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Designing with Paper Folds

Last month I challenged the designers in the Design Cafe to submit their favorite folded paper project. We had only a few solutions and idea-starters, but they were fun and effective. As I always advocated in my Creative Layout seminars for Dynamic Graphics -- "The way you fold the paper is one of those design elements which costs you nothing; if you're going to fold the paper anyway."

Paper folding is an age-old art, dating back to the pre-history Chinese civilizations -- more commonly known as Origami. As a pastime and gift activity the early designers of Origami would fold paper using an incredibly complicated series of folds to create all sorts of shapes, animals and birds. Considered an art, the techniques were passed along from generation to generation until to day it is its own fine arts genre. But that's not the folding we're talking about today.

With roots in the Origami arts, today's designers look for folds that can reinforce their information and deliver an effective message to their audiences. These folds can be as simple as single to multiple "parallel" folds -- meaning folding the paper into parallel panels. From there the sky is the limit of what can be done on the typical folder. If you're folding by hand, a whole new world of folding emerges. But rest assured, what ever fold you can invent; mechanized folders can duplicate if you've got the precise plan and the budget.

Folding Creativity

The best way to get your creative juices flowing about folds is to look at as many creative folds as you can find. A quick trip on the internet introduces us to literally hundreds of wonderful folded projects. There are even entire internet web sites solely dedicated to paper folding.

So let's take a quick tour of just some of the incredible discoveries in folding as part one of our "Fantastic Folds" series...

Begin in Asia with Origami

accordion Your first stop might be to get an overview of just some of the unique and interesting things you can do with a simple square of paper. At the Jasper (aka John Paulsen) web site you can dig into all kinds of folding projects from a simple box (Guide), to making a cube from a single sheet to a model of Winnie the Poo's friend Eeyore which takes an incredible 90 Steps, and the patience of Job. (Designed by Y. Greenberg; Diagrams by Jasper. Inspired by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard.) There are all kinds of birds, animals, shapes, tricks, games and even an excellent tutorial on how to Make a Bow Tie from a Dollar Bill!
      The unique shape above is from the Graphica Obscura web site featuring this Paper Folding Project from Paul Haeberli (Oct 1994). Paul creates this folded paper sculpture from a piece of paper about 8.5 by 11.0 inches which goes through a metamorphosis to end with this wonderful finished sculpture.
      All of these great samples were from the links page, John Paulsen's FOLDS.NET Links: Origami Diagrams on the Web.

Dr. Huffman's Excellent Folds

HuffmanFor really extravagant folding, turn to the Geometric Paper Folding of Dr. David Huffman. David has been creating some very complex and original folded structures. He works with both straight and curved folds, using mathematical techniques that he has developed over many years. Mr. Huffman teaches at the University of California at Santa Cruz. These folds are not to be missed!

The piece above was created by 4 parabolic curved folds that meet in a central square. (This "earthquake" pattern consists of many straight folds. The position of each fold was calculated and plotted on the surface by hand. Here, four free hand curves are used to make this beautiful surface.

Visit Yahama in Japan

holiday cardOne of the least likely places to find unique, creative paper folding would be the YAMAHA MOTOR CO., LTD. However, they've included an entire sub-web site dedicated to paper crafts for the sole purpose of your personal pleasure. It also happens to be an extravigant training ground for hopeful paper-folding experts -- and it's all free.

Here is a fun card that can be duplicated very quickly from a template -- yielding a wonderful pop-up greeting which lends itself to your holiday promotions. It's part of the Yamaha "Holiday" department where you can download the complete template kit for making your own. This particular card comes in PDF format ready for your own experimentation.

christmas paperTheir flagship holiday folding project is a sleigh and reindeer, all of which come with their own downloadable PDF files, instructions and coloring guides. Yahama invites you to try your hand at making these attractive symbols of the four seasons.

While you're there, be sure to bookmark all the other fantastic paper folding topics Yamaha offers. Probably the most magnificent is the The Japanese Golden Eagle. Enjoy this challenging paper sculpture. The downloadable package includes instructions and photo images of completed sculptures. You'll find these in the Rare Animals of the World section featuring many species of animals that are disappearing from the face of the earth. The "Rare Animals of Japan" department introduces you to more superb models and includes a complete "Animal Guide." Not only is it a wonderful place for kids... it's also a fantastic place for design and marking inspiration.

If you're a motor cycle fan, you'll love their collection of Yamaha motor cycles all ready to be printed, cut and folded into cool models. Find these and many dozens of others in Yahama's world headquarters web site www.yamaha-motor.co.jp

Folding Basics from A to Z

Now you may say this is a bit ambitious, and you just want some basics. Well to begin getting your folding juices going take a stroll on over to the Finishing Experts Group, Inc. web site where they've provided us with a rather extensive primer on commercial paper folding. They do offer a book: FOLD: The Professional's Guide to Folding which is a little pricey at $145, but they've posted three sample pages for your inspection: 1) Wrapped Accordion (PDF) folds, 2) the T Cross (PDF) fold, and 3) the Gate fold (PDF). For a lot of good information, and yet more idea-starters take a look at their primer for the folding arts starting with Folding Basics. While you're there, don't forget to read the "Understanding Lingo" page. That's the Finishing Experts Group, Inc. origame

Puzzles, games and building things

Another real idea-starter site is the Unique Projects web site where there are literally dozens of free tutorials and plans for all kinds of things -- not just folded paper. If you're into puzzles, games and building things, then this is the site for you. All of the plans come with detailed descriptions on how to make a wide variety of unique items. They vary from simple accessories, gifts and decorations to complex sculptures, games and furniture etc. You are bound to find many profoundly interesting projects within your abilities - give one a try! Unique Projects.com. Don't miss their curved panels with remarkable strength, or their wonderful Pop Up Origami Card made from this free template!

The Science of Folding

For those of you wishing to dig deeply (and I do mean DEEP) into the science and geometry of folding and unfolding you'll need to include Erik Demaine's excellent Folding and Unfolding Page which is part of the M.I.T. web site. Here you'll find a wealth of data on efficient algorithms for characterizing foldability, and finding efficient folding processes, or in proving that such algorithms are impossible.

So there you have the first installment of our "Fantastic Folds" series -- from beginning to high science. Next time we'll look at more folds, and we'll share some of our own unique templates.

Until next time... keep on learning

Fred Showker
      Fred Showker, Editor/Publisher

I'd love to hear about your educational experiences, or your favorite training products. Please drop me a line and let's share with all DT&G readers!

And don't forget, the Design Center has a whole world of cut-n-fold templates available in the Publishers' Warehouse Holidays department. If you didn't read the newsletter, and don't know how to get to the Loading Dock, just ask!

See: Fantastic Folding Cards

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