George Lois: Inspiration abounds! Film, literature, sports, music, theater – inspiration is everywhere in sight. But more basically, 7,000 years of the history of art is the DNA of creativity, and every Sunday, I still go, religiously, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“The Passion of Muhammad Ali” – Esquire cover 1968
“The Face of a Hero” – Esquire cover 1965
Who has been your biggest influence?
George Lois: No actual work or designer has been a big influence on my work, but Paul Rand influenced me greatly when I was a student at the High School of Music & Art – not so much his work but the fact that when he was in his early 30’s, he was a great success creating ads, logotypes, book covers, etc., working on his own, with no need of a copywriter, producing exciting work, not compromising his talent, and making a living being a designer and living a fruitful life. His attitude and ethos has been the driving force of my life and I stand on his shoulders.
“Why can’t a woman be more like a man” – Esquire cover 1965
“Andy Warhole drowns in his own soup” – Esquire cover 1969
Are there works by someone else you would like to have done?
George Lois: Of course not. To me, that’s like asking DaVinci if he wished he painted the Sistine Chapel. It’s an insulting question to any great artist. (Although Picasso and Matisse did keep a envious and watchful eye on each other.)
“The great 4 american designers for men are” – Tommy Hilfiger 1985
The birth of an ugly celebrity spokesperson: The Nauga – 1976
When and how did you realize that you wanted to be a designer?
George Lois: I knew I would be an artist before I was a teenager – and I knew specifically I would be a communicative designer when I was 14.
“I want my MTV” – 1982
If you were to do something else, what would that be?
George Lois: I live in the best of all worlds. I do print ads, TV commercials, branding and logotypes, corporate design programs, sales films, editorial design, magazine covers, designing interiors, etc. I don’t feel I ever missed anything in life. (Of course, I wish I could have played in the NBA.)
“I want my MTV” – 1982
Are there certain moods or surroundings which facilitate your best creative work?
George Lois: I’ve always designed my surroundings in 40 years of owning my own agencies, but if I had to I could create Big Ideas standing in a crowded subway car in Manhattan.
“Jack Nicholson is right!” – Esquire cover 1972
“Dustin Hoffman grows up!” – Esquire cover 1970
Is creativity something you are born with? Or is it a case of saying “I want to be creative” and then working hard at it?
George Lois: I guess I was born with it. I was drawing (and drawing well) when I was 6 years old. Drawing, drawing, is the seed of all creativity. As far as working hard, a fierce work ethic is essential to being great at any job. My work ethic came from an immigrant Greek father and mother, and being raised in the dark days of the depression. if you didn’t work 24/7, you didn’t eat.
New York Post – 1988
Do you have anything exciting in the pipeline that you can talk about?
George Lois: I’m working on a half dozen branding and advertising campaigns for new, entrepreneurial products. And in Spring 2012, Phaidon will publish my latest book, DAMN GOOD ADVICE (FOR PEOPLE WITH TALENT) – an all-out, no-nonsense teaching book for young talent in any creative field.
N.Y. Bets – 1975
What is the best advice you have ever received? What advice would you like to pass on to upcoming talents?
George Lois: The great anti-advice is my anti-slogan, GEORGE, BE CAREFUL. When I was six-months old, on a dark and stormy night (I remember it well) I looked up from my crib, God commanded: “George, be careful.” My earliest childhood recollections were punctuated by three words (in Greek) from the lips of my immigrant mother, Vasilike Thanasoulis Lois: “George, be careful.” They have been a refrain throughout my life–a sincere admonition from the lips of people who have always meant well but never fathomed my attitude towards life and work. In the art of advertising, being careful guarantees sameness and mediocrity, which means your work will be invisible. Better to be reckless than careful. Better to be bold than safe. Better to have your work seen and remembered. Your work must be seen and remembered or you’ve struck out. There is no middle ground.
Reebok “pump up and air out” – 1990
Thank you George Lois for doing the interview and for being George Lois.
Visit GeorgeLois.com / Buy George Lois’ books on Amazon.com
Thanks to theselby.com for letting me use his photo of George Lois