Meet the Maker: Jenny Dempsey, Book Designer

Posted 03.06.22

Meet the Maker: Jenny Dempsey, Book Designer

Jenny Dempsey is a book designer and member of Cork Craft & Design. Her work is a graphic designer’s response to years of collecting social history. She is conscious that, as an Irish woman alive today, she has autonomy and choice, and finds it fascinating to go back in time to trace the story of how these choices were achieved. Jenny is captivated by the romance of the Regency, and the grandeur of the Georgians, and creates a series of joyful and gently-witty illustrated guides where you can discover the real story of Irish women from the past. Discover her work and pick a perfect gift at

What's a typical day in the studio like for you?
A typical day involves wrestling with large quantities of facts, corralling them into narrative subgroups, seeing the patterns which link them and creating stories around them. I tend to work on large sheets of paper, sketching ideas as they come. Thinking with a pencil is so much more productive than just using the mind alone. Once I have a direction, I create illustrations using the Adobe Creative Suite. My work includes lots of surface pattern, and I use both found patterns and create my own.

What do you like most about your work?
My work entails channelling both Miss Marple and Marie Condo. I love discovering new facts and nothing beats the thrill of discovering an ingenious visual solution to communicate a concept. I also love the refining and tweaking of a layout until it becomes harmonious.

What do you like least about your work?  
I dislike the middle part of a project. The beginning of a project is filled with joyous hope. When I actually get down to working with text and layout, it takes time to get it right. I get frustrated and tired and worried I will not succeed. Perseverance and trust are needed.

What's your favourite craft item in your home?
A roll of wallpaper by Sandrine Chambery which I have pasted on a large wooden board. The wallpaper features a stylish ostrich dressed in period costume.

What other maker in your discipline do you most look up to?
Coralie Bickford-Smith

What advice would you give someone who is considering this craft career?
When I was younger I used to get incredibly jealous when I saw a great piece of visual communication by someone else. Jealous to the point of a pain in my stomach, I wanted to be the best designer. Over the years, I have learnt to be more open and accepting of my place and that of others. I see that there is room for lots and lots of brilliant designers. The more people creating beauty the better a place the world is, we are not in competition. We are all working towards a common goal; creating little bursts of joy.

What's your favourite time of the day?
It varies but generally I am a morning person, I love a new start.

How do you switch off?
I'm still learning this one!

How do you start your day?

What's the first thing you do when you leave the studio?
I may be always in the studio. My main work area is an antique table in the centre of the house surrounded by bookshelves but my laptop is always with me. I work on the couch by the fire, I work in bed, I work in my hotel room when I am away on research trips.

Favourite book?
Bob & Co by Delphine Durand

Favourite film?
The Kings Speech

Best concert you have ever been to?
I don't do concerts

Favourite meal?
Anything Indian

Music when you're working?

What do you listen to?
Talk radio

< back