Question: What’s the most satisfying part of
creating a great design?
George Lois: So when you say
what excites me most in advertising here was when I took something and
made it, made it a giant part of the culture. And that was the most
thrilling, you know? Of the things I worked on and I've done a couple
of dozen like that. The Esquire covers, when I was most excited about
was, you know, was the anti-war stuff, you know? Stuff that woke up
America, helped wake up America. And woke up people to the greatness of
Mohammad Ali. Because when I did that cover of Mohammad Ali at St.
Sebastian, he was, he was, I mean, if there was a poll on it, 80% of the
country, white and black, were against him. And that cover, in and of
itself, helped change America's attitude about the war, and directly,
directly helped change Martin Luther King from saying, all of a sudden,
you know, all his, all the black leaders, that he would keep out of
talking against the Vietnam War because he didn't want to piss off
Johnson—because Johnson was a, you know, a real pioneer in helping forge
civil rights laws. But the second he came out against, defending
Muhammad Ali and against the war, he was in deep shit with Johnson.
I mean, I'm proud of a lot of things I've done that helped change the
culture. You know, I mean, that's the stuff that you really remember.
If you were a young designer starting out, what would you do today?
Lois: I say that I would do a magazine, you know, but I probably
would start an ad agency and show everybody how it's done, you know?
There was an article that I just read the other day, what's funny is you
read 30 magazines, you can't remember where you read it, you know? In
the old days if you read something in Esquire, what Esquire, one of my
covers, you remembered where you saw it, but that's beside the point.
But there was an article about the head of the third largest agency in
the world, Publicis, I guess, you know, Maurice Levy, and the questions
with answers, it goes on and on and all he talks about is technology. I
mean, he said not one fucking word talking about his ad agency that
mentions creativity. It's like, it's like it's got nothing to do, the
product's got nothing to do with what they do, you know, what they're
about. It's shocking, you know?
That's the way it used to be
with all the ad agencies, I remember, there were agencies like Ogilvy
and Mather... and after David Ogilvy died and they talked about him and
the reason they sold themselves on the fact that they were a scientific
agency in the sense that they did this great research and I told
everybody, you know, advertising isn't a science, it's an art! I mean,
science, and to this day, most people who judge advertising in the
world, certainly in America, they've all got their marketing schools and
communication schools and when they, and they've been taught that
advertising and marketing is a science, because how do you teach it's an
art? You know, I mean, what would these schools say for advertising
and marketing is an art? How do you teach that, you know?
this day, the way you show clients, most clients something and you send
in something really edgy and they'll look at it and they'll say, "Very
interesting," and they'll hand it to somebody who's sitting next to them
and they're a senior VP and say, "Very interesting, research it and
find out if I like it." People don't talk about the creativity of
something. It's astounding, in all walks of life. Starting with head
of one of these giant ad agencies, you know. But I was talking about
Ogilvy and Mather, and I remember, a woman was the head of the agency
and she went on and on and on and on and on about the way they research,
et cetera, et cetera, et cetera and it's about time, blah, blah, blah,
and not one mention of creativity. And people like Bill Bernbach, when
he did Doyle, Dane, Bernbach or people like me with Papert, Koenig,
Lois, and you know, Mary Wells with Wells, Rich, Greene, that's all we
talked about was creativity. What the fuck else is there to talk
about? That's the name of the game, it's the product, you know? It's
when you talk to a guy ... at Ford, he talks about the car. About the
product, you know?
Recorded April 5, 2010