Stefan Sagmeister’s eponymous New York design studio has been renamed Sagmeister & Walsh with the addition of Jessica Walsh as a partner. A fact revealed in typical Sagmeister style with a naked portrait of the new team
Sagmeister Inc announced today (May 31) that it will henceforth be known as Sagmeister & Walsh with multidisciplinary designer Jessica Walsh (who had already been working at the studio) becoming a partner in the firm. To note the change, the studio sent out an email with the following image (shown above is a still from a video of the shoot) and the line “We will do anything for design”.
UPDATE: Some thoughts on the perils of getting naked with Sagmeister
Sagmeister says “In the two and a half years she has been here Jessica has really shown she can do the entire thing – from ideas to execution to being responsible for the studio. [Making her a partner] just seemed the right thing to do. She’s only 24 but she is an exceptional person.”
“The hope is that both if us will be involved in everything with perhaps me more involved in the self-generated projects and Jessica more in client-based work,” Sagmeister says, although he insists that he has no plans to move away from client-based work entirely: “I have no desire to wander off and become an artist. I am very happy to be in the world of design,” he says. Sagmeister will oversee larger corporate projects in a creative director role with Walsh managing the studio.
The work of Sagmeister Inc has always had such a strong personal tone of voice, how will Walsh’s status as equal partner influence the work itself? “That is yet to be seen,” Sagmeister says. “Sometimes in the past two years the credit for work went to me because my name is on the studio but on things like EDP or Levi’s Jessica’s contribution was gigantic.”
For her part, Walsh says “I don’t think the work will change too much. Stefan has always been very open to ideas from anyone in the studio. It has never been all about him and his ego as it is in some design studios, all he is interested in is in what’s best for the client.”
The organisational change came about, Walsh says, as a result of a series of conversations between herself and Sagmeister about both his and her future plans. As Sagmeister says “I’m very aware that somebody who is young and ambitious normally can only stay at the studio for a couple of years because the studio is small and there is no way for them to move up.” Making Walsh partner was a way of allowing her to take on a more senior role.
So what will happen next time Sagmeister takes one of his famous sabbaticals? “We haven’t really discussed that,” Walsh says, laughing. “He was away for about three months last time and I ran the studio so I guess we will do something similar. Wherever he is, we always manage to keep in contact.”
But how to announce the news? When Sagmeister first opened his studio 19 years ago he sent out the above card – the natural thing seemed to do an updated version. How did Sagmeister feel about the idea of them both being naked, after all, it’s one thing for a 50 year-old man to do it, quite another for a young woman to go naked in such a public way.
“I was sheepish about it,” Sagmeister says. “I suggested we could do it with her dressed really conservatively but she said why can’t I be naked?” Walsh confirms that having them both naked was her idea: “I said ‘why am I the conservative one?”
The shoot was, she has, a little nervewracking at first, as was waiting to see the reaction once the card was sent out. “I definitely was a little nervous today,” she says, “about what kind of comments we would get and what people would think me being naked implied.” So far she says, though, reaction has been largely positive. Even her mother, who was initially not very happy about the idea, “called to say she was happy for me. She thinks I’m in the art world and that we do weird things some times.”
Sagmeister says that when he made the original card, his girlfriend at the time told him he would lose the only client he had because of it. “Later I went to the client’s private offfice and saw the card pinned up on the wall with something like ‘the biggest risk of all is taking no risk’ written alongside it so I felt vindicated in doing it.”
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