George Lois Tells the Stories Behind His Twelve Favorite Classic Esquire Covers


George Lois, the legendary Mad Man (he created campaigns for Xerox, Jiffy Lube, and MTV, among others), art director, and magazine consultant, is probably best known for his 1962–72 tenure at Esquire, during which he created some of the most celebrated covers ever to appear in print. He tells how the job came about: “I was a well-known advertising agency guy, and the former editor of Esquire, Harold Hayes, he called me up. We met at The Four Seasons, and he said, ‘Could you help me try to do better covers?’ I got this Bronx accent, and he had this southern drawl, and it must have been a funny discussion. ‘You have to go outside and find a designer, a guy who’s talented at graphic design, but understands politics, culture, and movies,’ I told him, and he said, ‘Do me a favor, could you do me just one cover?’ I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do you one.’” Their prolific collaboration at Esquire is featured in a new book, George Lois: The Esquire Covers (the covers were on a yearlong display at MoMA, and are now in permanent collection there), and we spoke to Lois to get his thoughts and memories about his twelve favorites.