Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

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Single Sheet Minimalist Origami
 
         
 
Introduction
 
Minimalist origami is a form of representational origami that seeks to capture the essence of a subject in the smallest possible number of folds ... or, at least, a very small number ... using either just a single sheet or multiple sheets of paper. Because of this the subject must be suggested rather than modelled in detail and so the design will tend to concentrate on those details of the subject which are essential to recognition and ignore those that aren't.

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.

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

Counting folds is not, however, completely straightforward. Is a fold that you make, unfold then refold just one fold? Do location folds that aren't used in the final design need to be counted? Is a curve a fold? Is a complex move that creates several creases just one fold or several? My answers to these questions are yes, no, yes and several, but you may, of course, disagree.

There are (at least) two different styles of single sheet minimalist origami. I call them the 3D and flat styles. Minimalist designs can also be made using multiple-sheet and modular techniques.

The archetypal minimalist 3D design is the tent made by folding a square of paper in half and arranging it like this:

Flat minimalist 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.

I call this type of origami pictorial origami but it is also sometimes known as 'drawing with paper'. Not all pictorial origami designs are minimalist, of course.

 
Designs
 
1 Fold
 
  1-fold Elephant - extreme minimalist design created in response to Paul Jackson's 'An Elephantine Challenge'.   S034   1993   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.
 
  Waiting for the Ferry - minimalist seascape.   S045       Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
  Squarehead - minimalist design. Simplified from a design by Nick Robinson.   S043   2014   Diagrams not yet available.
 
2 Folds
 
  Easter Islander - minimalist design.   S041   1993   Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
3 Folds
 
  3-fold Elephant   S034   1993   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.
 
  Faith - minimalist visual illusion / conceptual origami design.   S033   2000   Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
  Penguin - minimalist design.   S147   2008   Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
4 Folds
 
  Bull's Head - minimalist design.   S001   1995   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
 
  Folio - minimalist design.   S004   2000   Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
  Handy Box - minimalist design. Many variations possible.   S028   2000   Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
  Hotel Room / Swimming Pool - minimalist double image design sequence.   S008   1999   Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
  Impossible Object - minimalist simple solid / visual illusion.   S029   2000   Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6
 
  Kite   S164   2014   On-line diagrams are available on the Single Sheet Designs page of this site.
 
  Nefertiti - minimalist design.   S041   2011   Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
  Paradozical Object - minimalist visual illusion.   S031   2000   Origami Alfresco - Water Trade - ISBN 0-9534774-3-6 // Origami Alfresco 2nd Edition - ISBN 978-0-9534774-6-3
 
5 Folds
 
  Banana Boat - minimalist design named by Wayne Brown because of the curve in the hull which allows the design to stand.

(I count the curve as a fold even though no crease is made.)

  S006   1991   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
 
  Fred - minimalist design.   S002   1999   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
 
  Swannet - 5 or 6 fold swan.   553   2017   On-line diagrams are available on the Single Sheet Designs page of this site.