An Interview with Mike Dempsey

Judges Interviews

Mike Dempsey has created everything from stamps for the Royal Mail, feature film title sequences for Ridley Scott, Louis Malle, Dennis Potter, David Hare and Bruce Beresford, the brand identities for English National Opera, London Chamber Orchestra and South Bank Centre to the resigning of the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Opera House.

His personal work has earned him many awards including 10 silver and the coveted gold award from British Design & Art Direction (D&AD) and in 2012 he was presented with a special Black Pencil for most awarded designer in D&AD’s 50-year history. He has acted as Design Advisor to the Department of Culture Media & Sport. He has written for Design Week, Creative Review, Blueprint, The Times, Grafik, Eye, V&A magazine and many other publications on design and related issues.

What is the single most interesting brief you have worked on during your career?

Creating the identity for the English National Opera in 1991 and the art direction of 48 Royal Mail stamps for the run up to the millennium year in 2000. Both were an absolute joy to work on.

Who has been your biggest influence?

The usual suspects, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, Rudolph de Harak, and Jan TschicholdEarlier in my life Walt Disney, DC Comics and the Odhams Encyopedia for Children, which I still have and cherish. I would also underline that it is the love and inspiration from all of the creative disciplines; film, theatre, writing, painting, architecture, photography, music and design that sets the creative spirit on fire and keeps it stoked up.

What’s the best advice you could give to a creative student?

Live a creative life. Think, breathe, look, listen and absorb all things creative, not just the discipline you have chosen. And don’t just hang out with graphic designers. Plus rule breaking is good but, understand the rules first and care about how your work is produced. Craft is increasingly sneered at but it makes a good idea a beautiful one.

What was it about this initiative that inspired you to get involved?

Design thinking is unique and can be applied to many areas of society that need help to communicate. I was impressed by Creative Conscience and their innovation to promote this important initiative.

How does your creative conscience show itself through your work?

All of my work with the Helen Bamber Foundation chimes with the ethics of Creative Conscience. I am also selective in the type of work I take on in my daily practice, preferring areas that enhance our world.