Creating Designs to Change Culture

Question:  What’s the most satisfying part of \r\ncreating a great design?

George Lois:
So when you say \r\nwhat excites me most in advertising here was when I took something and \r\nmade it, made it a giant part of the culture.  And that was the most \r\nthrilling, you know?  Of the things I worked on and I've done a couple \r\nof dozen like that.  The Esquire covers, when I was most excited about \r\nwas, you know, was the anti-war stuff, you know?  Stuff that woke up \r\nAmerica, helped wake up America.  And woke up people to the greatness of\r\n Mohammad Ali.  Because when I did that cover of Mohammad Ali at St. \r\nSebastian, he was, he was, I mean, if there was a poll on it, 80% of the\r\n country, white and black, were against him.  And that cover, in and of \r\nitself, helped change America's attitude about the war, and directly, \r\ndirectly helped change Martin Luther King from saying, all of a sudden, \r\nyou know, all his, all the black leaders, that he would keep out of \r\ntalking against the Vietnam War because he didn't want to piss off \r\nJohnson—because Johnson was a, you know, a real pioneer in helping forge\r\n civil rights laws.  But the second he came out against, defending \r\nMuhammad Ali and against the war, he was in deep shit with Johnson.

So,\r\n I mean, I'm proud of a lot of things I've done that helped change the \r\nculture.  You know, I mean, that's the stuff that you really remember.

Question:
\r\n If you were a young designer starting out, what would you do today?

George\r\n Lois: I say that I would do a magazine, you know, but I probably \r\nwould start an ad agency and show everybody how it's done, you know?  \r\nThere was an article that I just read the other day, what's funny is you\r\n read 30 magazines, you can't remember where you read it, you know?  In \r\nthe old days if you read something in Esquire, what Esquire, one of my \r\ncovers, you remembered where you saw it, but that's beside the point.  \r\nBut there was an article about the head of the third largest agency in \r\nthe world, Publicis, I guess, you know, Maurice Levy, and the questions \r\nwith answers, it goes on and on and all he talks about is technology.  I\r\n mean, he said not one fucking word talking about his ad agency that \r\nmentions creativity.  It's like, it's like it's got nothing to do, the \r\nproduct's got nothing to do with what they do, you know, what they're \r\nabout.  It's shocking, you know?

That's the way it used to be \r\nwith all the ad agencies, I remember, there were agencies like Ogilvy \r\nand Mather... and after David Ogilvy died and they talked about him and \r\nthe reason they sold themselves on the fact that they were a scientific \r\nagency in the sense that they did this great research and I told \r\neverybody, you know, advertising isn't a science, it's an art!  I mean, \r\nscience, and to this day, most people who judge advertising in the \r\nworld, certainly in America, they've all got their marketing schools and\r\n communication schools and when they, and they've been taught that \r\nadvertising and marketing is a science, because how do you teach it's an\r\n art?  You know, I mean, what would these schools say for advertising \r\nand marketing is an art?  How do you teach that, you know?

So, to\r\n this day, the way you show clients, most clients something and you send\r\n in something really edgy and they'll look at it and they'll say, "Very \r\ninteresting," and they'll hand it to somebody who's sitting next to them\r\n and they're a senior VP and say, "Very interesting, research it and \r\nfind out if I like it."  People don't talk about the creativity of \r\nsomething.  It's astounding, in all walks of life.  Starting with head \r\nof one of these giant ad agencies, you know.  But I was talking about \r\nOgilvy and Mather, and I remember, a woman was the head of the agency \r\nand she went on and on and on and on and on about the way they research,\r\n et cetera, et cetera, et cetera and it's about time, blah, blah, blah, \r\nand not one mention of creativity.  And people like Bill Bernbach, when \r\nhe did Doyle, Dane, Bernbach or people like me with Papert, Koenig, \r\nLois, and you know, Mary Wells with Wells, Rich, Greene,  that's all we \r\ntalked about was creativity.  What the fuck else is there to talk \r\nabout?  That's the name of the game, it's the product, you know?  It's \r\nwhen you talk to a guy ... at Ford, he talks about the car.  About the \r\nproduct, you know?
\r\n
\r\nRecorded April 5, 2010
 

The most thrilling thing as a designer is making something that becomes a cultural phenomenon and impacts people.

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