Jun 30, 2021
The story of George Lois is the story of a Greek American rabble-rousing pugilist from the rough streets of The Bronx who has spent most of his life fighting against social injustice and fighting tooth and nail for his art.
The first time I heard of George Lois was while watching Art & Copy, a 2009 documentary about the advertising industry in the US. My memory was of an angry bald man who had done some legendary work in his time.
George was 88 years old when I sat down with him. He had on a black hoodie, less hacker more wizard who could probably conjure up some pretty serious black magic if you fucked with him. Be warned, George likes to curse!
George was inducted into The Art Directors Hall of Fame, The Advertising Hall of Fame, Copywriters Hall of Fame, The One Club Creative Hall of Fame, and The American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame. That’s a lot of Halls.
He’s published 11 books including best sellers, “Damn Good Advice”, “George Lois on His Creation of the Big Idea”, and “What’s the Big Idea? How to Win with Outrageous Idea” - to name a few.
I could only imagine what he was like as a young 27-year-old working alongside the great Bill Bernbach at DDB, the first creative agency in the world - as George put it. He was fearless, brash, and incredibly talented.
George is best known for the covers he created for Esquire magazine in the 1960s, arguably the best and most provocative the publisher has ever had. Many of those covers are now kept at the MOMA.
He is also known for his culture-creating advertising work. He coined the phrase, “I want my MTV” which all you Gen-Xers will appreciate. He is also famous for launching Tommy Hilfiger’s brand. The list is very long.
The original interview was more than two hours long, but I edited it down to less than one. It took far too long to complete. I would like to blame the pandemic, but instead I accuse resistance.
I sat down with George at his East Village home in February 2020 for this interview, arranged by his son Luke, an accomplished photographer, who joins us during the interview.