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Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)

A new book about the art of persuasion proves very persuasive
Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)

The cover of Damn Good Advice, by Phaidon.

Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)

George Lois's controversial Esquire magazine cover.

George Lois

Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!)


The man that Mad Men’s Don Draper is supposedly based on has a lot to say about the 1960s advertising heyday on Madison Avenue that the series supposedly recreates, and as you’d expect from one of the industry’s most successful practitioners, and the man who put arrows through Mohammed Ali for an Esquire magazine cover that depicted the boxer as the martyr St Sebastian after he refused induction into the army, it’s a piece of genius. As a look into Lois’s thinking it is absorbing and revelatory, but it’s also far more than that, offering as it does genuinely provocative, thoughtful and useful advice on how to make the most of your creativity and skills.
Some of it is in the form of engaging lessons and practical advice, some is couched as facts, anecdotes and inspiration, and all of it is beautifully designed to make you sit up and take notice.
Largely in the form of spreads that are more magazine-like than book-like, the incisive, bite-sized pointers cover everything from communicating clearly and quickly to creating a memorable portfolio and even reinventing your future. The book is less successful when it’s handling such big ideas – especially if you’re averse to self-help books on changing your life – but at the level of the nitty gritty, working at the coalface of creativity advice and suggestions, its message is clear: do stuff to change the way you do stuff, and don’t fall for quick fixes or into traps – point 14, ‘A trend is always a trap’, being a very good case in point.
As with all the points in the book, it clearly shows Lois’s belief, based on his obvious skill at it, that key to creativity is salesmanship, and that key to salemanship is creativity. It might all sound obvious as you read his witty and occasionally jaw-dropping anecdotes about things he did at pitches, how he won clients, how he got people round to his way of seeing things, but its obviousness lies in its glorious simplicity – and as any good creative knows, that’s the hardest thing to achieve in creative thinking.


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