Poetry Ambigram competition Results!

The time has come, for us to now announce the results for this month’s contest!

And the winner is…


John Langdon with his ‘Haiku’ ambigram!

John Langdon Haiku
John Langdon: Haiku

I have difficulty every time I need to choose a winner, but in this case, there was no doubt. No other design submitted to this competition embraced the theme so thoroughly as this one did!

I feel like poetry at the most fundamental level is the art of hiding extra meaning in words. Ambigrams are very similar, but instead they hide their extra meaning in the graphical symbols which represent the words. In every case, this means using one set of symbols to represent more than one word, in the same way that a single metaphor can represent more than one idea. But in the case of this ambigram, there are other hidden messages, like little easter eggs!

As we all remember from school, a Haiku has 3 lines, and so does this ambigram – split into 3 vertical sections. And the number of syllables in each line of a Haiku are 5, 7, and 5 – just as the number of strokes making up the letters in each vertical segment of this ambigram are 5, 7, and 5.

I suppose this gives the design a certain rhythm which mimics that of the poetic form it references – and this is something I approve! Of course, I think it is also clear that Haikus are inherently symmetrical in their form, which make them a perfect candidate for a poetry themed ambigram competition.

Unfortunately, I can’t read the ambigram in the little red stamp at the bottom. I assume it is the name of the artist, but I cannot read it! If I were to give one other point of criticism, I would like to see this written with a brush and black ink. That would complete the visual metaphor, for me!

Another favourite was Diego Colombo, with his ambigram of Dante Alighieri

diego colombo DanteAlighieri
Diego Colombo – Dante Alighieri

I don’t have much to say about this, it’s just such a good example of a well executed ambigram. Very readable, very pretty, and very symmetrical!

John Langdon – Quoth the Raven Nevermore

This one has done something interesting. Rather than ‘QUOTH THE RAVEN NEVERMORE’, this ambigram has written ‘QUOTHERAVENEVERMORE’, re-using certain letters. At a certain point when designing ambigrams, you need to think about how our brain fundamentally reads words.

Scientists have in the past performed tests, where a subject is given some text to read, and a camera tracks his eyes as he reads. What they find is that people read by recognising the shapes of words, rather than by recognising the shapes of individual letters. More advanced readers might be able to scan over a few words at once, and process them as a whole.

This is the psychological trick used in this ambigram – even though some letters have been re-used, this only happens with letters at the start or end of the word. This means that the shapes which make up each word do indeed appear in this design, even though some of them ‘overlap’.

It is the same reason that the AV in Raven is still legible, when the A and the V share a stroke.

It reminds me of this optical illusion:


‘The’ is written twice in that sentence, but at a glance, you would not notice!

Michael Irving Poetry_Prose
Michael Irving – Poetry/Pros
Dan Adona Henleys classic
Invictus – Dan Adona
otto kronstedt BloodSweatTears
Otto Kronstedt – Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Words from Churchill’s famous speech (which I have generously considered for the theme of poetry!)

otto kronstedt serenity wisdom courage
Otto Kronstedt – Serenity, Wisdom, and Courage

Words from the Serenity Prayer (which I have also generously allowed entry into this competition!) Here is the relevant excerpt from the prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I love these 3 word ambigrams so much! They may be difficult to read, but I consider that part of the challenge!

Constructive Criticism

Antonella La Rocca m'illumino d'immenso
Antonella La Rocha – M’illumino D’immenso

Unfortunately I do not speak italian, so this is less immediately easy to read, but I do love the way it is presented, on a postit note in a makeup case. I would love to see a more finalised version – keep in mind that ambigrams should be beautiful as well as clever!

Antonella La Rocca wildeoscar doriangray
Antonella La Rocha – DorianGray/WildeOscar

Although I love the presentation, this ambigram does need some more work. Some letters are very difficult to read, and just need a bit more time to get them perfect, because finalising it in ink! For example, the AY/W solution, and the NG/LDE solution are both on the right track, but could just do with some more playing around to get them as legible as possible. But well done, you are definitely on the right track!

Dhaval Shah padmaavat
Dhaval Shah – Padmaavat

I do like this one, but there is one very striking missed opportunity. Both the A’s look very different, and the second A looks exactly the same as the M. This is of course very confusing, especially since it is a phonetic spelling of a non-english word. The solution is pretty simple – an uppercase M already looks a lot like two uppercase A’s next to each other! You’d need to play around with it, but I’m sure it will turn out clearer than this solution!

Dhaval Shah Shakespeare
Dhaval Shah – William Shakespeare

The image of Shakespeare does help to make this design readable, but unfortunately, I don’t think I could have read it without the picture. To fix this, have a look through the design and find all the unnecessary strokes.

For example, the K/E and E/P solutions both have a lot of strokes in them, making them quite complex and less easy to read. Merging the two of these into a single KE/PE glyph will reduce the number of unnecessary strokes, and make the piece as a whole a little easier to read:


I would suggest you focus on every unnecessary stroke while designing an ambigram, and try to uncover creative ways to hide them. It isn’t always possible, but in those cases.. sometimes you can even disguise them as a flourish, or a punctuation mark!

Thank you everybody for your submissions, I did enjoy them all. If you are inspired by an idea that could be used as a theme for a future competition, feel free to email me! ­čÖé