Everyone knows the expression “If you ain’t first, you’re last”--and that could be the motto of this Portland-based web design company, Datalex.

Mystery lurks where you’re last, but the second-place sentiment has got to be behind Datalex’s use of my symbol, Pepe the Frog.

We first encountered a specific kind of SquidLately Pop-Up Store in December last year, but they closed their eponymous store in January this year. Datalex also took a little merch show on the road last year. But a Pop-Up Store on March 16, and its return on April 4, is not only spectacular but unexpected, and rather stellar in its artistry and ambition.

We first encountered a specific kind of Pop-Up Store in December last year, but they closed their eponymous store in January this year. Datalex also took a little merch show on the road last year. But a Pop-Up Store on March 16, and its return on April 4, is not only spectacular but unexpected, and rather stellar in its artistry and ambition.

No architectural replicas but it did clearly aim to evoke—look closely and what you will see is a three-story wooden plank cage enclosed by IKEA, decorated with artwork -- but it did not look that practical. They were wonky, and felt too small. Right now, it is my personal favourite Pop-Up Store.

The store is very impressive, particularly its detachable acrylic egg-shaped skylight. Many stores that we’ve visited have had a rather weak display or focus of a glass cube—but this one certainly was not either. In fact, the Pop-Up Store excels in perfect articulation, as it got this backlight effect with a crafty little effect—it stands behind an invisible wall.

See the inside of Datalex’s Pop-Up Store

People like Pop-Up Stores because they involve some bit of character development and advertising. Datalex’s Pop-Up Store is a bit of everything—so it cannot be described as a Pop-Up Store—and that makes it perfect for people who enjoy novelty displays.

The Pop-Up Store-as-sensory-illusion came together first through their recent additions—art on the exterior, inside, posters and floor canvases—of those figures you may recognise from a 3D poster set or the likes of time-lapse photography. Most of them were created by Jeriel Baranska and Ludovic Jarcques.

Using Pop-Up Store tags, you can find the people they featured on the inside. I couldn’t believe that they were so accurate in their visual interpretation.

Let’s look at the final report on Google Maps. Baranska and Jarcques added colors to the graphics on their devices from the apps. They used the app Wescored as their reference source. The pics are overlaid on Sketchup—Pixel’s architectural 3D platform and many others—thus showing both the human scale and a very large “pop” at a particular point in time.

At the same time, there is more meaningful interaction between the Pop-Up Store itself and an online publication like Pop-Up Store Pulse—before the Pop-Up Store actually opened, although there was no doubt to find this to be visually impressive in and of itself.

Pop-Up Store Pulse was out of the question for me when it first launched, until I realized that it has been making quite a splash in some of the US and European countries. They cover up to 31 cities, and now are based in Hong Kong, one of our hottest spots for indoor pop-up events. But there is one major problem with Pulse—when it is released and the magic happens, why do they stop?

This is another story, but it is a fantastic example of Pop-Up Store-as-business-model, and it certainly required no one’s execution nor coding expertise. Just a handful of guys who put a bit of heart, design and cheerfulness into the world. “Be human” is Datalex’s theme, and to that end, they have collaborated with several graphic designers and used the Android and iPhone app Appagraph to create custom sketches for the many icons used in their prints.