Origami crane.
Origami Technical communication

How to fold an origami crane

As a kid I wanted to learn how to do origami. It was pure magic to see someone take a square piece of paper and turn it into a bird, a frog, or even an elephant.

I decided to give it a try, and got a book from the library. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out the instructions, and I eventually gave up.

Twenty years later, I decided to give it one more try. This time I did not get a book. Instead, I found a video on YouTube. Twelve minutes later I had folded my first origami crane.

Origami crane.
Origami crane.

The curious technical communicator in me started to think about different types of instructions for folding origami. I found four main types of instructions:

  1. Video. This is the digital version of someone showing you how to make the folds. That person has infinite patience because you can pause and “rewind” as much as you like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ux1ECrNDZl4
  2. Diagrams and text. Illustrations show crease pattern and folding directions. Text instructions provide additional information. http://www.origami-fun.com/support-files/origami-crane-print.pdf
  3. Pictures and text. This is like a stop-motion version of the video instructions, with written instructions instead of a speaker voice. http://www.wikihow.com/Fold-a-Paper-Crane
  4. Crease pattern diagrams. No frills. Experts only. Shows the necessary creases. You have to decide how to make them. http://media.techwritingengineer.com/2014/08/2fb7a-cranebeforefinishing.gif

The book I had borrowed as a kid had only crease pattern diagrams… no wonder I couldn’t use them – I wasn’t an expert.

My first instinct when I want to learn a new skill is still to find a book to read. That might not always the most efficient way of learning, especially not craft skills.

My wife takes a different approach. She turns to YouTube first, where she’s figured out how to craft cool beaded jewelry – something I imagine is much hard to learn from a book.

“Procedural knowledge is difficult or impossible to write down and difficult to teach. It is best taught by demonstration and best learned through practice.” (The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman)

I’d love to hear about your experience with learning new crafts – vote in the poll or leave a comment! 🙂

What kind of origami instructions would you prefer?

ps. If you want to learn origami, I recommend following Jo Nakashima on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/jonakashima) ds.

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