Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

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Minimalist Representational Origami
 
         
 
Introduction
 
Minimalist representational origami is a form of origami that seeks to capture the essence of a subject in the smallest possible number of folds ... or, at least, a very small number. Such designs may be made using either single sheets or multiple sheets.

Because of the aim to use as few folds as possible the subject must be suggested rather than modelled in detail and so minimalist representational designs will tend to be impressionistic and to concentrate on those details of the subject which are essential to recognition and ignore those that are not.

The very best minimalist designs are instantly recognisable. Persuading your friends to recognise others may require a subtle hint. 'It's a stegosaurus,' usually works, for instance. In general children seem to recognise many minimalist designs on first sight much more easily than adults do. Minimalist representational designs need not just be just straightforward representations. In the designs below you will also find examples of minimalist representational action folds, double images, visual illusions, surprise denouement and conceptual origami designs.

In thinking about minimalist origami of all kinds it is useful to distinguish between active and passive folds, active folds being folds which are used in the final design and passive folds being folds used to create location points which are not then used in the final design. I only count the active folds when considering the number of folds that a design requires.

I define a fold as a change of direction in the plane of the paper. It is not necessary to create a crease to create a fold. A simple curve is a fold. A complex curve may be several.

Single Sheet Minimalist Representational Origami

There is no absolute upper limit on the number of folds that can be used in a single sheet minimalist representational design. A more difficult subject may require more details, and hence more folds. Achieving a good result using five active folds or less is usually reckoned to be pretty creditable. Doing the same thing in just one active fold is clearly outstanding.

Multiple Sheet Minimalist Representational Origami

In the case of multiple sheet designs it seems sensible to think of each part of the overall design as a separate minimalist element. I would regard a multiple sheet design as minimalist if each of the elements was made using the smallest possible number of active folds ... or, at least, a very small number ... irrespective of the total number of folds in the design as a whole.

Styles of Minimalist Representational Origami

There are (at least) four different styles of single sheet minimalist origami which I call the three-dimensional, pictorial, hybrid and naive styles. Naive designs are not necessarily minimalist but are likely to be because of their simplicity.

The archetypal three-dimensional minimalist representational design is the tent made by folding a square of paper in half and arranging it like this:

Pictorial minimalist representational designs may depend purely on outline shape or on being folded from irogami (paper that is white one side and a single plain colour the other) so that the contrast between the two sides of the paper can be used to sketch a simple picture, like this:

Hybrid minimalist representational designs, such as Seiryo Takegawa's 'Mount Fuji and the Sea', combine pictorial and three-dimensional elements.

 
Specimen Designs
 
Most of the designs included here are my own. Details of other relevant designs by other designers will be added as time allows.
 
Single Sheet Minimalist Representational Designs
 
1 Active Fold
 
  Name: 1-fold Elephant

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1993. Created in response to Paul Jackson's 'An Elephantine Challenge'.

Diagrams: BOM 161 August 1993 // Origami Designs Secrets - A K Peters Ltd - Robert J Lang - ISBN 1-56881-194-2 // Sticky Note Origami - Collins & Brown - David Mitchell - ISBN 1-84340-227-0 // Complete Origami - Collins and Brown - David Mitchell - ISBN 978-1-84340-397-5 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3 // On-line diagrams are available on the Single Sheet Designs page of this site.

 
  Name: Waiting for the Ferry

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1999.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Squarehead

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2014. Simplified from a design by Nick Robinson.

Diagrams: You cannot be serious?

 
2 Active Folds
 
  Name: Easter Islander

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1993.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: 2-fold Arrow

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design made using 2 active folds..

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2017. Created while attempting to reconstruct Tung Ken Lam's Arrow from memory.

Diagrams:

 
3 Active Folds
 
  Name: Arrow

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design made using 3 active folds.

Designer / Date: Tung Ken Lam, 1988.

Diagrams: Paul Jackson's 'Classic Origami',1990) and Kasahara's 'Happy Origami', 2002, ISBN 4838086016

 
  Name: 3-fold Elephant

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1993.

Diagrams: BOM 161 August 1993 // Super Quick Origami Animals - Nick Robinson - ISBN 1-85605-728-3 contains diagrams for Paul Jackson's bi-colour variation of the 3-fold Elephant (here called Dollar Bill Elephant - though it is not folded from a dollar bill) // Sticky Note Origami - Collins & Brown - David Mitchell - ISBN 1-84340-227-0 // Complete Origami - Collins and Brown - David Mitchell - ISBN 978-1-84340-397-5 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3 // On-line diagrams are available on the Single Sheet Designs page of this site.

 
  Name: Faith

Description: Pictorial minimalist visual illusion / conceptual origami design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell,

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Flapping Seagull

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational active play design. This design has one crease but three active folds.

Designer / Date: Unknown. I first saw this design in around 1996 at a creative seminar I was facilitating at a BOS convention.

Diagrams: Are you kidding me?

 
  Name: Penguin

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2008.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
4 Active Folds
 
  Name: Bull's Head

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1995.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 //2, BOM 174 October 1995 - 4-fold bull (see article 'A Bavarian Interlude' for explanation of origin) // Origami Animals - Greenwich Editions - David Mitchell - ISBN 1-86288-770-4 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Folio

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1995.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Handy Box

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design. Many variations possible.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2000.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Hotel Room / Swimming Pool

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational double image design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1999.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Impossible Object

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational visual illusion design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2000.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6

 
  Name: Kite

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2014.

Diagrams: On-line diagrams are available on the Single Sheet Designs page of this site.

 
  Name: Nefertiti

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2011.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Paradozical Object

Description: Pictorial minimalist representational visual illusion design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2008.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
5 Active Folds
 
  Name: Banana Boat

Description: 5-fold pictorial minimalist representational design. There are only four creases but I include the curve in the hull, which allows the design to stand upright on a flat surface, in the fold count.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1991. Named by Wayne Brown because of the curve in the hull.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Quadrato Magico 75/76 Autumn 2004 // Complete Origami - Collins and Brown - David Mitchell - ISBN 978-1-84340-397-5 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Fastest, Flattest, Fattest Crane Ever

Description: 5-fold three-dimensional style minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: Victor Coerjoly. Date unknown.

Diagrams: You cannot be serious?

 
  Name: Fred

Description: 5-fold pictorial minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1999.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Sticky Note Origami - Collins & Brown - David Mitchell - ISBN 1-84340-227-0 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Peacock

Description: 5-fold three-dimensional style minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David mitchell, 2013.

Diagrams: Diagrams not yet available.

 
  Name: 5-fold Swan

Description: Three-dimensional minimalist representational design made using 5 active folds.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2017.

Diagrams: Diagrams not yet available.

 
  Name: Swannet

Description: 5 fold pictorial minimalist representational design which can be three-dimensionalised with an extra sixth fold (as pictured here).

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2017.

Diagrams: On-line diagrams are available on the Single Sheet Designs page of this site.

 
More Than 5 Active Folds
 
  Name: Mount Fuji and the Sea

Description: 12 fold hybrid representational minimalist representational design. Mount Fuji with it's snow capped summit is made using the pictorial technique while the waves of the sea are made using the three-dimensional technique.

Designer / Date: Seiryo Takegawa, date unknown. As far as I know this was one of the earliest attempts at a minimalist style design.

Diagrams:

 
Multiple Sheet Minimalist Representational Designs
 
  Name: B-Bear

Description: 2-part naive minimalist representational design. Two squares, three active folds in total.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1992

Diagrams: On-line diagrams are available on the Multiple Sheet Designs page of this site.

 
  Name: Flapping Butterfly

Description: 2-part naive minimalist representational action design. Two squares, four active folds in each.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 1992.

Diagrams: Not yet available.

 
  Name: Flatmates

Description: 2-part naive minimalist representational design. Two squares, one active fold in each. Both folds made at the same time.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2015.

Diagrams: Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3

 
  Name: Penguin Cottage

Description: 2-part pictorial minimalist representational double image design. Two squares, two active folds in each.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2015

Diagrams: On-line diagrams are available on the Multiple Sheet Designs page of this site.

 
  Name: Sea Monster

Description: Three-dimensional representational minimalist design. Infinitely extendible.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2009

Diagrams: Kid-O-Gami - Sandy Creek - David Mitchell - ISBN 978-1-4351-2338-0

 
  Name: Turtle

Description: 3-part naive minimalist representational design.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2013.

Diagrams: Diagrams not yet available.

 
  Name: Wolf Cub

Description: 2-part naive minimalist representational design. Body 2 active folds, head 5 active folds.

Designer / Date: David Mitchell, 2005

Diagrams: Origami Animals - Greenwich Editions - David Mitchell - ISBN 1-86288-770-4 // On-line diagrams are also available on the Multiple Sheet Designs page of this site.