Introducing: Ambigrams

Today I’d like to take a small deviation into artland for a moment to spotlight something that absolutely fascinates me: ambigrams.  I’ve been noticing this insatiable fascination with type faces and words cropping up in my thoughts lately, so I’m going to encourage it and see what happens.  Ambigrams are a trifle difficult to describe, so I’ll use Douglas R. Hofstadter’s definition.

An ambigram is a “calligraphic design that manages to squeeze two different readings into the selfsame set of curves.”

It’s almost like code writing, but instead of having a distinct set of symbols for the alphabet, the regular letter forms are used and manipulated to create dual-words.  Let me show you some examples:

I just couldnt resist showing this one.  I didnt make it, but its pretty amazing anyway!

I just couldn't resist showing this one. I didn't make it, but it's pretty amazing anyway!

Okay, look at the name Casey above.  If you flipped this image upside down, it would look exactly the same, even though all the letters would be reversed.  The C and the Y are formed the same, as are the A and the E.  This is a rotational ambigram.

Same idea with Mississippi here.  This would look precisely the same if it was rotated 180 degrees.

Another ambigram that works when rotated.  This one is for a new series of comic books.  It’s even better than the others because it has an accompanying reversible graphic.

Another rotational.  I think this doormat is my favorite. :)  I found it in the Uncommon Goods catalog earlier this year and used it for a class presentation I had to do at the time.  I think it kind of bewildered my friends.  I seemed to be the only one who could see the amazing coolness of something like this.  *sigh*  Just another kooky facet of my personality, I guess. ;)  Anyhow, the doormat welcomes you as you enter and properly sees you out, too.  It’s perfect for all those guests who drop by unexpectedly and must be admitted.  It’s quite real, and can be yours for a mere $24.

This is a mirror image ambigram.  Instead of flipping or rotating this one, you hold it up to a mirror and see the exact same image.

This magnificent painting by ambigram master John Langdon is a figure ground ambigram.  It forms two words: one with the positive space (the white blocks), the other with the negative space (the photo of the field).  You have to stare at it for a while to get your eyes adjusted to the changes.  (it says “optical illusion”)  If you’d like to learn more about ambigrams or learn how to start making some, check out John Langdon’s website.  It’s a wealth of information.  One of my favorite ambigrams is on Mr Langdon’s site, but I couldn’t link to it.  If you go it his site and click “Logos” in the top menu, look for one called “Victoria.”  It’s beautiful.

This ambigram thing is wildly popular and has even sparked it’s own thriving Flickr group.  It seems that the easiest way to make ambigrams work is by using a graffiti type script.  That’s not really my cup of tea.  I’m more partial to the traditional ones.  I’m going to give it a whirl and see what I come up with.  I’m armed with the tips from Mr Langdon and full of amazing inspiration from my searches this morning.

Okay, that’s all for art class today.  Let me know what you thought of this post.  I’ll be happy to do another art class post, but I don’t want to bore you when you only came to talk about movies or sewing.  Never fear, I’m not giving up either of those anytime soon.  I’m starting a new sewing project and will be posting on it soon.  Happy Sunday, my dears!



Filed under Let Me Introduce You, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Introducing: Ambigrams

  1. I think I just went a little cross-eyed.

    Please do more art-class posts, Professor Casey! :-)

  2. Jen

    Oh ambigrams – i have the funniest story about them. After a good friend of mine read the Da Vinci code, she became obcessed and turned everything into one – our names, her school notes, EVERYTHING!! She gave up on them after a while because they are actually quite hard to make and went back to normal writing :)

  3. Raquelle – I’m sorry about the cross-eyed effect! I tried to pick the ambigrams that were easiest to read. You should see some of them, cross-eyed central! I’m glad you liked the art class post, though. I shall do another! :)

    Jen – What a terrific story! Thanks so much for sharing it. Your friend must be an amazing artist. I think it takes great vision to be able to draw ambigrams successfully.


  4. Wow! I loved this post! It reminds me of that old woman/young maiden thing where you can’t see both at the same time– I could not see Optical and Illusion in the same focus!

  5. Thanks Kate! I always love that old woman/young maiden image! The first time I saw it, I could only see the old woman. My psych prof showed it to our class and it created quite a stir, because half the class saw one image and half saw the other. It was hilarious!

    I can’t see Optical and Illusion in the same focus, either! Isn’t that one amazing?


  6. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  7. Nice intro. It’s always exciting to introduce ambigrams to new eyes!

    And I should know – we have thousands of ambigram designs, all of which have been hand drawn by Mark Palmer. It’s amazing still to see the process.

    Definitely takes a certain mind to create them.

    – Nate of Wow Tattoos
    Ambigram Tattoo Designs by Mark Palmer

  8. Love the “go away” mat!

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