Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


Conceptual Origami, Origamidada and NOFO / No Fold Origami
Conceptual origami is origami that attempts to communicate or illustrate ideas and emotions. It may be straightforwardly serious, satirical or humorous in nature. Unlike most other categories of origami conceptual origami may aim to offend rather than to please.

The oldest form of conceptual origami are probably Fold-Ups, which are pictures that can be folded up into smaller pictures. The Fifth Pig Fold-Up was used as political propaganda during the Second World War.

There is a subset of conceptual origami that I call origamidada which uses the conventions of origami design, diagramming, or culture, to make humorous or satirical comments about life, the universe and origami. The idea for this kind of conceptual origami arose sometime in the early 2000s during an email conversation with the late Dorothy Engleman, also known as the Origami Swami, who published diagrams for some of my conceptual origami and origamida designs, then attributed to my alter ego Oliver Zachary, on her website, under the title of 'My Heart Belongs to Dada'.

Here is what Oliver wrote about origamidada at the time:


'Origamidada deals with the essential core of human experience and challenges our ideas about the nature of life, death, religious experience and, above all, origami.

Origamidada designs are not intended to be reproduced.Their raison d'etre is not to be found in the finished design, or the folding sequence, or even the act of folding, but purely in the emotional and intellectual response they provoke.

Is Origamidada art? Does it deserve a capital letter? Is it anything to do with dada of any other kind?

The answer to all these questions is both 'No' and 'Yes', but both answers are equally irrelevant. To ask them at all is to fail to grasp the point.'

I could not have put it better myself.

Details of some of my conceptual origami and origamidada designs can be found here.

NOFO or No Fold Origami is an extreme style of conceptual origami which does away with the folding element of paperfolding entirely. This is clearly a contradiction, yet the idea is an interesting one. I do not know who first thought of the idea, although I would like to.

There seem to be three different types of NOFO designs.

First there are those which depend on giving an unfolded sheet of paper of some particular shape or colour a good title. You might call a white sheet of paper 'Snowman in Snow' for example. The best example of this is Tung Ken Lam's 'Red Square' (although I understand that the pun only works in English).

Then there are those which are not only NOFO but also conceptual designs. Two examples of my own designs of this type can be found here.

Finally there are designs made by combining a number of unfolded sheets in an arrangement. If you use sticky notes for this purpose the designs will hold together by themselves, or can be attached to a window, when the translucent property of the sheets can come into play. Some examples of this technique can be found here.

It is also worth mentioning here that in the 1990's the American paperfolder Jeremy Shafer circulated a graphics file for a design called 'Invisible Monkey.' The file was, of course, empty.