Phaidon’s Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!) is a frequent sighting around the offices here. Written by legendary ad man and art director George Lois, the visually arresting book reveals 120 guidelines to unlocking one’s creative heights. Here, a few of his commandments.
I yam what I yam, an dat’s all I yam, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.
You are who you are, and that’s what you are — and be damn proud of it. Don’t change your name, don’t change your accent, don’t change your heritage, don’t denigrate a humble upbringing. Be true to yourself and you’ll ring true to the world.
All the tools in the world are meaningless without an essential idea.
An artist, or advertising man, or anyone involved in a creative industry (or even noncreative professions such as a doctor, lawyer, electrician, factory worker, or president) without an idea, is unarmed.
Any great creative idea should stun momentarily — it should seem to be outrageous.
Safe, conventional work is a ticket to oblivion. Great creativity should stun, as modern art was supposed to shock, by presenting the viewer with an idea that seemingly suspends conventions of understanding. In that swift interval between the shock and the realization that what you are presenting is not as outrageous as it seems, you capture your audience.
Reject group grope.
Think about this: Decisive, breakthrough creative decision-making is almost always made by one, two or possibly three minds working in unison, take it or leave it. Collective thinking usually leads to stalemate or worse.
Most people work at keeping their job, rather than doing a good job.
If you’re the former, you’re leading a meaningful life. If you’re the latter, keep up the good work.
When you’re presenting a Big Idea, be prepared to answer dumb questions.
There’s usually somebody in every meeting that just doesn’t get it. Before the last word comes out of their lips, tear their doubts to shreds.
In an age when heroes are villainized and villains are lionized, a creative image can make an iconic statement.
No matter what stage you are in your career, use your creativity to stand up for our heroes, and protect your culture against the villains.
If you’re a man, and you still think a woman can’t compete with you, she’s about to blindside you, pal.
Jack Nicholson famously said, “These days, women are better hung than the men.”