CDT Design’s founding partner Mike Dempsey is to leave the consultancy at the end of this year, after almost three decades heading up the group. Dempsey, who founded the consultancy in 1979, is to ‘relinquish all responsibilities’ and legal ties, leaving managing creative partner Neil Walker, who has been with CDT for 23 years, to run the business with finance director Jason Zymelka.
Zymelka says the group has had a strong year, though he declines to reveal CDT’s latest financial data, despite industry rumours that it has been in financial difficulty. ‘We’re incredibly strong at the moment. We have a fiveyear vision and are now in our third year. We’ve exceeded this year’s target,’ he says. Walker becomes the majority shareholder in CDT, with Zymelka alongside as partner. Both are in the throes of working out a structure and suitable candidates for the future management team, as well as recruiting additional staff for the 16-strong team.
Dempsey says that his exit from the business should not come as a surprise. ‘I haven’t actually been working full-time at CDT since the start of the new millennium,’ he points out. ‘This is really to free myself up enough to be able to make my own decisions about which projects I want to work on, rather than being tied to a company,’ he adds.
Dempsey’s personal projects – including his work with the Royal Designers for Industry and third sector organisations such as the Helen Bamber Foundation – will fill his time. Under Studio Dempsey, the graphic designer is hoping to foster collaborations on interdisciplinary projects, and intends to devote more time to writing about design.
‘There’s no grand plan but being part of the RDI [podcast interview series] has meant that I’ve been finding connections with designers from lots of other disciplines. It means that I have a much broader canvas. I’d also like to write a book at some point,’ he adds. He will work out existing CDT contracts for a handful of publishing clients, as well as Royal Mail.
Over the past 28 years, CDT under Dempsey has helped shape the careers of graphic designers such as Fernando Gutiérrez, Rose Design’s Simon Elliott and Atelier Works’ Ian Chilvers.
‘I recently went to a book launch where I bumped into three assistants that I’d worked with over three different decades. I like to think that I’ve inspired younger designers who’ve gone off and done their own thing.
‘Design is about lifting the spirit, creating something better. It’s not that side of the business that’s crass and awful. There’s got to be integrity,’ says Dempsey.
CDT DESIGN’S FIGURES FOR 2006
Gross profit: £1.2m
Operating loss: £86 300
Source: Companies House