Interview Series 2012 – Designer & Art Director Jessica Walsh

by Sean | June 21, 2012

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Jessica Walsh is a multidisciplinary designer living and working in NYC. Her work has been featured in numerous magazines and books, and has won design awards from the Type Directors Club, Art Directors Club, SPD, Print, Graphis, and many others. She has been named Computer Arts Magazine’s “Top Rising Star in Design”, an Art Directors Club “Young Gun”, Print Magazine’s “New Visual Artist” and L Magazine’s “25 under 25 Envy List”. She has worked with studios such as Sagmeister Inc., Pentagram Design, and Print Magazine. She freelances for a variety of clients such as the The New York Times, AIGA, Computer Arts & I.D. Magazine, and Technology Review.

When not doing design, she can be found playing with her dog Momo, eating avocados, or doing yoga.





While you are in the process of creating your designs, what three rules do you always follow to maximize results?Enjoy the process, believe in the company/organization I’m designing for, and challenge myself.

How do you use color in your designs to set a mood, attract attention, and make a statement?

I’ve always liked limiting the palette to one or two good colors. It can be used to put the focus on content. In branding, staying true to your palette can make the visual language more coherent.

How would you describe your creative process?

It’s different depending on the job, but in general I like to think, brainstorm and sketch independently. I try not to work crazy hours and take nights off. Sometimes reading a book, seeing a movie, or having a good dream can trigger a great idea. I work in a studio with a few people who’s opinions I trust and respect, so if I get stuck I can get their advice. I find this a huge advantage over working completely independent.

Do you work with any specific styles or subject matters? What draws you to this kind of work? 

As an illustrator, people are generally looking for me to do the same style photo illustrations. It’s usually some sort of set design which I build and then photograph as the final illustration. It’s enjoyable as it’s something I do on the side, but I consider my main job to be a designer and art director. I like being a designer because I don’t have to stick to the same style.  Instead, the focus shifts to what the clients needs. This is more challenging as I’m constantly doing new things.

What tools do you use to get the job done? What are some pieces of the process (without giving away too many secrets, of course) that create your individual style?

I’m not worried about giving away secrets, I am happy to help other designers learn tools or processes that might help them in their own work. I wrote an article on my photography set up here: This is the set up I use in my photo illustration work – I love getting off the computer to build set designs or typographic illustrations. However, I mostly work on the computer in Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign.

What key skills (technical or personal) do you believe an artist needs to succeed as graphic designer within the industry?

Passion, persistence, common sense, curiosity.

Some artists struggle to work outside of their comfort zone, such as using new colors, fonts or introducing new subject matter. What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to work outside of their comfort zone?

In general, I find it’s good to take risks and not do the same thing too many times, it becomes boring and I lose interest. Don’t be afraid to fail occasionally, or you can get stuck never doing anything too interesting.

What’s the secret to achieving the client’s needs while still maintaining a recognizable style? 

I think you can have an overall good taste/aesthetic values throughout your work without sticking too closely to one style. Generally, I think design should fit the client’s needs, and communicate their message, not your own.

What is the best part of being a full-time artist? Are there any disadvantages?

I get paid to do my hobby on a daily basis, what could be better?!

Do you have any final advice for our readers?

Do what you love to do, trust your instincts, and go after what you want in life.

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