A couple weeks ago we had our Vitamin Circus. You may have read some other Circus articles from our team (they really are rather good and more will soon follow). If you’re not familiar with this idea; it’s simply a day where everyone is away from the studio, and in which we can do whatever we choose just as long as there is a tenuous benefit to the company (and the more tenuous the better apparently). In the following weeks, typically on a Friday afternoon, we take our turns sharing our experiences and insights with the rest of the team.

For my Circus I teamed up with my colleague Sam. We looked to pursue an idea, seeds of which had been sown during a previous project named Sprout Breakout which hit a number of news sites and blogs. Building on that, our Circus came with the self set challenge to try and beat a World Record — but not only that either — we also aimed to create a ‘brand new’ World Record too! Like all grand ideas, this would need some further planning, for example: research and information on current World Records and other such opportunities, availability of material, size and weight required, space needed to attempt, or indeed, achieve the task, how to record it, and even how to present it to our team.

2018’s low-poly sprout breaking out into the real world

Planning done, materials ordered and delivered. Circus day arrives with an unseasonably clear blue sky and bright winter sunshine. It was going to be a great, great day. Our only slight concern was whether or not we would have sufficient floor space to make our attempt — I had even borrowed a 7 seat vehicle in the event we had to move our material to another venue. Arriving at the studio (I know I know… we were meant to be away from the studio) there were a few live projects we both had to tend to before smashing any world records.

Clearing away half the studio afforded us barely enough floor space for what we needed. Another inch or two would have been nice but we had to roll with it now under fair pressure. We began with some small practice origami pieces in order to refresh our minds and help memorise the process for the attempt ahead.

Next, we began to unroll our very large sheet of paper — guidelines insist that any attempt must consist of one single sheet of paper (absolutely no tape allowed here). Being on a roll, we had to measure and cut a large square sheet. To save time we used the factory cut edge as a guide. It’s worth pointing out here that this edge isn’t always square, as we were soon to find out — not to mention remembering the old adage of ‘measure twice and cut once’.

Starting with an attempt to break the record for the largest origami butterfly set by an American High School, this had appeared to be a fairly safe challenge right until we discovered that the initial record had subsequently been broken… again… by the very same school but at a later date. Checking the measurements it very quickly became apparent that we could not beat this. Undeterred, we continued with the view that it would make a very good practice piece. The final result, although a little smaller than the record, looked decidedly better than theirs which in itself was a satisfying conclusion and worthy justification.

The next ‘fold’ would be the one we were a little more familiar with — additionally, this was the one we could find no record of. Learning from the previous attempt we diligently measured, checked (and measured again) before cutting the paper to size — with so many folds running through the centre, alignment would be critical this time.

Ready to go, we set our two cameras to record the process as a time lapse video. Being a lot more three dimensional than the butterfly, our main concern during the fold was whether the final structure would be rigid enough to be self supporting under its own considerable weight — there would be only one way to find this out. With multiple folds and firm creasing, the paper became very fragile in places and small tears appeared far too frequently, causing us more than a little concern. During the folding process it was necessary to flip the whole sheet of paper completely over to reverse the direction of certain creases, requiring both of us to be at full arm stretch, and on tiptoes. On a more complex part of the fold, we had to turn various parts inside out — during which, friction caused the paper to bind and snag on itself, rucking up in a most alarming way. To alleviate this one of us had to ‘climb inside’ to free it before it destroyed the entire structure. Panic over, the final few folds were carefully made — the structure, however, considerably weakened. The last stage of the process was to fill it with air, to puff it out and provide some form.

Finally… knees hurting and back aching… our challenge was complete, measured and photos taken. It was now very dark outside! We might not know the Word Record verdict yet although it really can be quite surprising what you can fit in just half a day after those necessary live projects. Here are a few things we learned:

  • It’s good to think big, sometimes the bigger the better!
  • Not all well laid plans run smoothly
  • It’s not easy to get extra large sheets of paper
  • Don’t ever trust a factory ‘straight edge’
  • Paper weight vs size of finished article is critical
  • We could easily make it bigger (subject to above)
  • Three hours on your hands and knees is not all fun
  • Knee pads are essential and will be worn next time
  • Not to inadvertently place objects (drinks) in front of cameras
  • A stool, or small steps would come in handy
  • If it’s easy, it’s not a challenge
  • Teamwork is essential
  • And if it does turn out to be a new World Record… all the better!

This article was written by Jon Symons and Sam Thomas, designers at Vitamin Cornwall; a leading creative agency which specialises in nothing but delivers everything. They have also launched vitamincornwall.com/labs to help start-ups and innovators get their dream projects live, fast.

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