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A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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What's the Big Idea, George Lois?

April 30, 2010, 12:01 AM
Magazine covers are "a wasteland of creativity" these days. Or so says legendary advertising and design guru George Lois. "Go to a newsstand today, there's not a memorable—forget about something being culturally, being a culture-buster—there's nothing there that you can possibly remember. ... They're all the same cover." says Lois. In his Big Think interview, Lois asserts that today's magazine designers aren't ambitious enough, and aren't going after "big ideas" that will shock the public.

To make a memorable design, you need "true creativity", Lois says. You need a concept that takes the unique virtues of a product and sears your message into people's minds. "Creativity, you know, can solve almost any problem," he asserts. "The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, can overcome everything."

The problem with today's magazines is one of mission, says Lois. Rather than setting the tone for the culture, too many magazines try to follow it. "You don’t create a magazine for your readers," he says. "You don’t take a poll, you know, like the politicians do, and find out what they’re thinking and what they want.  ... You’re supposed to be telling people what the hell you think is exciting and dynamic and thought-provoking and do it, and do it your way."

Lois also says he hates the popular AMC show "Mad Men" because it doesn't accurately depict Madison Avenue in the '60s, which he calls "the most heroic age in media communications since the twelve apostles." This was the era when Lois produced the 92 eye-popping covers for Esquire magazine that, along with the phrase "I want my MTV," remain his best-known accomplishments. Lois says that running those covers "took balls" on the part of magazine's editor, Harold Hayes, who would receive angry letters from congressmen—and sometimes death threats—in response.

What's the Big Idea, George...

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