Before There Was Mad Men

Esquire by George Lois

“I think advertising should be like poison gas. It should grip you by the throat, it should bowl you over.” So said George Lois, the pioneering art director whose “big ideas” in the 60s cut through the smarmy sentimentalism of advertising in the previous decade, replacing it with bold, rebellious gestures, white space and an arresting, modernist design aesthetic. Though Lois was responsible for reinventing MTV, ESPN and Tommy Hilfiger, he is most famed—and rightly so—for his decade-long series of covers for Esquire beginning in 1962. These daring images, which included Muhammad Ali posing as St Sebastian and Andy Warhol drowning in a can of Campbell's soup, confronted the issues of the time with intuitive humor and immediacy, inspiring designers for decades after. George Lois: The Esquire Covers at MOMA is out from Assouline in March.

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