I knew I would enjoy creating pop-up books when I saw the lightsabers pop out.
I chose the 2003 disintegration of the shuttle Columbia as the news event I wanted to work with. I remember teachers discussing it while I was in school. Finding a poem (written by a teenager that heard what happened on the radio)—and then transcriptions of actual conversations that took place between NASA and the shuttle—inspired me to design a book that presented both, to narrate the event with the technical and emotional complexity and nuances of the chaotic day retained.
The system I created was:
Rick Husband – 20cm, Communications 9cm, Cain 8cm, Kling 6cm, Technician 4cm, Ground Control 2cm—all on vertically popping, black paper — A condensed, medium, techy-looking typeface— for all the actual conversations.
The poem was in a contained black frame, always on the white spread, stuck flat — rounded, regular typeface.
I enjoyed making pop-ups. But the mechanics were harder and more complex than I had imagined. One of the bigger challenges was not figuring out the mechanics, but figuring out how to get the mechanics just right that it fit big enough for all the type to be legible, but small enough that it didn’t peak out of the edges of the closed book.
This was hardest on my favourite spread:
^ rotating mechanics. The paper would be too thin, or the strip would be too long, or too short. I went through way too many versions of this one. The pull strip had initially been glued too far down from the pivot/hub. This meant that:
a) The strip needed to be LONGER—so that more of the circle would be pulled out through the slit (revealing the type)
b) the height of the overall piece needed to be TALLER.
c) This was a major problem since I could have neither of those things—the strip needed to be small enough that it fit inside the width of one page, and short since it needed to be exactly 9cm tall.
It all came down to finding a sort of equilibrium length of strip and distance from the hub (even where the slots were located in relation was very important. It’s no joke when they call it paper ‘engineering’.
Fixing the mechanics was all fine and dandy, but then I couldn’t stick it flat against the v angled pop up…the mechanics wouldn’t work. So then I had to re-adjust the distances and measurements to ensure that there was enough distance between the pop up the vertical base it was being stuck to—BUT that that distance was small enough that it also didn’t peak out the edges…
Painful balancing of lengths was another main point I learned.
Now imagine two days after finally figuring out those mechanics and getting it perfect, it starts to act wonky. The words refused to get pulled out completely. Or once the pull strip was pulled out, it wouldn’t go back into the closed position. The problem was the whit bit:
It might have gotten weak from all the movement, and the flap that was supposed to remain semi-folded, kept opening up. (above). I couldn’t just stick it down, because that was the area the arm moved in.
^tried to use some awkward mechanics to keep it down from the sides, extended the length of the arm. That didn’t really help much. What helped was:
Narrowing the width of the arm that fit inside the white circle, and making the circle slightly bigger (that also was a big deal). The reason the flap kept rising and messing with the overall mechanics was because the arm kept getting caught on the edges of the circle, pushing it up.
Designing the pop-ups were the major learning moments of this project (also the most time-consuming and irritating).
Next came experimenting with type size and placement.
Wanting to convey more meaning with the type, I experimented with variation on a few spreads. Here the communication is failing and finally getting lost forever:
The very final step was deciding the symbol that would be the prompt for which direction to pull the tabs in:
^ After experimenting to link back to the buttons and mechanisms inside the aircraft, I decided on a simple arrow. The style of the buttons was inconsistent with the overall style of the book (it was too detailed/embellished).
Overall Reflection (in short):
I learned more than I had initially planned to about pop-ups. Something I wish I had known a week earlier was transferring ink onto paper (using some kind of blender)—Maha (TA) mentioned it in class today. I would have liked to try that in comparison to simply cutting and sticking the type on. So, that was one aspect I would have experimented with more if I had the time—the appearance of the type. What if I had transferred the type multiple times, making it look faded in some areas?? Faded in areas where communication was difficult?
The guy on youtube had it easy, when he demonstrated on plain sheets. Customizing all those demonstrations to be the right size and length to fit the spread while being long enough for the type that would go on the piece, was the hard part. I learned the importance of tests, iterations, more tests. And patience.