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Origami Design Introduction


The word “origami” is derived from the Japanese words “ori” (to fold) and “kami” (paper). Using the term “origami” for the global art of paperfolding was popularized by Lillian Oppenheimer and others in the 1950’s, but the concept of using paper as an artistic medium has been around as long as paper itself (approximately 2000 years). 

If you’ve ever folded a paper airplane, you’ve done origami. 

If you ever made a fortune teller/cootie catcher, you’ve done origami. 

As a kid, when I went to see a movie at the movie theater, sometimes I’d compulsively start folding my ticket stub using classic origami moves. I didn’t know it then, but this was my first venture into origami “doodling.”

One of the great qualities of origami is its accessibility. In five minutes, I can teach you how to create a piece of classic art. It’s a low maintenance art form – all you need is paper – and even the simplest models are satisfying to complete (even if the folds aren’t as precise as you’d like). Most of the origami I folded as a child was from scrap printer paper we had at home which I cut into squares. How many people folded paper airplanes from pages ripped from their school notebook at some point in grade school? 

Every model you create is unique. It may look a lot like the one your friend taught you, or like the image from a book of diagrams, or nowadays like the image from a video you watched online (I’m old school. I learned from hard copy books.), but every piece of paper offers its own creative adventure. If you look at two copies of the “same” model, one may be more precisely lined up at the edges or creases than the other, or the crimp of the leg may be at a slightly more acute angle, giving the model a slightly different character. At first, it may be satisfying (and perhaps pedagogically advantageous) to execute the model exactly as the instructions demonstrate, but eventually you can go rogue and bring your own creative sensibility to how you want the model to look. 

I am not a highly technical or skilled origami designer. I can’t speak to the mathematical intricacies or complex techniques that elite origami designers incorporate to expedite their design process or produce hyper-realistic, super-complex models. 

My background is as a creative. I believe that everyone has capacity for creativity and play, and that origami is a perfect medium to access it. Whether you identify as a right-brain person, a left-brain person, a visual person, a kinesthetic person, a mathematically inclined person, etc., you can find a way to create through paper folding. 

To that end, my offerings are creative challenges. These challenges are meant to activate creativity and imaginative exploration, not necessarily to lead you to the most intricate, complex, publishing-worthy models. They are provocations/launchpads rather than rules/instructions. 

Click here for advice on building your Origami Toolbox, including traditional folds, bases, models, and a list of Recommended Resources.

Click here to view the Challenges.

Happy Folding!