George Lois & The Big Idea
The world of advertising has its fair share of larger than life personalities, also described by some as “over inflated egos”. George Lois is one of those larger than life personalities. He’s an old school American “Ad Man” and author who was born in 1931 in the Bronx New York to Greek parents. He is known to have been a controversial personality who helped pioneer the American creative advertising revolution and is often referred to as the father of modern Art Direction.
Don’t ever mention the hit show Mad Men in his company, suffices to say its not one of his favourites. For him advertising is about hard work, long hours and not Martini lunches. Although I’m sure he’s had the odd Martini lunch in his time. If you want to learn more about what advertising was really like in the 1960s I suggest you read Mad Mensch, a blog by Howie Cohen who shares his experiences in Advertising during the 1960s in New York.
George Lois is defined by his powerful early work and is responsible for some of the world’s best known advertising campaigns (some say advertising miracles). He catapulted the then little know designer by the name of Tommy Hilfiger to the heights of one of the world’s most recognised fashions icons over night. Those of you who remember the early days of MTV will remember his campaign “Give Me My MTV”.
George Lois is also known for his work with for Esquire Magazine and his 92 cover designs (now a part of MoMA’s permanent collection ) have been recognized as being some of the most creative and provocative magazine covers of all time. His work featured people such as Richard Nixon, Andy Warhol, and Muhammad Ali. He’s also the only individual in the entire globe who was ever accepted in The Art Directors Hall of Fame, as well as in The One Club Creative Hall of Fame.
George has never been too far from controversy with some people claiming that he has taken credit for other peoples work. In 2008 the New York Times stated that the “Think Small” Volkswagen ad campaign wasn’t created by George Lois (with some credit going to Julian Koenig). When I hear this I think of the saying “Success has many fathers while failure is an orphan”. I’m not sure where the truth lies however there’s no denying the contribution George Lois has made to the creative communications and pop culture.
In 2011 when asked how he would describe his work in three words he said:
“THE BIG IDEA: solving a specific communications problem with an audacious blend of words and images that catch people’s eyes, penetrate their minds, warm their hearts, and cause them to act.”
If you want to learn more about George Lois pick up one of the 9 books he has authored or pick up one of the many books written about him. I’d also recommend watching in Art and Copy, a documentary about the advertising industry in which he features.