George Lois: The Man with the Idea

George Lois

Born in 1931, George Lois has been a staple in the graphic design community for a long, long time. In his mind, a career in the arts was never a question, "Drawing every second since I was 5 years old, led me to the High School of Music & Art."

From there he was struck by the concept of what he calls "The Big Idea". As an advertising designer, this means that the idea that he comes up with should not only stick in the minds of the viewer, but it should "sear the virtues of the product into the viewer's brain and heart".

In his 1990 ad for ESPN, he demonstrated his "Big Idea" (not for the first time) by convincing a reluctant management staff to run an "in your face" ad campaign. At the time, ESPN was known as a second rate sports cable network. Despite the opposition, Lois managed to convince them that he could get 15 of the hottest sports stars of the day to appear in their commercials...for free! He knew that the lure of appearing on TV and looking like a million bucks would make most athletes drool!

ESPN ad
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This is not to say that you have to have big names pose for all your designs. In his 1955 magazine ad for American Airlines, he couldn't get any of the Dodgers baseball players to pose for him...so he sat in front of his own camera, put on a baseball cap, and snapped a winning shot. This particular design appealed to the American public because of the rumors that the Brooklyn Dodgers would move their franchise to Los Angeles. "It’s always an eye-opener when you can tie something hot happening in the news with an advertisement," remarked Lois.

american airlines
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"The Big Idea" is somewhat of a lifelong obsession for Lois and it has served him well for his career. “When I create an image, I want people to take a step back in awe when they see it for the first time. I want them to be taken back first by the strength of the image, then by the meaning of the content. This makes people understand what’s special about a product or how exciting and interesting a magazine is.”

While he began his career as a magazine designer, he has also become a top name in the world of commercial design, working with clients such as MTV, ESPN, VH1 and Tommy Hilfiger. 

MTV
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To see more of his ad campaigns, click here to go to his website.

Lois' "Big Idea" philosophy has served him well from the beginning of and throughout his career. He would strongly advise young graphic designers to find that big idea for whatever product they are trying to promote because when you do, the result will be a sales explosion!

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