To me, it doesn’t feel like a burden. However, I don’t ask that of our employees! I’m really proud that we’re not a sweatshop like many other agencies are.”
7:30 a.m. Last night we drove upstate from New York City. My husband, Zak Mulligan, and I just bought an old barn in the Hudson Valley that we plan to eventually renovate and rent out when we’re not using it. It will be nice to have a different type of creative project to work on together. (Zak is a cinematographer.) I spent the morning drinking coffee outside with our dogs.
8:30 a.m. &Walsh is working on the branding, brand strategy and target audience work for a bank in Vienna, Austria. I started writing a creative brief for our designers. I hunted down vintage typography references that could be interesting to update with a modern twist for a custom typeface for the bank.
10:30 a.m. While skiing, Zak and I chatted about upcoming TV commercial shoots in India that our agency is working on for the brands Frooti and Appy Fizz. I’ll be creative-directing the campaign and Zak is a director of photography and will be filming. We’ll be working with five different Bollywood stars, which should be interesting!
7 p.m. Went to dinner in Hudson with some friends, and then came home to watch a movie. Zak is an Academy member so we get access to all the potential Oscar-nominated movies so he can vote. We watched “Marriage Story” — it was good and emotional, I cried!
8 a.m. Did some research for an upcoming digital campaign for one of our clients. Looked at potential influencers to partner with to launch the campaigns.
10 a.m. Called my friend Tim Goodman to chat about our book and blog, “40 Days of Dating.” It went viral six years ago and we got a movie deal with Warner Bros., but after many years of script revisions they let the rights option go. We’ve had new interest recently from different production companies and celebrities who are interested in starring in or producing a new project based on the book. This would require starting from scratch as a new project, getting new writers on board and producing an entirely new script.
12 p.m. Working, reading and research. Somewhere in between I FaceTimed with my sister, Lauren Walsh, who helps run operations and new business with me at & Walsh. We were chatting about potential new business inquiries we’ve received, discussing which would be a good fit for our studio. We also chatted about progress updates on a website we are designing.
4 p.m. My sister and I and our husbands got my parents a big gift for Christmas: a dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. We arrived two hours early as we got the time wrong in our calendar. I found a place by the fire to get some emails done and sort my inbox, which I was a bit anxious about anyway.
6 p.m. I knew Blue Hill was supposed to be an excellent farm-to-table restaurant, but I didn’t get the memo that there was a suggested dress code. I don’t go out to fancy dinners very often! Everyone was in suits or dresses. I arrived in a casual oversized sweatshirt and giant winter fur boots. I got a lot of strange looks, but the food was great!
11 p.m. We arrived back in the city and watched “Knives Out” before bed.
8 a.m. Met with Lauren to go over high-level details of a new digital campaign and influencer plan we’re working on for a new client that I can’t name (strict NDA!).
10 a.m. Worked on big-picture ideas for 2020 for Ladies, Wine & Design. Only a very small percentage of women make it to leadership roles in the creative industry and we’re trying to do our small part in changing those numbers. We are starting outreach to try and find a sponsor for our 2020 events and initiatives.
3 p.m. We are designing interior wallpaper and design elements for a popular restaurant in downtown Manhattan. Part of the design is intended to reduce the noise in the restaurant. I visited the space with Gosbinda and Sarah from our team to look at placement and discuss the overall strategy.
4 p.m. Wrote client emails, finalized a creative brief and sent creative direction feedback for our design team on an advertising campaign we’re working on. Ate dinner while working.
10 p.m. Watched “Booksmart” with Zak, who passed out after the movie. I couldn’t sleep. Around 2 a.m., I went into the kitchen and realized the tea I had been drinking all day (I must have had 10 cups) was not caffeine-free like I thought. I also had 4 cups of coffee in the morning. Uh-oh. I used to get stressed about insomnia, but now I just roll with it. I spent the night looking at real estate listings for our new studio space and reading on Instagram. I use Instagram to stay up-to-date on news, activists and artists I follow, and also to find new talent to hire for our agency.
7:30 a.m. Even when I don’t sleep well, I always wake up early, no alarm clock needed. Early mornings, evenings and weekends are my favorite time to work as email and Slack is quiet.
11 a.m. We’ve started taking on more photo and content creation for brands for Instagram, so we need more space for a larger photo studio and a dedicated prop library. I went to see a potential space in downtown Manhattan.
12:30 p.m. I reviewed a presentation for a rebranding project we’re working on for a direct-to-consumer clothing company.
3:30 p.m. I had a call with the director for the upcoming commercial shoot to go over wardrobe, music and choreography choices.
4 p.m. Went to the vet. My dog Oscar has spinal cancer and had surgery and radiation last year, but they couldn’t remove all of the cancer because of its proximity to his spine. They believe it has metastasized to his liver, which means he might only live another three to six months. It’s very sad.
5 p.m. Creative ideation, et cetera. Ate a quick delivery dinner with Zak somewhere.
11:30 p.m. Talked with Nadia Chauhan, the chief marketing officer of Parle Agro, an Indian beverage company, about some of the creative choices for the upcoming print campaign and TV commercial shoots. She lives in another time zone, so I’ll often catch her late nights or early morning to chat via WhatsApp or calls.
7 a.m. Emails and calls with the production company, client and director for next week’s shoot. I typically eat breakfast and lunch while working on my computer. This morning, I had juice, nuts and overnight oats. I’m trying to eat better because of my migraines, though what I really want is a greasy egg and cheese sandwich.
10 a.m. Went to our photo studio for a small shoot. While I was in the studio, I connected with the team about our 2020 photo studio and prop library, and ideas for the new space.
1 p.m. Answered questions for a magazine press interview, worked on a presentation for an indoor vertical farm company we’re doing branding for and chatted with our producers about operations logistics.
7 p.m. Had a quick dinner with a friend, followed by a massage in Tribeca with my mom and my sister Lauren at Shibui Spa. The spa trip was my birthday present from last year from Lauren.
11:30 p.m. Watched “Fleabag” before bed.
8 a.m. We are working on digital video ads for a popular skin care company in Korea. These will run as paid media on social. I reviewed the latest video edits and the client’s feedback notes. My team is amazing and have done a fantastic job with this project; I’m happy with how all the videos have turned out.
9 a.m. Last year, we worked on the branding for a women-founded and -focused brand. I reviewed progress on the portfolio page which will showcase this work on our website and Instagram, and wrote some feedback.
2 p.m. As a creative director, I’m behind the camera most of the time. But occasionally I go in front of the camera, when other brands hire me as an influencer or to appear in videos because of my social media following. Today I had a video interview for a digital brand I quite like.
8 p.m. Researched migraines, which my sister and I have been suffering from for a few years. We started a pain diary to track what we ate and drank, humidity/barometric pressure and stress levels to see correlations between various factors and the pain.
7:30 a.m. Calls, emails, Slack messages for various projects. Met with Lauren to go over a proposal we’re working on for a nonprofit.
12:30 p.m. Call with the C.A.A. (Creative Artists Agency) and one of the potential producers for the “40 Days of Dating” project. We discussed potential writing partners.
1 p.m. My mom is a certified holistic health and wellness coach, and launched an Instagram account without asking for my design help last year. The content is great but the Instagram design and fonts are not up to my standards, ha! I chatted with the team about some social media templates we’re making for her.
2:30 p.m. Calls, emails, Slacks. Reviewed various 3-D renderings and Photoshop mock-ups that our team has been working on for an upcoming advertising campaign.
5 p.m. Took a taxi to the airport with Zak. We are heading to India for the commercial shoots.
Interviews are conducted by email, text and phone, then condensed and edited.A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 2, 2020, Section BU, Page 4 of the New York edition with the headline: Diary of a Designing Woman.