George Lois, the Greek-American designer and advertising guru known for over 92 covers he designed for Esquire magazine, died at ninety-one years old.
Lois’ son, the photographer Luke Lois, said he died “peacefully” Friday at his home in Manhattan.
Born in New York City on June 26, 1931, the son of Greek immigrants, Lois attended The High School of Music & Art and received a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University although he chose to attend Pratt Institute.
After the Korean War, Lois went to work for the advertising and promotions department at CBS, where he designed print and media projects. In 1959, he was hired by the advertising agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach.
A year later, Lois was recruited by Fred Papert and Julian Koenig to form Papert Koenig Lois in 1960. PKL, as it was known, was also the first advertising agency ever to go public.
In 1968, Lois obtained the coveted Braniff International Airways account. There, he formulated the revolutionary “When You Got It, Flaunt It” campaign for the airline that resulted in an eighty percent increase in business as a result of the new advertising.
Lois incorporated a series of memorable and unique television commercials that paired unlikely celebrities, such as Andy Warhol and Sonny Liston sitting on Braniff aircraft seats discussing unique and unlikely subjects.
George Lois created recognizable ad campaigns
Throughout his lucrative career in advertising, Lois has worked on some of the most recognizable ad campaigns, such as MTV’s “I Want My MTV” campaign and the launching of the Tommy Hilfiger brand. He also created ninety-two Esquire covers.
Of the Esquire covers, eighty were exclusively designed by Lois and are said to capture the changes in U.S. society in the ’60s.
Some of his most iconic are of Andy Warhol drowning in a can of tomato soup as a commentary to the declining pop art era. Another is with Muhammad Ali’s hands tied behind his back and his body full of arrows like Saint Sebastian.
Overall, forty of the ninety-two covers have joined the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
“I have never regarded myself as a designer,” he told an audience in Thessaloniki in 2014. “I am a graphic communicator because I create big ideas and not designs.”