Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

06 OCTOBER, 2010

Conversations with Mr. Lois


Legendary art director George Lois, an original Mad Man, came of age in the 1960’s, when his Esquire magazine covers revolutionized graphic design and shaped the aesthetic direction of magazine publishing for decades to come.

Conversations with Mr. Lois is a series of four short clips of Lois, charmingly profane and non-linear and curmudgeonly as ever, sharing his thoughts on everything from the moral state of advertising the essence of magazines to the sensual sterility of tablets. The series was timed around MoMA’s George Lois retrospective and the publication of the fantastic companion book earlier this year.

There are too many assholes in advertising now.” ~ George Lois

People say the magazine is dead — bullshit it’s dead!” ~ George Lois

When you read a magazine, you put it on your lap, it’s like a lap dance. [With tablets], you’re just looking at a screen.” ~ George Lois

Hat tip to the SPD filmmakers for using Cat Power’s “The Greatest” as the score for the final part of the series.

When you do a magazine with great content and real visual excitement — oh my God! — pages of it, or spreads of it, every week, every month — wow, that’s fun! Let’s do this, let’s do that — it’s terrific stuff. It’s stuff where you can really influence the culture. I don’t care what magazine you do, any kind of magazine [should be] a cultural provocateur.” ~ George Lois

The series was a teaser for an event where Wired creative director Scott Dadich sat down with Lois to talk about his iconic Esquire covers. You can watch the hour-long program below:

We highly recommend George Lois: The Esquire Covers, MoMA’s beautifully curated anthology of Lois’s most influential work. You may also enjoy our recent look at the evolution of magazines over the past century.

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03 SEPTEMBER, 2010

ThoughtBubbler: Visual Storytelling for What Matters


What a pig that can’t walk has to do with mental pollution and the DNA of kindness.

Last week, we looked at The Beast File‘s brilliant infographic storytelling.

Today, we turn to The Smart Bubble Society — a wonderful nonprofit motion-graphics studio promoting social justice, self-education and awareness about critical issues through stunningly animated motion-graphics shorts called Thought Bubbles.

As humanity progresses, cultural shifts affect our individual thought bubbles. These shifts change our primary sources of in formation and, today, we live in a world where entertainment and distraction have seduced us.”

Sample their brilliant brand of visual storytelling with these three Thought Bubbles by thinkers who peel away important layers of issues that matter.


Adbusters editor and activist Micah White takes a somewhat extreme but nonetheless thoughtful approach to an increasingly important issue in the information age: Just what are we filling our minds with?

Tragically, with the changing meaning of pollution, we’ve become increasingly concerned with the contamination of our external, natural environment, while ignoring the desecrations of our internal, mental environment.” ~ Micah White


A few months ago, the healthcare debate sparked some of the most heated, volatile conversations in American history, both around the oval table and the dinner party table. Here, John Greene‘s now (in)famous discussion of the American healthcare system comes to life in a visual narrative that only adds to its impact.

It’s the inefficiency of our socialized medicine that in the end makes healthcare so much more expensive than it is anywhere else in the world. Is healthcare a privilege or is it a right?” ~ John Green


Amy Krouse Rosenthal is part bestselling children’s book author, part modern philsopher. In this Thought Bubble, she touches on Western philosophy and Eastern spirituality, from market economies to Confucianism, making a compelling case for our inherent propensity for kindness.

At the end of life, at the end of YOUR life, what essence emerges? What have you filled the world with? In remembering you, what words will others choose?” ~ Amy Krouse Rosenthal

And for what it’s worth, we second Rosenthal’s heartfelt recommendation for Born to be Good — it’s truly one of the most important books you’ll ever read.

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27 JULY, 2010

Mad Men on Wheels: Vintage Car Ads


Babes, bumpers and Bentleys, or what Don Draper would’ve looked like on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

After last weekend’s Mad Men season premiere, we felt a certain pang of nostalgia for an era we never actually lived in. Today, we’re celebrating this nostalgia with an intersection of two of the era’s greatest cultural landmarks — cars and advertising — with five fantastic collections of enough vintage car ads to make Don Draper’s portfolio look paltry.


Unassumingly and almost dryly titled, American Car Brochures offers an impressively vast archive of vintage car brochures and original factory documentation, equal parts eye candy, tech time machine and economic reality check. (Care for a “gay, young-looking” Aero Willys at $1,499, circa in 1943?)

Culled by Norwegian IT consultant Hans Tore Tangerud, the collection is catalogued by brand name and dates as far back as the early 1900’s.


While Don Draper was busy selling Cadillacs to the American classes, his Soviet counterpart — someone, we imagine, named Doncho Drapkov perhaps — was busy selling Ladas and Nivas on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

The always-excellent English Russia has a fantastic roundup of vintage Soviet car ads from the 1960’s-1980’s.


It may be just a single piece of collateral, but this Volvo booklet from the 1950’s is a pinnacle of old-school art direction and storytelling. Aiming to introduce a foreign car into the American market, the book follows the journey of American couple Philip and (of course…) Janis Benson on their trip to “Volvoland” in (of course…) Sweden.


Once you get past the crummy site design and awkward navigation, British Car Brochures is a treasure trove. Since he was a child, Romanian car enthusiast Hermann Egges has been collecting vintage car ads, brochures and articles. Now, his massive collection of over 1,250 brochures and 2,800 ads is available online for all to ogle, ranging from rare retro gems (1940’s Bentley, anyone?) to recent-vintage aesthetic atrocities (90’s Land Rover ads, we’re looking at you).

For more of the British vintage car advertising world, we recommend Heon Stevenson’s excellent illustrated anthology British Car Advertising of the 1960s.


A museum and gift shop of mid-century illustration, Plan 59 has a formidable collection of vintage car ads from the 1930’s through 1950’s.

For a closer look at the fascinating history of car advertising, look no further than Classic Cars of the 20th Century: 100 Years of Automotive Ads, 1900-1999, which explores the lush visual language of automotive ads, decade by decade, in more than 500 advertisements from the collection of Taschen editor Jim Heimann.

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