Remembering George Lois: “I was always making a point.”

Remembering George Lois: “I was always making a point.”

Have you ever read Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon?

If you haven’t, you should. The book is about the creative process and where ideas come from—and how to generate your own. It gives great examples of how different creative people find ideas and build off of them in their own way.

It also talks about mentors: how you can learn a lot from people, both living and dead, without ever meeting them, just by studying their work and learning about them.

Another classic book, Think and Grow Rich, talks about having your own imaginary Board of Directors made up of people you admire—and letting them guide you.

One of my mentors, or board members, is a man I’ve never met: George Lois.

George Lois was an eminent American graphic designer, art director and author. He is most known for the covers he designed for Esquire magazine during the 1960s and 70s. The Museum of Modern Art even celebrated Lois’ work with an exhibit showcasing 32 of his most eye-catching, provocative covers.

Mr. Lois passed away in November, and after years of being inspired by him and his work, I wanted to share one of things he’s taught me.

See, over the years I’ve accumulated a mental library of inspirational YouTube videos. These are my secret weapon when I’m stuck creatively and need inspiration or guidance.

And I’m sure as heck not going to share them with you.

But if you’ve ever worked at Atomicdust, you’ve probably been dragged into my office at one point to watch one of the videos—including George Lois’ “Poison Gas” clip from the film Art & Copy.

Here’s the clip:

It’s defiant. It’s rebellious. It makes you feel like a hero and the enemy. It shakes you up in under a minute. It reminds you that you can either do mediocre, safe work or you can shake up the world. Ideas are as big as you choose to see them. It’s always your choice.

Many thanks and much respect to Mr. Lois. He will always be on our Board of Directors.

I’ll leave you with one more of his quotes:

“If you’re a creative person, you can be careful, or you can be creative—but you can’t be a cautious creative. If you’re a cautious creative you’re a bum.”


Photo via Knoll

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Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

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