The legendary George Lois is one of the most creative, prolific advertising communicators of our time. Recently he spoke at the Head, Heart, Hand conference in Minneapolis. The image below links to the AIGA website where his 30 minute talk is being shown along with 7 other presentations from the conference. The whole video is great, but where it gets really good is when Lois sits down and has a one on one conversation with one of the hosts. Lois is feisty, and his large personality shows why he has been so successful over the last 50 years. That’s right, his career dates to the 1960’s.
Design Friday, George Lois.
Everyone is probably familiar with George Lois work, even non designers. Lois is best known for more than 92 covers he created for Esquire magazine between 1962 and 1972. Those covers offered a controversial statement on life in the 1960s and 1970’s and had a direct impact on magazine design at the time. His cover subjects included Norman Mailer, Muhammad Ali, Andy Warhol, Germaine Greer, and Richard Nixon, and a host of others.
Born in New York City in 1931, Lois was raised in the Bronx. His arts career can be traced back to its beginnings when he attended the High School of Music and Art, in New York and then the prestigious Pratt Institute. After Graduation Lois had a brief stent with Reba Sochis before being drafted into the army for the Korean war in 1953.
In 1955 after his discharge from the army, ent to work for the advertising and promotions department at CBS where he designed print and media projects where he worked until being hired by the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1959. One year later Lois was recruited away from DDB by Fred Papert and Julian Koenig to form Papert, Koenig Advertising. Lois spent seven years at the firm before leaving to form his own company. “Lois”.
As Lois formed and began o take on clients, he developed what he called “The Big Idea”. Some of his more well-known contributions to the advertising world have been; creating the concept and prototype designs for the “New York” magazine supplement for the New YorkHerald Tribune (forerunner of what became New York magazine). Lois also created the legendary “I Want My MTV” campaign in the late 1980’s and he helped create and introduce MTV’s spin-off channel VH1. Lois was responsible for the re branding of renamed Stouffer’s frozen foods products to Lean Cuisine. He developed marketing and messaging for Jiffy Lube stations. He created the initial advertising campaign to raise awareness of designer Tommy Hilfiger.
Other clients include: Xerox, Aunt Jemima, USA Today, ESPN and four re-election campaigns for U.S. Senators: Jacob Javits, Warren Magnuson, Minority Leader Hugh Scott, Robert Kennedy. In addition to print and advertising, Lois also has created music videos and broadcast design. His one music video, “Jokerman” by Bob Dylan, won the MTV Best Music Video of the Year Award in 1983.
A point of note, George Lois is the only person in the world that has been inducted into The Art Directors Hall of Fame, The One Club Creative Hall of Fame, and holds Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Society of Publication Designers, as well as a subject of the Master Series at the School of Visual Arts.
Not that it really matters since his contributions have still so great, but it should be noted. George Lois has been accused of stealing credit for others’ ideas and for exaggerating his participation on certain campaigns and designs. The June 19, 2009 episode of “This American Life” Ira Glass featured a segment in which several of Lois’ former associates claimed he took credit for ad campaigns, ad copy and Esquire covers that were partially or wholly the work of others. The program contained interviews from Carl Fisher (the Esquire photographer who shot the famous Sonny Liston cover claimed by Lois) and two of Lois’ former partners, Julian Koenig and Fred Papert.
On May 18, 2008, the New York Times published a correction of an April 27, 2008 review of a George Lois art exhibit. In the correction, the Times stated that the “Think Small” Volkswagen ad campaign and the “I Want My Maypo” campaign were not created by George Lois. The correction identified Julian Koenig and Helmut Krone as the creators of the VW ad campaign, and John and Faith Hubley as the creators of the Maypo campaign, contradicting Lois’ published claims of credit for these ad campaigns.