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George Lois Esquire covers 1968

Page history last edited by Michelle Russell 11 years, 8 months ago

From 1962 to 1972, George Lois changed the face of magazine design with his ninety-two covers for Esquire magazine. He stripped the cover down to a graphically concise yet conceptually potent image that ventured beyond the mere illustration of a feature article. Lois exploited the communicative power of the mass-circulated front page to stimulate and provoke the public into debate, pressing Americans to confront controversial issues like racism, feminism, and the Vietnam War. Viewed as a collection, the covers serve as a visual timeline and a window onto the turbulent events of the 1960s. Initially received as jarring and prescient statements of their time, the covers have since become essential to the iconography of American culture.[1] 

 

Influences

 

General 

  

1960s

 

During the late 1960s American graphic design slowly started to become a national profession. New photographic typesetting and printing technology permitted excellent work to be produced in smaller cities. In 1960, most display typography was the hand-set, metal type of Gutenberg’s day, but this five-hundred-year-old craft was being rendered obsolete by phototype. By the end of the decade, metal type was virtually a thing of the past.[2]

 

Time magazine would view 1968 as the year that severed past from future.[3] It was a year of seismic social and political change across the globe. From the burgeoning anti-Vietnam war and civil rights movements in the United States, protests and revolutions in Europe and the first comprehensive coverage of war and resultant famine in Africa.[4] 

 

1968 wasn't just a tumultuous time for politics - art, film, music and fashion all faced their own revolutions. Kubrick took us on A Space Odyssey, the Beatles, Stones and Hendrix all produced seminal works, Norman Mailer was author of the year, and the world of theatre finally beat the censors. Oh, and Chinese food took a hold, too...[5]

 

Modern Magazine Design

 

Contemporary magazine design evolved largely according to the new aesthetic developed in Germany, Russia and the Netherlands immediately after the First World War. In the mid-1930s the creative centre moved to New York. The modern format of integrated elements - in which visual and textual components were amplified through combination - was refined and applied commercially to popular magazines in the giant publishing conglomerates of the United States.[6]

 

Magazine design was transformed by the modern movement. The cubo-futurist doctrine of plastic dynamism and new, objective typography were primary forces in the liberation of magazine design from its traditional constraints. The exploration of typographic relationships undertaken by Theor van Doesburg, El Lissitzky, Laszlo Maholy-Nagy and others presaged the creation of a new hierarchy of type which was suited to the particular requirements of the magazine.[7]

 

The revolution was ignited by futurists, Dada and cubists, by the suprematist Malevich, and the De Stijl group.[8] 

 

The immediate postwar period to the mid-1960s is commonly considered as the golden age of American magazine design: a twenty year span in which the concentration in of talent in New York publishing was unsurpassed.[9] 

 

The New York School

 

The New York School was born from an excitement about European modernism and fueled by economic and technological expansion; it became a dominant force in graphic design from the 1940s until the 1970s. Many of its practitioners, young revolutionaries who altered the course of American visual communications in the 1940s and 1950s, continued to design in the 1990s.[10]

 

Pioneers included Paul Rand, Alvin Lustig, Alex Steinweiss, Bradbury Thompson, Saul Bass and George Tscherney. It helped spawn an editorial design revolution that lead to a new advertising and the use of figurative typography.[11]

 

Pop Art

 

The Pop Art movement launched in 1962, with one-man shows by Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Tom Wesselmann, Robert Indiana, and Andy Warhol.[12] 

 

Specific   

 

In George Lois on his Creation of the Big Idea, Lois credited the following people:

  • Motivators: Haralampos Lois (his father); Ida Engel; Paul Rand; Herschel Levit
  • Mentors: Reba Sochis; Bill Golden; Kurt Weihs; Herb Lubalin; Lou Dorfsman; Bill Bernback; Bob Gage
  • Muse: Rosemary Lois 

 

According to George, "my spiritual day of worship is spent each Sunday at NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art where I experience, without fail, the Shock of the Old. ~ I was struck dumb at the first sight of a Cycladic idol, blinded by the radiance of Mantegna's Dead Christ, Ingres's heavenly drawings, Uccello's entangled battle scenes, and penetrating portraits by Holbein, El Greco and Velasquez. Epiphanies of the eye have given my life endless days of thrilling euphoria. In high school I worshiped the paintings of the Merican modernist Stuart Davis, with his floating words jammed between objects and shapes, buy strangely the spontaneity of a Cassandre poster, with its merging of workds an damages into a wholly new language seemed even more thrilling. There were more hints of this new way of communicating in the work of Paul Rand, who struck out boldly diring the forties by visualizing copy in an individualistic manner. At age 15, I started to get more of a kick out of Cassandre and Rand than Picasso or Leger or Brancusi or Davis. I knew I was hooked. I would spend my life producing advertising to sell products and ideas."[13]

 

Esquire Covers 

 

Before Lois, even the most celebrated magazine covers like James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam for Collier’s or Norman Rockwell’s poignant illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post depended on drawing or painting to illustrate the content or symbolize the spirit of the publication. Many covers suffered from a banal, formulaic style, and often text competed with the image. Lois stripped the cover down to a graphically concise yet conceptually potent image that ventured beyond mere illustration of the feature article. He exploited the communicative power of the mass-circulated front page to stimulate and provoke the public into debate, pressing Americans to confront controversial issues like racism, feminism, and the Vietnam War. These images hit the public with their messages artfully communicated with force and immediacy.[14] 

 

Lois believed design - a harmony of elements - had no place on a magazine cover. Instead, he opted for the cover as a statement capable of capturing the reader with a spirited comment on a major article.

  

His designs are deceptively simple and direct. Backgrounds are usually removed to enable the content-bearing verbal and pictorial images to interact unhampered.[15]

 

In 1962 Esquire was in serious trouble. If any two consecutive issues lost money on newsstand sales, it would have to fold. After being the men’s magazine in America, Esquire was losing its younger audience to Playboy, founded by former Esquire staff member Hugh Hefner in 1960.[16]

 

Lois suggested that a single designer produce the cover instead of the “design by consensus” approach Hayes had taken with his staff.[17] Hayes gave Lois unparalleled freedom in creating the covers. Lois did not have to sell his ideas with a sketch or a "comp," as is customary in the graphic design and advertising business. He arranged photo shoots with Carl Fischer and other photographers and created montages of clip art, stock photography, and drawn elements, a process that served as a mechanical precursor of the digital assemblage and retouching widely used today. For instance, to illustrate an article on the decline of the American avant-garde in the May 1969 issue, Lois took separate photographs of Andy Warhol and a Campbell’s soup and combined them to create a witty spoof on Pop Art by drowning Andy Warhol in the can of soup.

 

The 1968 Esquire Covers[18]

  

In his books, George Lois on his Creation of the Big Idea and Covering the '60s: George Lois, The Esquire Era, and in his website Lois discusses the impetus for some of his more noted covers, such as Mohammad Ali as Saint Sebastian, Roy Cohn as a self-styled angel.

 

 

According to Lois, the covers covered politics, sports, women, race, art, sex, mass culture - in short the wild ten years that included America's longest and wrongest wars, America's four assassinations, America's volatile policies, America's black revolution, America's women's movement, America's most putrid presidency, America's obsessions with sex, youth, doom, dope, food and TV.[19]

  

  

George Lois

   

Early Years

 

In high school he worshipped the paintings of the American modernist Stuart Davis, with his floating words jammed between objects and shapes; the spontaneity of a Cassandre poster with its merging of words and images into a wholly new language; the hints of a new way of communicating in the work of Paul Rand, who struck out boldly during the forties by visualizing copy in an individualistic manner. By age 15, Lois started to get more of a kick out of Cassangre and Rand than Picasso or Leger or Brancusi or Davis.[20] 

 

Post Korean War

 

Among the young art directors and copywriters who passed thorugh Doyle Dane Bernbach during the 1950s, George Lois became the enfant terrible of American mass communications. His tendency to push concepts to the very limit of propriety, earned him this reputation.[21]

 

Lois wrote that an art director must treat words “with the same reverence that he accords graphics, because the verbal and visual elements of modern communication are as indivisible as words and music in a song.”[22]

   

Esquire Years

  

George Lois and Carl Fischer were the masters of the conceptual magazine cover technique, in which abstract ideas are made concrete by epigrammatic rebus pictures. Both worked in advertising and naturally borrowed advertising methods for use on Esquire, for the magazine cover is a form of advertising, a poster which displays the wares inside. Photomontage and staged or trick photography were applied as illustration of the issues's major feature. Surrealist incongruity was used to shock. Visual pun, repetition, cultural reference and metaphor and representational devices were employed with simplicity and intensity.[23] 

 

  

  

Later Influences

  

The art of Rand, Wolf, Lois, Marchbank, or The Sunday Times Magazine in its heyday, a number of magazines still succeed in making alternatives to the "face" cover work. Stern regularly produces strong narrative graphic forms, and has done so for many years, as has Avenue and The Atlantic. King has developed an interesting combination of collage and figurative photography; Metropolis, the New York architecture magazine, uses descriptive photomontage; and Tempo makes excellent use of documentary and staged photography. Few magazines today execute the punning cover with sufficient subtlety and impact: perhaps the exceptions are Spy with its famous faces montaged into absurd situations, and Management Today. The style does, nevertheless, remain popular in computer and technical magazines which have to convey very abstract ideas to their readership and, as a result, rely heavily on illustration and trick photography. The news supplements are strong adherents to documentary and illustrative photography, must notably Sette Giorni, the Boston Globe and  Washington Post magazine. Abstract illustration is a valuable mainstay in the art, design an architectural press, as exemplified by Sur Express, Domus, Art Forum and, less frequently, Progressive Architecture.[24] 

  

External Links 

 

http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1968.html

http://www.brainyhistory.com/years/1986/html

George Lois 

 

 

 

Video

Esquire Covers: George Lois

George Lois on the Creative Revolution, part 1 of 5 

George Lois on the Creative Revolution, part 2 of 5 

George Lois on the Creative Revolution, part 3 of 5

George Lois on the Creative Revolution, part 4 of 5

George Lois on the Creative Revolution, part 5 of 5

 

 

References

Taylor, Steve. 100 years of magazine covers. London: Black Dog Publishing Limited. 2006.

Lois, George. The Art of Advertising: George Lois on Mass Communication. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1977.

Lois, George. George Lois on his Creation of the Big Idea. New York: Assouline Publishing. 2008.

Lois, George. Covering the '60s: George Lois, The Esquire Era. New York: The Monacelli Press, Inc. 1996.

 

 

Footnotes

  1. The Museum of Modern Art Exhibitions. George Lois: The Esquire Covers. April 25, 2008–March 30, 2009. (http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/72)
  2. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  3. TIME.com. "1968 Like a knife blade, the year severed past from future". Monday, Jan. 11, 1988. (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,966422-1,00.html)
  4. gaurdian.co.uk. "1968: The year that changed history." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/observer/gallery/2008/jan/17/1)
  5. The Observer. "Style of the times." Sunday 20 January, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2008/jan/20/featuresreview.review1)
  6. Owen, William. "Modern Magazine Design". New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.1991.
  7. Owen, William. "Modern Magazine Design". New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.1991.
  8. Owen, William. "Modern Magazine Design". New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.1991.
  9. Owen, William. "Modern Magazine Design". New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.1991.
  10. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  11. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  12. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  13. Lois, George. George Lois on his Creation of the Big Idea. New York: Assouline Publishing. 2008.
  14. artdaily.com. "Covers from Esquire Magazine Designed by George Lois are the Focus of MoMA Exhibition." (http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=23987&int_modo=2)
  15. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  16. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  17. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  18. Images acquired from the Esquire cover gallery at Esquire.com.
  19. Lois, George. The Art of Advertising: George Lois on Mass Communication. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1977.
  20. Lois, George. George Lois on his Creation of the Big Idea. New York: Assouline Publishing. 2008.
  21. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  22. Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. "Meggs' History of Graphic Design". (4th edition) New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2005.
  23. Owen, William. "Modern Magazine Design". New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.1991.
  24. Owen, William. "Modern Magazine Design". New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.1991.

Comments (6)

Blair said

at 9:54 pm on Oct 12, 2009

Hi,

Just tried your first link, and got a Time Page Error (cannot be displayed). Have you tried hyperlinking individual words rather than posting an entire URL?

Blair

Blair said

at 9:57 pm on Oct 12, 2009

Blair said

at 10:02 pm on Oct 12, 2009

one more and that's it

I think Kirsten is doing Cassandre, you could link the references in your text to her page.

G'night!!

Michelle Russell said

at 10:42 pm on Oct 12, 2009

Thanks Blair. Those were just placeholders until I got it up and running to place proper links and cross-links.

Marianela Ramos Capelo said

at 10:48 pm on Oct 12, 2009

I still haven't uploaded all of my info, I'm organizing it. But! My guy (and I mean Herbert Bayer) left the Bauhaus to become art director of Vogue magazine's Berlin. Since you are doing the esquire thing, I thought I'd let you know. Do you have any tag related to it? like a "magazine design" tag? so I can tag my article with the same. thanks!

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