George Lois – a rare “creative” mind

George Lois is one of the most successful advertisers in the world that changed with his ideas and work the American – and not only – culture.

Born in 1931 in New York George Lois became famous for his creative ideas concerning products, services and also famous people.

From an early age showed a tendency to an extraordinary creative thinking. As a test, recalls in an interview he has once given, a teacher gave his students rectangular sheets of paper and asked them to design perfect rectangles. Everyone began to cut and design, while George Lois did nothing. When the professor began to collect the work of each one individually, he gave one of the original rectangular papers his signature. The teacher felt the move was just a “student whim” but for George Lois was much simpler: “I had already been given a perfect rectangle. I did not need to do anything else.” Example for yet minimalist and complex thinking. His work will always be based on asymmetric graphics and slogans full of humor and sarcasm.

At an early age he was ordered to serve two years in the Korean War (1950-1953). George Lois felt then that he lost two years of his life for the “stupid this war” but still used the experience in the best way. Years later this experience inspired him two of the major antiwar “projects” – covers for the magazine Esquire.

After some time in various advertising agencies George Lois opened his own firm – Paper, Koening Lois. The first account undertaken was to go down in history. There was no other than Xerox, for which he photographed one monkey using the photocopier, an indication of how easy it was to use the company’s machines.

Equally innovative was MTV’s advertising – a last effort – to revive the audience. The spot was adjacent graphic changes that would stop by the message: “If there’s not a good MTV reception near you, grab the phone and say I want my MTV». For this, George Lois called in Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones – a move which raised the even today famous music channel.

Even more clear about his work is the message passed through the next ad he designed and implemented. For the initial campaign and the acquaintance to the public with designer Tommy Hilfiger, George Lois created in 1985 a puzzle that said “4 are the great American menswear designers.” The letters R – M corresponded for Ralph Lauren, P – E for Perry Ellis, C – K for Calvin Klein. T – H corresponded for what? So somehow Tommy Hilfiger’s name began whispering everywhere in Manhattan. This is perhaps the greatest example of the philosophy behind George Lois’s creations:

“….No necessarily do we need high budget or exhaustive market research. Advertising can be successful in a simple way, clear expression and when seems challenging in consumer eyes. Advertisement is not science but art and talent … ”

Critical point to his career was the collaboration with Esquire magazine in 1962. During the negotiations he only set one term to Harold Heins, magazine editor in chief: “If you reject even one cover, our cooperation will expire irrevocably.” The 80 covers that were exclusively designed by George Lois capture the changes experienced by the American society in the 60s. The first black Santa Claus (statement for the taboo on the established white image of Christmas figure), President Nixon fixing his make-up while sitting on a chair (political comment about his sexual preferences), Muhammad Ali tied behind their backs with his body full of arrows like Saint Sebastian, the Italian actress Virna Lisi in Merylin Monroe style while saving her moustache (idea originally proposed in Merylin Monroe which her manager rejected), Andy Warhol drowning in a can of tomato soup (comment to the declining pop art era), Jack Nicolson naked in front of his pool reading a newspaper, and a simple black cover with the statement of an American soldier «Oh my God! We hit a girl!». Overall 40 of the 80 covers joined the permanent collection of modern art museum MoMA, New York.


With 10 books to his credit, advertising campaigns, logo designs, magazines and many other artistic interventions corresponded definitely deserves to be considered one of the “giants of modern advertising ‘!

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