Member Spotlight: Mike Malkovas

Mike Malkovas is a paper engineer/pop-up creator over at Mike designs pop-ups and packaging for over 25 years for different clients both in Europe and US. From simple greeting cards to a complex multi-staged model of an airport, Mike’s designs are something you’ll want to see.

AIGA member since Oct 2014
Lives in Charlotte, NC

1. Where are you from?
I came to this country from beautiful Vilnius, Lithuania, where I lived and worked in various fields, including graphic arts, set design and film. This part of my life was quite possibly the most interesting, productive and unforgettable in terms of my creative career. The early ‘90s in Lithuania were marked by the country’s historic separation from the Soviet Union, resulting in a turbulent and chaotic mini-revolution. Artistic life at that time was a mess. Due to the political instability and economic crisis, it was exceedingly difficult to publish a book or make a movie. The Lithuanian Film Studio, which I dedicated nine years of my life to as a production designer, closed, and all of a sudden I became officially unemployed. Shortly thereafter, my wife Liudvika (a costume designer for drama theatres) proposed the idea of visiting her Connecticut relatives to see if we could begin anew overseas. That was exactly what we did.

One of my last projects in Vilnius was a thirty-two page children’s book with aquatic creatures that I airbrushed so meticulously that the original images looked like offset printed cards one might find for purchase at a bookstore. The writer and I attempted to publish the book several times to no avail, as the task of finding a printer capable of doing the job became increasingly difficult. This little ABC book, however never published, landed me my first job in America at Weekly Reader Corporation in Middletown, CT, which led to other opportunities, big and small. I was eventually employed by one of the originators of interactive advertising and found myself deeply immersed in the world of paper dimensionals, which I can’t escape to this day.

2. What attracted you to the design profession? Did you have particular mentors or experiences that opened the door to the profession for you?
Artistic creativity has been running in the family for generations, dating as far back in time as the 1800’s, when my ancestor, a talented painter from my father’s side, coming from a family of printers, graduated from St. Petersburg Art Academy having achieved a silver medal. Motivated by my father, I attended an art school for four years, and in 1976, went on to study the mesmerizing enigmatic subject of “design”, later on graduating with a degree in Industrial Design from the Vilnius Academy of Arts. My thesis was a full size model of a motorcycle, which I carved out of white packaging foam with a knife and saw. I have always wanted to create rather than destroy; that is why I feel comfortably myself as a “creator.” My parents were both industrial engineers and wished I would follow in their steps, but I wasn’t excited to picture myself chained to a Kuhlman drafting table with a straightedge for the rest of my life. I decided to go with something more interesting, combining engineering with the arts and crafts, ending up chained to a computer instead.

3. What’s your favorite font?
Timeless and classy: Futura, Helvetica, Times and sometimes Palatino.

4. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Kubašta, Lissitzky, Lubalin, Meggendorfer, my dear friends José & Bernard, Rand, Reinhardt, Vignelli – an odd and very short list of great creators that I admire. The full list would take an entire page…

5. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I believe I would be a decent musician, painter and, possibly, actor… at least in the next life.

6. How and why did you get involved with AIGA? Approximately how long have you been involved with the organization?
I came to Charlotte in 2014 after three years of work in Paris, having no local connections, so I decided to join the local graphic design community. I still feel a bit like an outsider, but hope that will change soon.

7. If there is karaoke at the next office party, what song will you be singing?
STH or Kashmir, by Led Zeppelin. Simple, sensual, elegant, dramatic and eternal.

8. What is your favorite word?

9. What would people be surprised to know about you?
I was born in Siberia. My mother’s family was exiled from Lithuania to Siberia by Stalin’s NKVD on June 14, 1941. We came back to Lithuania in 1961.

10. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be aware that there’s always someone better than you, no matter what you do, so take it easy and don’t jump higher than you can.

11. What’s your secret talent (big or small, silly or serious)?
It’s not really a talent and more of the norm for most Europeans; I can read, speak and write fluently in four languages and understand and communicate roughly in one more.

12. What’s one goal (professional or personal) you have for the future?
My current goal is to find a way of working with local agencies & businesses in a field of interactive advertising, creating dimensional objects, animations, ads, B2B and B2C, as I have been working exclusively with out-of-state clients. I would also be very thrilled to solve my personal challenge of combining analog / old school and digital content, which I am relatively close to accomplishing… and I am not referring to augmented reality.

13. What is the best purchase you’ve ever made?
The best purchase I ever made was the Graphtec 4200 flatbed plotter, which I split the cost of with my former company. It is in Europe now, awaiting my return.

14. What sound or noise do you love?
I love the sound of opening a successfully designed pop-up and the smell of a new book.

Would you like to be featured in our Member Spotlight?

Got a big project you want to show off or want to get your name out there? The AIGA Membership Spotlight is great place to start! If you or someone you know would like to be featured on our blog, just follow these simple steps:

• You must be an active AIGA member to participate. Want to become a member? Sign up here!

• Email Membership Director, Gavan Leatham ( and tell us why you should be featured.

If selected, our membership director will be in touch.

By aigacharlotte
Published February 15, 2017