My mate Wayne and I are putting together the Model Collection for the BOS spring convention. One idea we thought we’d try is to indicate a level of difficulty for each. We both feel the current systems don’t do the job wonderfully. So what options do we have?

The standard used by Origami USA is to one assign from the following list; simple, low-intermediate, high intermediate, complex and super-complex. The latter is “anything that takes over three hours”. Whilst this is a laudable attempt, it’s still very hard to decide what about a model determines its complexity. Clearly, the experience of the folder is a key factor, since what is tricky to one is childs-play to another. We don’t know in advance who will fold the model, so is this one variable we should exclude from a classification?

One of my dishes – a simple enough crease pattern but a real sod to fold!

Perhaps we could count the steps, factor in how long it takes someone to fold it and produce a formula? Maybe each technique should be assigned a number and once again, a formula could determine complexity.  Another possible variable is how many times do you need to fold a given model to produce an excellent example?

Some Yoshizawa designs, for example, can be completed relatively quickly, but never really look impressive until you have made them many, many times. Other designs, like many of those of Komatsu, are sequenced so that you can produce a clean, neat example far more readily.

I’m not sure that the OUSA five-tier system is capable of covering the whole gamut of origami complexity, but alas, I have no better alternative. In previous books I have used 1/2/3 flapping birds, airplanes with 1-5 on them and several other devices which only give an indication of relative complexity wihin the book. Maybe a number rating of 1-10 might allow greater accuracy? Another alternative is to say “if you can fold this, then you can fold XXX”, so if the student can make a flapping bird, they are ready for a waterbomb. But are there standard models that everyone knows to use as a practical reference in this way? Probably not!

So, we have a problem on our hands. Your thoughts and input would be most welcome!

3 Responses

  1. I also have difficulty with the complexity rating of models. I believe that this is partly due to the fact that the upper end of complexity has increased over the years. If you look at the most complex models that were readily available in diagrams 20 years ago, they mostly pale in comparison to some of the beasts you can find in books and online today.

    I was thinking about this recently when I looked at the number of models in each year’s OUSA convention collection. In general, over the last 20 years, there has been a fairly steep decline in the number of models in each collection and I believe this is mainly a function of the increasing complexity of the models being presented.

    I guess my point is that almost every categorization system I can recall for origami complexity has had a finite ceiling, but I think either potential complexity is infinite or we haven’t found the ceiling yet.

  2. You might be interested in seeing this thread over at the origami forums.

    I think that including the folder’s experience in the rating is unnecessary. It should be left to the folder to determine their own level of experience. They can then judge whether the model is suited to their ability.

    Models in a book, as you mentioned, can be rated using a relative scale. It may even be possible for a single creator to use a relative scale over the entire library of their own models/books, but the problem, I think, is getting everyone to adhere to a scale in which all models can be judged relative to one another. I don’t think it’s a very feasible idea, though. For everyone to be able to accurately apply a rating to their own model, in such a way that everyone’s models can be compared accurately with each other, there would have to be some list of criteria to use. On the one hand, it would have to be complex enough to be used effectively, but on the other hand it would have to be simple enough to be easy to apply to a handful of models, without being a burden.

    As I see it, a more sophisticated system would have to be more detailed, including an overall rating of the model, details of complicated steps, suggestions for paper size and type. And as Malachi says, using a numerical scale could be problematic in the future when models surpass current limits of complexity. I suppose you could always just make it go up to 11 instead, though.

    1. Wow, there are serious discussions on Saj’s forum 😉

      It may be that there is no perfect solution. I like the Spinal Tap idea of a model going up to 11 (“No, you can’t fold it. In fact, don’t even look at it”…

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