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George Lois – A Real Mad Man

I recently came across an article on NPR about an ad agency wiz who would give Don Draper a run for his money. So brilliant, he said really deep things, like this: “The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything”.

Chemist? Poet? Televangelist? Nope. That was a quote by George Lois, and much like Gutenberg and his printing press (and good hygiene) brought Europe out of the Dark Ages, Lois led his own renaissance in the advertising world.

Lois really seemed to come into his element in the 50s when he worked at the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency  . If you think about it, this was a time of enormous change. The suburbs were just becoming a “thing” and convenience and efficiency were practically the nation’s new motto. This era gave birth to the TV dinner, fast food, and faster cars, all of which needed to be pitched to the American public in a new and inventive way. Naturally then, all this evolution acted as a catalyst in the ad and design world as well, with George Lois at the forefront.

Lois said that, “…every idea should seemingly be outrageous.” Know what’s really outrageous? Asking people about a product that doesn’t even exist. But ask he did. At that point in time, Aunt Jemima only manufactured pancake mixes. What is Aunt Jemima known for today? Syrup. Who is responsible? George Lois. He created a survey asking consumers what kind of syrup they bought, with “Aunt Jemima Syrup” being an option. 90 percent of the people surveyed chose that option. An option that wasn’t even real. Of course soon after Lois made sure to make that option a reality.

I really think Lois was so successful at what he did, because he truly understood the power of the creative mind, as well as the amazing potential that was possible when that creativity was combined with ingenuity and the demands of the public. It was this flexibility and response to public desire that basically dreamed up a product.

In this day and age, with so much literally at our fingertips, I think we have to remember one thing. Design isn’t about helping advertisers trick someone into buying a product. And it’s not about how visually insane things can become. Just because we now have the technology to cause visual seizures doesn’t mean we should. Technological sophistication does not equal a brilliant ad. Look at George Lois. He worked in a time when computers were basically non-existent.

He really only had what is still the foundation of a good ad design today; a good slogan to go with an inventive image, marketing something people actually wanted. While there is no doubt that technology has helped speed the processes of design and allowed us more possibilities, the vital piece of the puzzle is, and always was, creative innovation.

For more information check out the article here!

http://www.npr.org/2012/03/19/148764719/damn-good-advice-from-one-of-the-real-mad-men