Origami Bar Charts

This week I have been exploring new designs for creating 3D bar charts from origami. This follows an approach I have decided to adopt as a design strategy in which I map my designs against existing data visualizations. I selected bar charts as the first visualization to focus on due to its relative simplicity of form.

One criterion for this project is that the bar charts I create need to dynamic, i.e. they can be reformed to different sizes to represent different data points. At this stage, I am not concerned with designing origami bar charts that are automatically dynamic, i.e. can be technologically controlled to change shape. For now, my focus is on exploring the forms I can achieve with origami that map well to bar chart visualizations.

I have identified two designs which have the potential to be adapted into dynamic 3D bar charts, which I will describe below.

Stackable Boxes

This pattern was found on the Paper Kawaii Youtube channel (video below).

This design seemed promising – it allows for singular units to be combined to create bar charts of infinite size. However, it was found that the boxes don’t fit together as well as they do in the tutorial. If more than two boxes are stacked, the stack falls over. The issue may be with the type of paper being used – the paper in the tutorial appears to be more plasticised, whereas the paper I am using is traditional origami paper. Plasticised paper may allow for more rigid and well-defined folds. This difference in material is an area I must explore in more detail.

Above: Stacking boxes do not fit as well as in tutorial.








Accordion Pleated Box

The second design I explored was an accordion pleated box pattern from a Youtube tutorial from Leyla Torres (video below).

The pattern is generally used as a desk tidy or jewellery – however, it also provides an ideal form for an expandable bar chart.

Above: Triangular shapes are slotted together to create the pattern
Above: Modular form of accordion pleated box
Above: The pleated box, half-extended













This is a modular origami pattern – the shape is formed by connecting individual triangular shapes that can fold open and closed. When these shapes are all linked together, the entire shape can be stretched and compressed.

As can be seen from this video, a good range of length can be achieved through the extension and compression of the bar chart. One potential issue, however, is the unsteadiness of the bar chart when turned upright. It functions best at the moment laying on its side – I am interested in exploring methods for supporting the bar charts’ structure so that it can stand vertically.

Another interesting design that can be achieved with this pattern is a wheel shape. As this structure is rigid, and cannot be stretched in any direction, it is not wholly suited to acting as a dynamic physicalization. However, I am still interested in exploring this design as a design material for future physicalizations, as it maps well against pie chart visualizations.

Above: A wheel shape can be achieved with the accordion pleat design
Above: The wheel can stand upright unsupported

What Next?

There are several angles I plan to explore to expand on this work. I will continue to search for, build and evaluate origami patterns that have the potential to map against data visualizations. The materiality of the paper being used needs to be examined and evaluated, and new paper types tested, in order to determine the optimum paper weight and type for use in these designs. I will also begin to encode data into these designs to examine how this might affect their form and functionality.


1 year ago

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