Jessica Walsh

This week will see the second edition of the inspirational YAY Festival in Stockholm. We caught up with one of the headlines, bright young design talent Jessica Walsh to talk about new challenges, 40 Days of Dating, and expression through design.

According to Jessica Walsh, her extreme passion for design in combination with her persistence and work ethics has opened a lot of doors for her. Four years ago, she stepped into the world of Sagmeister & Walsh as partner to the famous designer Stefan Sagmeister.

Turning back time a couple of years, it all began when Jessica, eleven years old, taught herself to create websites and graphics. Since then, her interest in digital design has just kept growing. Especially during her years at Rhode Island School of Design.

– The first year of RISD there is a large focus on working with your hands and in fine arts, Jessica says. It was a big shock coming from a digital and web background, as I was glued to my computer, but I ended up loving the change and the challenge. It was refreshing to get off the computer and work with my hands. I loved experimenting with new mediums like photography, painting, and woodworking.

During her sophomore year at college, Jessica learned to combine all these skills, something that still has an impact on her daily work.

Do you have any particular dreams, goals, or projects ahead?
– To keep finding challenges. To continue to learn and grow as a designer and human. To do good work that touches people in some way.

To grow as a designer and human.
To do good work that touches
people in some way.

One of Jessica’s most acknowledged projects is 40 Days of Dating, a social experiment made in collaboration with her close friend Timothy Goodman. The project attracted a lot of media attention and influenced both her own life and the lives of others. She explains it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, since both of them were on the same page at the same time.

– We had opposite relationship problems: he couldn’t commit to a girl, and I was investing too much in relationships that kept failing. We found ourselves single at the same time and decided to date each other for forty days and journal about it as a way to better understand ourselves and work through our fears and insecurities about relationships together.

What did you end up learning?
– I learned an incredible amount about myself through the therapy. Recording separate journal entries and comparing them afterwards was enlightening. It’s amazing how two people can experience the same situation or conversation completely differently. It made me realize I should stop overanalyzing things so much.

In addition to all the media publicity, Walsh is also making her way onto the big screen, as Warner Brothers recently acquired the screen rights to 40 Days of Dating. Something that will give even more people the opportunity to take inspiration from the project. For some it might even become a wake-up call. Since the launch in July, the 40 Days of Dating website has caught the attention of more than four million readers worldwide, and Jessica has received thousands of emails from people sharing their stories and insights.

– Some told us the project inspired them to improve their own relationships, helped them move past their ex’s, or encouraged them to finally seek therapy. Some said it gave them the courage to date the friend they’ve always been curious about, or gave them solace that they weren’t the only ones struggling in dating.

For Jessica, it’s important to find a way to express herself through design. She tells us that graphic designers usually tend to stay in the shades, not allowing influences from their own life into their work.

– Designers have the skills and tools to communicate with a wide audience. I personally am most attracted to work that has a personal angle, and clearly comes from someones heart. To me, content creation and expression through design is just as (if not more) important to me than designing other peoples content.

At the inspirational YAY Festival in Stockholm this weekend, Jessica will talk about her story, and promises to also show “a bunch of naked photos”. Jessica on her part is looking forward to be surprised by both the festival and Sweden.

This year’s YAY Festival will take place in Stockholm on December 7, and other than Jessica Walsh, the day will see talks by James Victore, Maddox, Emma Stenström, and Lotta Lundgren, accompanied by DJs and live shows. Read more about the event here.

Find out more about 40 Days of Dating here