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What's the "Big Idea?"

Question: What is your concept of "The Big Idea?"

George\r\n Lois:
Well, you know, to oversimplify, the "big idea" is a concept \r\nthat takes the unique selling... the unique virtues of a product and \r\nsearing it into somebody's, into people's minds that somehow forces a \r\nextraordinary sales increase in whatever you're talking about.  But, you\r\n know, and I always talk about the big idea, I'm kind of called the Mr. \r\nBig Idea.  You know, but what I'm really talking about is true \r\ncreativity.  And I say creativity, you know, can solve almost any \r\nproblem. The creative act, you know, the defeat of habit by originality \r\ncan overcome everything.

But at the same time that I talk about \r\nthe creative act, I really tell people who are trying to do creative \r\nwork that creativity isn't really a creative act, it's an act of \r\ndiscovery.  And they look at you like, "Huh?"  You know?  And I did a \r\nbook called "George Lois on His Creation of the Big Idea," you know, \r\nwhere I show 100 things I did on the right-hand page and on the \r\nleft-hand page, before I show something in my DNA, something in my \r\nunderstanding of 7,000 of art, something in my understanding of movies, \r\nof ballet, of sports, of humor, of dirty jokes, whatever it is, \r\nsomething in there that inspired what I did.  And I tell the young \r\npeople especially, you know, that that background, of high art and pop \r\nart and intellectual background of understanding the world around you, \r\nand especially, you know, the 7,000 years of art, is essential to doing \r\ncreative work, and that once you have that understanding, you know, and \r\nthat ethos of trying to understand everything, when you have any kind of\r\n a problem, if you then look at the problem and look at the competitor, \r\nand et cetera, and get your basic information... once you really \r\nunderstand the problem, the answer is, the answer it there.  It's like \r\nfloating by and all you got to do is grab it.  It really isn't an act of\r\n creativity, it's an act of discovery.  I sound very mystical talking \r\nabout it, but I absolutely, that's absolutely what creativity is to me. \r\n If I learn all that there is to learn about something and I know I'm \r\nready to come up with an answer, it's there.  And it's not a bolt of \r\nlightening, what it is, is coming out of your own, out of your own \r\nsensibilities and your own understanding of the world.

Question:
 \r\n Is it a methodical process or is it organic?

George Lois:\r\n The method is to be interested in everything and the organic part of it\r\n is a passion for everything around you, the passion for, you know.  I \r\nmean, you know, I, when I teach a class at the School of Visual Arts as a\r\n favor to somebody, and I'll say to a class of 25, once the, once, "Have\r\n any of you been to the Museum of, Metropolitan Museum of Art this \r\nyear?"  Okay.  "Have any of you been to MOMA this year?"  One hand.  \r\n"Have any of you never been to the Museum of Modern Art?"  You know, \r\nfive people, eight people, you know.  I'm astounded, you know, I'm just \r\ntruly astounded, you know.  Talking to design students and people who \r\nare supposed to be communicators, you don't, so, you know, that total, \r\nthat's why when people say today, how, they say, when is the second \r\ncreative revolution going to come?  I said, "No."  I said, "I mean, you \r\ngot the Internet and you got Google and you got all the information at \r\nyour fingertips and they don't know shit, nobody knows shit."  You know?\r\n

Question:
  What’s the worst design advice you’ve ever\r\n heard?

George Lois: One of the great books in \r\nadvertising, "The Confessions of an Ad Man," you know, by David Ogilvy. \r\nEvery word in there is the wrong, absolutely wrong.  Every wrong.  And \r\nwhen I was working at Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1959, I got conned by his \r\ncopy chief into coming to see Ogilvy and I, you know, I said, "Well, \r\nyou're talking to the wrong guy," and they begged me to come and I went \r\nand Ogilvy is trying to hire me as their head art director, you know.  I\r\n think at one point I said I'd be the head art director if I could \r\nbecome the creative chief.  He was the creative chief, you know.  If I \r\nwas the creative chief, I could do great advertising here.  You know, \r\nbut, and I told him, "Mr. Ogilvy, I don't know why you're trying to hire\r\n me, because I don't understand one word, I don't believe, I don't agree\r\n with one word in your book."  I mean, he had, you know, he had the \r\nrules of this and your logo's got to be here, and he's got, I mean, he's\r\n got rules.  There are no rules in advertising, it's impossible, you \r\nknow?  I mean, the only rule in advertising is there are no rules, you \r\nknow?

Question:  What’s the best design advice you’ve \r\never heard?

George Lois:  The best?  What I'm saying \r\nto you now.

Recorded April 5, 2010

Inspiration isn't a bolt of lightening—it comes out of your own sensibilities and understanding of the world.

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