Three Questions With Maili Holiman, DD, Pop Up Magazine

Three Questions With Maili Holiman, DD, Pop Up Magazine

I recently attended installment #4 of POP-UP magazine at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco and was blown away at how cool it was. You are the founding Design Director. How did the idea to do a live magazine come about and did you have any idea how popular it would become? It's sold out every time in something like 20 minutes! Have you guys thought about taking it on the road?

The Pop-Up folks approached me about the project in 2008. They were wanting to create a live "magazine" and needed a designer to join. The thought was to gather a group of our peers -- writers, radio producers, filmmakers, editors, photographers, designers and artists  ­­-- to share a snippet or sketch of what they were working on. Or something they were fascinated by. We were thinking of it as previews and B sides. Something that you maybe hadn't shown anyone yet. Each piece would be presented in 1-4 minutes, so we could have a  diverse mix of work and medium. Basically like gathering all of your friends together for show and tell. If you had 400 friends.

We had no idea it would take off like it did! And no idea that we'd sell out in 20 minutes! After #2 sold out just as quickly (with a long waiting list to boot) we had to look for a bigger space, which is why we ended up at the Herbst. We've discussed taking it on the road, but Pop-Up #5 is definitely slated for SF.

I'm fascinated that at the event there are no cameras or filming allowed. The moment is intended to take place only once and never exist again. This is so contrary to the whole Social Media movement, is that your point? To zig when the world seems to be zagging?

A big part of the appeal for me was to do something that was non-recordable in the age of podcasts and youtube. When we started I was working at Wired, so the thought of a "you had to be there" event was really interesting. It's not that we're anti-tech or anything, we just choose to cover it differently. We've had tactile pieces, a lights-off segment with only audio, an artist drawing live ... these things just don't translate well on video. And as for social media, we love it! Our marketing is word of mouth, so twitter and facebook help us get the word out and gather an interesting crowd.

Your are quite an accomplished creative thinker and designer with titles like ReadyMade, Wired and Spin under your belt. You're also the only designer I know who has elevated magazine making into the relm of performance art.  How do you compare directing on paper to directing a live experience?

Well when you have a 24 foot screen as your canvas, slideshows, sound and film it's a totally different ballgame. It's more about creating an experience. And of course the assignment process plays a big role. Finding the right people that will translate well on stage. Pacing and flow are HUGE. We often equate it to making a mixed tape. Or, you know, making a magazine pop up and come to life.

Got more questions for Maili?

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Check out past Three Question Interviews
Mathew Bates, Design Director at Backpacker
George McCalman, Art Director at AFAR
Joshua Gorchov, Principal at the Loud Cloud
Tim J Luddy, CD, Mother Jones
Dan Saelinger, Photographer

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