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Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art Paperback – September 24, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"… finally, the secrets of an origami master are revealed! It feels like Lang has taken you on as an apprentice as he teaches you his techniques, stepping you through examples of real origami designs and their development. -Erik Demaine, October 2003
Robert J. Lang, author of Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art, was featured as part of a recent article in the Science section of the New York Times. -New York Times , June 2004
For most origami enthusiasts, the ancient Japanese art of folding and making creases is a mere hobby, and a grand pursuit for those giddily obsessed with the mathematics (or aesthetics) of how mere paper can be contorted into objects of beauty and interest. For Robert J. Lang, however, origami has become a life's pursuit . . . -Chad Berndtson, The Patriot Ledger , November 2004
""There is something for everyone here, whether beginner or expert, left-brained or right, specialist or dilettante."" -Gail Anderson, Engineering & Science, April 2003
""This magisterial work, splendidly produced, covers all aspects of the art and science."" -SIAM Book Review, November 2004
""Origami may seem an unusual route to a prestigious university job, but most things about Dr. Erik Demaine defy academic norms."" -Margaret Wertheim, The New York Times , February 2005
Young Scientist Sees Origami as the Shape of Things to Come -Margaret Wertheim, The New York Times , February 2005
""This book is a synthesis of origami technique, history, and instructions, with very thoughtful and clear explanations for almost every aspect of the art of folding and designing origami."" -Sarah Gourlie, Math Horizons, January 2006
When Robert J. Lang, a laser physicist, talks with passion about origami — the Japanese art of paper folding — the line between play and discovery also completely dissolves. Mr. Lang is what might be called an origamist (see He wrote the book ""Origami Design Secrets: Mathematical Methods for an Ancient Art"" (AK Peters, 2003) and has created tarantulas, delicate herons, 12-spined shells and big-horned elk out of single, uncut, folded sheets of paper. -Edward Rothstein, The New York Times , April 2006
Susan Orlean profiles Robert J. Lang in ""The Origami Lab: Why a physicist dropped everything for paper folding""
""The first part of his plan was to write the book he'd been contemplating while still at JDS Uniphase -- Origami Design Secrets, which was published in 2003 and lays out the underlying principles of origami and desgin techniques."" -Susan Orlean, The New Yorker, February 2007
The Times Magazine asked 10 artists to design ""green"" flags to illustrate Thomas L. Friedman's cover story. Here's how origami artist Robert J. Lang created his flag. -The New York Times Magazine , April 2007
""Now meet Robert Lang. When he folds paper, he doesn't just make objects, he creates art. He's able to see paper differently than the rest of us.""
Watch the video from CBS Sunday Morning -CBS Morning News, May 2007
""Through the years I was a professional physicist, I found that the tools I had learned doing physics and engineering—the mathematics and the approach to breaking down problems and studying the underlying theory—could be applied to origami as well. So that helped me to develop my origami art to a fairly high level. ""
Cabinet, Issue 17 -Margaret Wertheim, May 2005
""Lang chose to strike a balance between a book that describes origami design algorithmically and one that appeals to the origami community. . . . For mathematicians and origamists alike, Lang's expository approach introduces the reader to technical aspects of folding and the mathematical models with clarity and good humor. . . . Origami Design Secrets . . . is highly recommended for mathematicians and students alike who want to view, explore, wrestle with open problems in, or even try their own hand at the complexity of origami model design."" -Thomas C. Hull, The Mathematical Intelligencer , March 2005
Robert Lang Sheds Light on the Math That Underlies Origami: See the link above for an article about Robert Lang's MAA Carriage House lecture ""From Flapping Birds to Space Telescopes,"" including links to an interview with Robert Lang and an audio file of the lecture. -MAA Online, July 2009"

From the Publisher

Origami novices will appreciate the organization of the book, which begins with basic techniques and progresses to deep and powerful tools for design, all based on simple, intuitive concepts like grafting, circle packing, and assembly of tiles.

Both novices and aficionados will find detailed step-by-step instructions for previously unpublished models, including the famous "Black Forest Cuckoo Clock."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 594 pages
  • Publisher: A K Peters/CRC Press (September 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568811942
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568811949
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Reed on December 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Robert Lang's book is one of the most amazing origami books I have ever seen. Disregard the higher than normal price for the book, it is worth every penny.

People who are simply interested in folding models will be delighted by the awe-inspiring Black Forest Cuckoo Clock and the collection of turtles (complete with shell designs). Other models include birds, a moose, a train, a valentine heart, and many, many others...all out of one sheet of paper with no cutting.

The books real value, however, is its wonderful discussion of the origami design process. Lang breaks down many different aspects and techniques of design into understandable bites. Personally, I enjoyed the mathematical discussions throughout, especially the tree theory section.

The bottom line: (out of 10)


Model Value:

9 (not a book entirely of models, but the models that are contained are gorgeous)

Instruction Clarity:

9 (excellent considering how complicated the models are)


10 (even origami pros will be challenged by the clock and the tiling of the fish and turtle)


10 (reading the book is as gratifying as actually reproducing one of the models within it)

Overall Value (not an average):

10 (a true masterpiece)
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Koppel on November 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
It usually takes much more time to diagram a new origami design than it does to create it. Thus there are many wonderful folds that have never been diagramed. That is why it is so wonderful when a great designer manages to take the time to produce a book.
But this book is no ordinary collection of designs. Instead, Lang tries to guide the reader through the creative process and various techniques for designing new origami figures. From simple concepts to pattern grafting, circle packing and other techniques, the folder learns about powerful design tools in a clear and efficient manner.
Some origami books have brief explanations about design but only a few have gone into any real depth (J.C. Nolan's Creating Origami comes to mind), but this is the clearest and most detailed account written to date.
Of course the book is also packed with instructions for reproducing some of Lang's amazing creations (including the famous Black Forest Cuckoo Clock).
I hope that this book remains in print for many years as it is an amazing resource for folders and designers.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Sen Peng Eu on November 24, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Believe me, all over the origami world are waiting for this book!
Origami nowadays has much much more than a recreation. After the serious and arduous study of experts, the theory of origami model design has long been established. In the eyes of expert, there is nothing which cannot be folded from a single sheet of paper, as Lang stated "Anything is possible in origami" in this book. However, so far there is no book about design models. Superfans (like me), and those who are not satisfied by only the models and diagrams, can only collect ideas from sparse and different websites, books and magazines(for example, taitadaen of Japan), and struggle on our own.
And now here is Lang's book. This book is for everyone who is interested in origami. If you are an expert, buy it. Read the philosophy, share the joy and follow the route of a real origami master. If you are a veteran folder, buy it. Learn how these wonderful models were designed, see why Lang's models are always among the best, absorb the technic and try to design your models. If you are a newbie, buy it. Fold the models inside and have joy.
Even you have nothing to do with origami, buy it owing to the COVER. The vivid frog and the incredible koi, with hundreds of scales and antennae, are both folded from a SINGLE paper without a cut.
(BTW, the figure 1.1, which demostrates 32 elephants, 2D/3D, from the side/front, of different folders, accidently misses the mischevous elephant of Jeremy, which is looked from the butt :) )

Thank you, Dr. Lang!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Nihal Mehta on June 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
Just two days ago, I had a very casual interest in origami. The primary reason being that I have no patience to simply follow instructions folding paper, and not seeing where all this paper folding is leading to till the last 1-2 steps. And, even then, why the precise sequence of folds has to be followed doesn't become clearer when you have completed your figure.
But, after getting this book, my entire perspective on origami has been drastically changed. For the first time, I have seen an Origami book which actually de-assembles the steps, and talks about the design in a top-down approach, focussing on the major folds/creases, and the general concepts and principles you need to create a figure of your own from scratch.
Despite the intimidating size of this book, you will very quickly get a sense of what all the folds are doing, and most importantly, start creating your own origami designs.
The origami designs in this book will amaze you - a heart with an arrow piercing it, a toy train, and a whole host of others which you won't believe were actually developed from a single sheet of paper without any glue or cuts.
don't be intimidated by the several pages of steps to follow to make a model. The text in each chapter gives an excellent overview and you will not feel lost in the design: in fact, you will begin to see why the creases/folds are necessary, even though you may have over 70% of the steps still to do.
Lastly, the chapter on the Tree Algorithm is outstanding. This chapter discusses a computational approach to develop an origami figure from scratch. By the time you reach this chapter, the author has done a marvellous job of putting all the design ingedients in place, so you will appreciate the advanced mathematical theory. (For me, this was the best part.
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