We often think of pop-up books as a simple way to entertain the little ones (or at least we did before the iPad came along!) but they can be so much more than that. When done well, pop-up books can be engaging, imaginative, and even works of artistic brilliance.
1. Haunted Philadelphia
Paper engineer and photographer Colette Fu is an award-winning artist whose 36- by 53-inch pop-up series Haunted Philadelphia features paper interpretations of haunted historic sights around the city like Boathouse Row (pictured above). On her portfolio, Fu explained that she included "Male statues representing 'diversity and achievement of a mature nation...the Laborer, the Poet, the Preacher and the Scientist'" and "images of restrained female mannequins at the Gore Psychiatric Museum" into the full spread.
2. This Book is a Planetarium
Among Adobe's 2015 Creative Resident Kelli Anderson’s many projects is This Book is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions. The book has a number of interactive features including a working musical instrument and a fully functional mini planetarium.
Adobe filmed Anderson in action, showing off this book and her other equally innovative projects. The Creative Residency enables two artists to spend a year pursuing their craft by providing them with the resources and financial aid they need to bring their ideas to reality. Residents also speak at conferences and give workshops.
3. The History of Lacoste
Debuted in 2010, Claude Foulquier and Septime Creation's project is an interactive, digital pop-up book that tells the history of René Lacoste and the famous brand he founded. While it’s not a tactile object, it still incorporates the components of an actual paper pop up book, like little tabs to pull to reveal hidden features. The digital book has been taken off Lacoste’s website, but you can still see parts of it here.
4. The Pop-Up Book of Phobias
Looking at Gary Greenberg, Balvis Rubess, and Matthew Reinhart’s The Pop-Up Book of Phobias doesn’t quite count as immersion therapy, but it’s a start. Each page is an eerie illustration of a different common phobia including dentophobia, claustrophobia, and arachnophobia. There’s a YouTube video of the book so you can get a sense of how it moves, but for a less time consuming alternative, you can also skim through these pictures.
5. Everyday Wonders
For Samsung’s 2013 Everday Wonders campaign, paper engineer David A. Carter created a full scrapbook of London as part of a promotional effort of one of the company's phones. The series included five promotional videos showing hand-made pop-up books of different notable cities—New York, London, Singapore, Amsterdam, and Milan—created at home by different paper artists. A press release from Samsung announcing the campaign explained that the goal was to "utilize the craft of paper art to detail in a simple, yet striking fashion the individual features and functionality of the device within the pages of a pop-up book." The videos were shown on prominent screens—like Times Square, for example—in each of the five cities. In a YouTube video, Carter explains his process for making the scrapbook.
6. Pop-Up Art Book
Originating as a Kickstarter campaign from Poposition Press, the Pop-Up Art Book is a collaboration between pop-up book creators Rossten and Marc Meyer, graphic designer Kevin Steele, and six street artists. Each page features street art that’s been deconstructed, digitally cut, and rebuilt as a 3D paper representation. Artists included are Angry Woebots, kozyndan, Jim Mahfood, Junko Mizuno, Skinner, and Tara McPherson.
7. Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros
Fans of the HBO series can explore landscapes like King’s Landing in Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros. Designed by Matthew Reinhart, the book was inspired by the show’s title sequence and has five full spreads, each with three to five mini pop-ups. The book folds open to unveil a full map of Westeros. A “pop-up review” and a full demonstration of the guide are available on YouTube.
8. Moby-Dick: A Pop-Up Book
Sam Ita's Moby-Dick: A Pop-Up Book tells an abridged version of the search for the great white whale. With multiple pop-ups per page, the book incorporates paper engineering with classic comic panels. Ita created similar books for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Frankenstein, and The Odyssey. A YouTube video from the Taiwan-based Pop-Up Kingdom provides a full demonstration of Ita's Moby-Dick.
9. Il était une fois
Il était une fois (once upon a time), the 2010 collaboration between artists Benjamin Lacombe, José Pons, and author Jean Perrot, beautifully interprets eight classic tales such as Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Little Red Riding Hood. The animated book trailer is available on YouTube.
10. Panties Inferno
Peter Larkin's burlesque themed pop-up Panties Inferno may never get published. Not because it's too risque—there's a highly graphic Pop-Up Book of Sex, so nothing's off limits, really—but because publishers believe that it would be too costly to mass produce. However, some of Larkin's creations were published in The Paris Review, along with an interview with the 88-year-old four-time Tony-winning production designer.
Over the last 20 years, Larkin has been combining his technical know-how with his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of burlesque to create and refine a number of drawings and mock-ups that—when arranged in the intended order—would take the reader through a full old-fashioned burlesque show. The idea wasn't to produce a dirty object. In the interview, he explains, "I really wanted to figure out how to make someone take their clothes off in a pop-up book. It's no good having them come off and then having to rearrange everything yourself."