Today I had the pleasure of working with a team of Designers at Moment for a fun lunchtime session of Origami and Origami Diagramming.

This session seems to have built on last night’s lecture at Pivotal Labs, hosted by Anders Ramsay, where designers from Pivotal and Moment showed how they wireframe in Adobe Illustrator. What’s cool about origami diagramming is that it puts into sharp relief the idea of describing a dynamic process using static images. My theoretical basis for describing this process comes directly from Scott McCloud:


It’s all about the blood in the gutter. There is action shown, and action implied. The more explicit we make the story, the less interesting it is…but it becomes more informative. Making exhaustive, explicit wires is exhausting. There were plenty of comments as we went thorough the session about the challenges of describing interstitial states…as well as showing the results of actions and the next actions overlaid together. Smushing too much information into one panel defeats the purpose of making a coherent document. Spreading it all out makes it incomprehensible. Finding the balance is the art…

At the end of the day, my goal in teaching origami and diagramming together is twofold:

1. People should have a record of the model so they can do it again, or teach others.

2. It’s fun and a great way to think about UX documents.

What we learned last night at Pivotal is that there are pain points in the process when we increase the fidelity of the documents or change tools or change people.

Hand sketching, as we did in this session, can make you a bit lazier when more complex diagrams are called for – recreating complex details over and over again gets to be a pain…but it’s warmer and more inviting than a computer sketch. As we increase in fidelity, and have iterations…the documents become chaotic and difficult to wrangle. The tool we start with isn’t always the tool we finish with. Going back and forth between Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign is a hassle…especially when, in the Agile world, the software should really become the document. In the case of origami, it’s just about getting the folder to the finish line. Making the most lovely diagrams is awesome…but just creating a set of mnemonics for oneself is sufficient in many cases.


At the end of the day, everyone had some lovely blow-up bunnies and flying birds…photo set of their work to come!