Oriscript in Oriscript

What is it?

Oriscript is the first ever writing system that can be written with virtually any object, anywhere. It is called Oriscript because I originally made it as a way of writing by folding paper, like origami. It can even be written by placing objects on a surface, or with your hands. It is not a language, but rather a writing system for any language. Oriscript has the potential to be a 'bridge writing system', a system that can be easily read by both people and cameras. It can also be read and written just by touch (so by the blind too!)

After reading through this website for 20 minutes, you should be able to read and write Oriscript. I'm still changing a few things here and there, trying to make it easier to use. I like the idea that i could eventually land on a perfect implementation, where visual communication could become platform-agnostic, across the physical and virtual world.

Oriscript: A system for writing messages with anything, in the dark, to robots. If you really needed to.

'enter' tag

oriscript saying enter


oriscript saying chris

'alphabet' (the word)

oriscript saying alphabet

'left-exit' tags

oriscript saying left-exit

How it works

This tutorial will show you how to use Oriscript. This can be done just with your hands by folding paper, or using a pen or coin to write or indent the lines on a surface. You can even use commonplace objects like matches or pens to mark out the message in plain sight on other surfaces.

Whereas most writing systems use a diverse array of symbols, Oriscript makes use of cells, indicators and notches. Oriscript accounts for all the different symbols in alphabets by converting them into a numerical value, and then displaying that value. The cells are the squares which contain everything, the indicators are the diagonal lines that cross the whole cell, and the notches are the little lines around the edge. (Alot of people assume that one cell equals one letter. This is not the case.)


So start off by getting a flat surface and some straight objects, or a piece of paper, preferably A4. To get a sense of the cell sizes without using loads of objects to represent each one, you can look at the width and height of your indicator, and imagine a square around it to give you a sense of scale. To create the cells on paper, I generally recommend using paper folded 5 times which gives you 32 cells and 256 ‘notches’, but you can start off with a smaller grid. Any paper can be used as long as it is roughly square. You don’t want the cells to be too narrow, or too small to crease. You can always just draw a grid of cells on some paper to follow the tutorial if you just want to the learn the system first.

The indicators


You can put an indicator in any cell to show if the following content will be letters, numbers, special characters like @, or a tag. It is important to start every message with an indicator so the reader knows which list to translate your message into. At any point in your message you can insert a new Indicator to change the type of content. The character tables are at the bottom of this page. Indicators use only diagonal lines. So start off by marking the alphabet indicator on what you are writing on.



There are 8 notches in each cell, which are placed on the left side of each side of the cell, in a rough pair. There is some flexibility in where you mark the notch, as long as it is obvious if the marker is 'closest to the middle' or the marker 'closest to the corner'. It is also no trouble to read when there are two markers together (positions 1+2, 3+4, 5+6, 7+8), as you know both positions are filled. The last notch diagram illustrates this quite well. Be careful where you mark them. Realy try to visualize all the notches in the cell clearly. So remember, ask yourself before marking a notch, does it look like it is closer to the corner or the middle?

The markers are also on the left of each side so that you can have adjacent cells and still be able to know which one the notch is in. This is especially helpful when folding Oriscript on paper, as notch creases can sometimes overlap into adjacent cells.

We are going to write 'abacus'. We use notches to count to the value that represents a certain letter. Each cell contains 8 cell positions for counting through. Each letter is associated with a number, or as I call them, 'notch values'. For example 'a' is 2 (I'll explain why it's not 1 in a moment). You can check the notch value of all characters in the character table below. So we would count to the second position after the previous notch and mark it to represent 'a'. To write the next character, you start counting from the next free notch position. We don't start a new cell for the next letter, as that would waste alot of notch positions and take up more space. Compare the second and third digram above to see how you count the notches in a cell.

Start writing in the top left cell. Each cell, and the message as a whole, are read clockwise spiraling to the center of the page. This means that when you are writing it on paper, you use all the outside cells around the edge first.

So in your first cell, mark a notch in the second position to indicate 'a'. Then the next notch (b, we're writing abacus remember!) should be marked 3 (shift, a, b) positions after the 'a' notch. Compare the second and third notch diagrams to get a sense of how to count around the cells if you can't work it out. Then after the 'b', mark another notch for 'a', two positions along. This should be in the seventh notch position. The next letter, 'c', will take us into the next cell. 'c' has the number value four, so including the last empty notch position in the first cell, count up to four. This should lead you to notch position three in cell number two.

google homepage
google homepage in oriscript


Listen close, because understanding what shift does seems to be the hardest part for most people. The shift function has the value 1 in every list. This means that if you see a notch marked in the first position of a message, or directly after another notch, it is a shift! Shift allows us to write alot of different characters without having really long character tables. The alphabet is cut into two sections in Oriscript, between 'm' and 'n'. For example, without the shift function, to write the character 'z', we would have to use 26 spaces up (shift and the rest of A-Z), which is over 3 cells! So the shift function allows us to alot in a smaller space. So when you are counting through the alphabet, or the number list to place your next notch, don't forget to count over the shift first, even if you're not using it in that particular instance.

The last two letters of 'abacus', 'u' and 's', require the shift function. So right after the 'c', mark a notch, and then count up to the letter 'u'(which has number value 8), which takes you into the next cell. 's' has the number value 6, and will also take you into another cell. Finally compare your results with the diagram below to see if you got it completly right. Count through the notch positions on the diagram if you have trouble.



Other things

Practice time!

I would like you to try to write 'hello' using the 'English / European' character table below to help you find the right notch positions. You can fold it or write on paper. When you have finished, compare it to the diagram below to see if it is the same. After you have worked that out, try writing your email, and then 'abcde12345'.





So that's it!

That covers everything you need to know to get started. I hope you feel confident enough to go and use Oriscript in all your own clandestine pursuits. If you want to share any cool or interesting Oriscript messages, send me a picture and I'll put it on this site. If you have any problems with the tutorial, or suggestions, please email me at chris@system-art.io . If you would like to translate this site or the character tables, make videos tutorials or images for the project, please email me.

nintendo in oriscript

Character tables

Use these tables as a reference to read and write Oriscript.

English / European / Romaji / Cangjie

Notch Value Alphabet Mathematics punctuation special Tags
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
1 shift / n shift / = shift / space shift / change case shift / SOS
2 a / o 1 / + . / , @ / .com left / right
3 b / p 2 / − ! / ¡ - / _ here / not here
4 c / q 3 / × ? / ¿ ~ / DEL false / opposite
5 d / r 4 / ÷ ” / „ RETURN / ESC enter / exit
6 e / s 5 / % « / » ≥ / ≤ yes / no
7 f / t 6 / > : / ; ∞ / * share / don't share
8 g / u 7 / < English table \ / ¤ destroy / protect
9 h / v 8 / ^ Greek table € / $ sooner / later
10 i / w 9 / . Russian table £ / ¥ space / time
11 j / x 0 / # Arabic table ° / • email / address
12 k / y ( / ) Hebrew table ¦ / | name / username
13 l / z [ / ] Custom table ⟨ / ⟩ phone / I.P
14 m / ß { / } ą / ę ⁄ / / pin / password
15 ä / ö mod / π ñ / ‰ / ‱
16 ü / æ φ / ||

Using paper, or "Origamiscript" & Dynamic cell shapes

As mentioned before, I originally made Oriscript as a way of writing by folding paper. So here are some tips related specifically to that.

  1. Don't try to take pictures of it. I didn't share any pictures of folded oriscript as it doesn't show up well at all in a static image.
  2. The thicker the paper, the more secure the message. Napkins and 100gsm are only good for messages that don't need to last for more than 5-10 minutes. I personally prefer 160gsm.
  3. Use pointy implements to mark your message if its to fiddly to fold!
  4. Though I've nothing worth sharing at this point, I really like the idea of a neatly folded self-contained origami note which is also an oriscript message. I do realise however that paper folded to create cells is also very similar to this, and seems much simpler.
  5. I think the idea of chaotically sequenced cells would look very cool. Perhaps a starting point for this could be scrunching up paper and using the unstructured creases somehow as cells. Also on a mosaic-like surface, one could use the individual facets of the surface to symbolise cells.

Comparison with symbol-heavy writing systems

What is the point?

For me, the initial point was just to find a way to communicate through folding paper. Then a while after I wanted to create a way of communicating by placing commonplace objects on any surface, though I shortly realised that I had already in fact unintentionally created such a system through Oriscript.

It's made out of love of methods of expression like QR, morse code, GIFs and origami. Beauty often comes from finiteness. The constraints of origami, no cutting or attaching, and the fact that it is so fragile exemplify this notion for me really well. There's something really cool about information mediums that have well defined technical limitations, but are still capable of forming a vast amount of unique variations.

I felt compelled to share the writing system just to add the academic zeitgeist of language and design. For end users, linguists and origami enthusiasts, I hope Oriscript is at the very least a bit of fun, and that it provokes thought about design and communication. Maybe somebody will even find it useful!

Real-world usage


My name is Christopher Shelley. I am a 23 y/o guy from England currently living in Berlin. Oriscript was dreamt up whilst I was making origami one day in the summer of 2012. I think about technology, design, and languages a lot. www.system-art.io