Dave McCourt thinks some thoughts...

Inspiration times ten

Posted in: Design, Me

Some time ago a student interviewed me by phone for my views on ethics and graphic design. As part of this, she also asked me what ten things/objects/whatever inspired me. So I thought I would list them here:

Inscription on Ardura

A Cardozo-Kindersley Studio inscription atop a hill on the Isle of Mull

I first came across this in Cardozo-Kindersley Studio’s Letters for the Millennium (bought at the Millennium Dome no less), where it is shown on the last page. There is no description of what it is except that it is on the mountain of Ardura. It took some time to find where Ardura is as this was in the olden days before Google Maps. Holly and I visited an exhibition of David Kindersley’s work in Cambridge and fortuitously bumped into the inscription’s cutter, Lida Cardozo-Kindersley. So we asked her all about it and decided to go on holiday to Mull to find it. Once we‘d located it, it was an hour’s climb to the obelisk, a feat made even more special as Holly was six months pregnant with Z. Set atop the mountain with nothing around for many miles except breath-taking scenery, it is truly a wonderful piece of work, amplified by its incredible and mysterious setting. It turns out it was the idea of a local land-owning family who wanted to mark the millennium the millennium in some way. Brilliantly inspiring all round.

László Moholy Nagy

Avant Garde painter, photographer, modernist, (massively influencial) graphic and industrial designer, editor, professor, sculptor. I always admire people who are talented but to be talented across a range of disciplines is truly amazing.

Eric Gill

Speaking of polymaths, next up is Eric Gill. Gill was an oddbod and a genius. Not only did he design some of the best typefaces of the 20th century but his sculpture was truly sublime. Oh and his print-making was fantastic as well. He would probably be locked up if he were alive today though. He was a naughty boy.


I am a part-time Apple evangelist and full-time Apple fanboy. Apple have been part of my personal, student and business life for a long time. They have made my life easier and enabled me to do things that would have otherwise have been possible but also more difficult and certainly less enjoyable. Apple are the ultimate designer company – they make things that are highly usable and highly desirable and therefore a pleasure to use – they set the bar very high and that’s how it should be. We should inspire.


I find Stockholm and Sweden in general a truly inspirational place. Beautiful, relaxed, ordered, progressive. The Stockholm archipelago consisting of approximately 24,000 islands is one of the most serene places I’ve ever been (I’ve got fond memories of Gällnö in particular).

Brunelleschi’s Pazzi chapel, Florence

The Pazzi chapel, next to Santa Croce in Florence is one of my favourite buildings. It is an example of extreme simplicity of design: it is essentially a cube with a sphere dropped on top. As with all of Brunelleschi’s buildings its symmetry and rhythm are magnificent.

My children

My two kiddywinks keep me on my toes. I love their innocence, their unfettered view of the world and how they can see things that I can’t. As a designer it is vital to be able to see something in nothing and they are helping me to learn how to see the hidden again.

The smell of blossom

This has always made me feel great. I think the olfaction memory connection is amazing (how smells evoke memories) and blossom reminds me of being a carefree child. Stumbling across the smell of blossom and the things it reminds me of never fails to put me in a good mood.

Anything that makes me look or think twice

Cleverness is quite amazing. I’m thoroughly inspired and usually a bit deflated to see excellence in others. These WWF campaign materials are a fantastic example.


Rome is clearly an inspirational place: breath-taking building after breath-taking building around every corner. What I especially like is that Rome reminds us human cleverness and ingenuity are nothing new and that good ideas are long lasting.