This month’s challenge will be to design an ambigram that has a real world application! Of course, you won’t be able to solve world hunger or cure cancer with an ambigram design, but think of a situation where an ambigram might come in useful. Here are a couple of famous examples:
In these cases, the use is more of a gimmick, but in a way, that is the nature of an ambigram! If you’re stuck, think of a niche you are interested in, and think of any situation where you ever need to look at something upside down or through a mirror.
Be creative, come up with something fresh, and email your designs to firstname.lastname@example.org before 15th June. I believe in you!
Hello ambigrammers, thanks for all your amazing entries, but at the end of the day we have to choose a winner, and that winner is:
Lots to take in here! But I especially like the very legible ambigram in the middle – matter becomes energy and energy becomes matter. The outer rings are also very impressive, and very beautiful. Well done Diego!
And here are the honorable mentions:
I was coincidentally speaking with an astrophysicist yesterday, and we are getting ever closer to figuring out the mystery behind Dark Matter. He said he predicts this to happen within the next 10 years. Dark Energy, however, will likely remain a mystery for much longer. Very nice, very classic design.
Here we have 4 ‘atom’ looking designs – the nucleus reading the word Force, and the rings reading Strong Nuclear, Electromagnetic, Gravitational, and Weak Nuclear. 4 Fundamental forces, like the 4 elements!
We do not get many spinonym entries, and I have never actually tried one myself. This is beautiful and clever. Perhaps it also refers in a metaphorical way to general relativity – each letter is the same from a different frame of reference.
If you haven’t tried mirror reflective ambigrams like this before, they aren’t easy. Normal ambigrams allow you to take advantage of a little quirk with the Latin alphabet – they are much easier to distinguish with the tops of the letters than the bottom (except in outliers like the letter U). This is a great design, and it nicely represents the word it reads.
Otto makes a lot of fancy experimental designs, but we cannot forget that he is also great at the classic black and white blackletter ambigram. Nice!
And finally, here are the rest of the entries, in no particular order:
A very creative layout, but I find it hard to read.
The duality of chaos and order! Our inevitable collapse as a universe into a state of perfect entropy.
I think the ambigram here is a beautiful design, but it clashes with the symbol in the background. The symbol is so simple, yet the ambigram is filled with flourishes. Perhaps a more simple minimalistic ambigram design would fit better here.
Again, a very creative layout, but the E has some very elaborate flourishes, distracting from what it should read!
Another spinonym design by Otto Kronstedt, showing the 4 fundamental forces in abbreviated form.
As a relative newcomer to the ambigram scene, I love the new approaches Vy takes! With any art form, after doing it for so long, you get develop a formula and if you aren’t careful, end up limiting yourself. But here, I can see a lot of things I would never have thought to do myself. I love the F/D in Field, the TR/N in String, and the Ion ambigram – all of which are new and fresh to me. The N/RE in nature, the Obey ambigram, and the Light ambigram however need some work to achieve perfect legibility. I’m not too sure about the W/E in Wave – I like it, but I’m struggling to see how to make it look more like a W. Maybe it is a lost cause (unless somebody can prove me wrong.)
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!
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
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!
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!
Words from Churchill’s famous speech (which I have generously considered for the theme of poetry!)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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! 🙂
After a long hiatus, we are back in business! This month’s theme is POETRY. Try to incorporate poetry into your ambigram, whether that be a little rhyming symbiotogram, a metaphor encapsulated in a perceptual shift ambigram, or just the name of your favourite poet. Go nuts, there are no rules in poetry!!
Email your entries to email@example.com before the 17th February, and I will announce the results then.
The winner of the competition this month is Jennifer Lynch for her design below:
Jennifer Lynch – Kraken
This looks so good – usually I find such heavy illustration distracting but in this case they make the design work even better, like how the R is completed with a tentacle. I’m not usually a fan of this K/K solution but I think the fact there are tentacles everywhere make the extra lines in the letter less noticeable. And I love the colours! I think the gradient in the tentacles helps them to be less distracting in the places where they would be too busy, and the blue in the eyes is like the perfect final touch. It looks like it could be a cover illustration for a book. Congratulations Jennifer!
And now for the honourable mentions:
Very classic design.
Perfect! The symmetrical illustration in the middle really ties everything together – I love it!
I’m not sure Harryhausen counts as a mythical creature, but with all the illustrations it fits the theme perfectly.
Really great simple lettering!
I think it’s pretty hard to do reflective ambigrams with a gothic style, just because how the line variation depends on the angles of the lines, which change when reflected. But somehow this one works very well!
An ambigram so good I would not be surprised if you did not realise it was an ambigram upon first glance!
I love the style in the Thunder design.
I really love the lettering style in this one, I can tell a lot of work was put in to get this just right.
Really lovely style here! The C/O and Y/P solutions are so bold that they work perfectly.
A perfectly simple design – can’t really go wrong with a word like this!
Very nice ambigram! I would only say that the D has an unnecessary stroke in there, which can be fixed easily:
I do love this design, but I feel it would be better if all the letters were made as thin as the scythe in the first stroke, just to keep it consistent. But it is a great ambigram!
The CKT/PP solution is so good! The London smog effect on the letters creates a great atmosphere.
As with the new structure of the competition, all results I found difficult to read will be put here, with some constructive criticism, however valuable you may find it!
I found the P here difficult to read and it took a while to get used to it. It’s a tricky solution, but in this case I think it could be fixed by just changing the lettering style into something more fitting – perhaps a more modern geometric style.
I gave it a little go – perhaps the P is still hard to read but at least it now fits consistently with the style of the whole piece!
I had a similar problem reading the E in this one and I think it can be fixed in a similar way. I know at this point the gothic style is quite cliche with ambigrams, but I think it would work really well here, perhaps with a capital E!
This one is perfectly legible, but I have one suggestion. Use capital A’s, they are already symmetrical! And when it comes to ambigrams I think it is acceptable to mix uppercase and lowercase letters.
I’m not very good at figure/ground ambigrams so I don’t know how good my advice is, but every good figure/ground ambigram I’ve seen only uses 2 colours which tessellate perfectly, so if you focus on the foreground colour, you see a different word to when you focus on the background colour. With this one there are 2 foreground colours and the background is white, so it is more like a group of letters which sometimes fit each other. Maybe it could be fixed with some work, but I get the idea this is one of those things which only works with certain words. However, as I said before, I’m terrible at these so you might want to look for advice elsewhere. Keep at it!
These two as far as I can see are actually really good, but the ripples in the reflection are just a bit too distracting and I’m finding them very hard to read! I love how the ripples help to add the crossbars in the E, F, and A in the second design however – very clever! But I would perhaps tone it down in the other areas.
And that’s all for the constructive criticism – the next post will announce the winner as well as some honourable mentions!
The winner is Eytan Wronker for the ambigram above! This was exactly the nostalgia buzz I was looking for when choosing the theme for the competition. You were very lucky to have every G line up with one another so that they could all be consistent. I really like the I in Tigger – it curls the wrong way but does it so confidently it is legible!. The EE/E solution is very odd and I have never seen it before, but I will give it a pass!
Here are all the other wonderful designs which have won a spot in the list of honourable mentions:
I love the concept of 3 different solutions for the same word, but the solutions are so similar! It would be nice to see 3 completely different solutions, but that would be a lot more work, and the solution you have managed to find here is spectacular, so I shouldn’t really be complaining.
I had never heard the term before and had to Google it. I’m never any good at solutions like U/B, but it’s looking great here!
I love everything about this one. The style is so cool and the solution is epic. I realy like the KNI/ER bit.
The rest of these designs are by Michael Irving.
This is a great design! I love the upside down head drawings, making it clear that the design should be inverted.
I really live the style with this one! The use of the shells as little tittles is very cool.
This section is for the ambigrams which I found difficult to read, and have given suggestions for their improvement.
These are the entries from Val – reading Scate, Queen, MTV and Disco.
My favourite entry is Skate – the sharp angles give it a lot of character, and I can imagine it on a t shirt already! A very creative design and solution – but I think it would just be so much easier to read with a crossbar through the A! I really love the D/O solution in Disco. I find it hard to read the C, but everything else is there – the style is very fitting. I really like the minimal style of the MTV design – but it is a little confusing. When the black letters are read, it says MTV, but when the white letters are read, it looks like it says M||V – maybe the T should be a different colour so it is noticeable however you read it?
I think overall, I love your minimal lettering style but you have to remember the design needs to be as legible as possible – there is no reason the A in skate should not have a crossbar! Such a simple addition would make it significantly better!
Thank you for your first entry to this competition Thony! The ambigram is very polished as a design, and I can see you spent a lot of time on it. However there is one thing holding it back. You are clearly going for a cursive appearance here. Cursive can work very well with the right ambigram, as the lines connecting letters can be just as important as the lines making up the letters – but here, the connecting lines are only there for aesthetic purposes. This would be fine for normal lettering, but since it is an ambigram, when it is turned over, all those pretty connecting lines turn into distractions. If you look at your final word – ‘Prairie’, each letter is connected by a stroke at the top, which makes it very difficult to separate them into individual letters. When reading, our brains take more information from the top of the letters than they do from the bottom, so these unnecessary strokes make it very confusing to read. I would suggest choosing a style which helps the ambigram work – you might have to substitute the french R’s for something else if that is the case, but you have a strong foundation here to work from!
Caroet do Notes means notebook in French. The solution is perfect and I don’t think there is a more legible one. But ambigrams are more than just the solution – they are also works of art. The next step is to finalise your design with a fitting lettering style and some ink!
The main problem stopping this from being perfectly legible is the Y/O solution. In my experience, nothing ever comes from forcing letters to fit a shape they don’t want to be in. When we read words, we do it by recognising shapes. I can see a very slight gap in the top of the Y to suggest it isn’t a G, but when the brain is reading the letters, it sees the overall shape rather than small details like that. Rather than trying hard to fit the Y into the shape of an O, it might be better in a situation like this too look for another solution.
A consequence of your R/G solution is a small circle to the right of the R, which can easily be turned into an O to make it a helpful addition to the ambigram, so why not combine the RO into a G/RO solution? Here is my sketch:
This makes the U a little harder to read, but by playing around with different lettering styles, you might be able to find one which works. Letters like U and O are normally quite tricky, so you chose a difficult word to ambigramize here, and I’m not sure a perfectly legible solution is possible. But the moral is, rather than forcing together letters that don’t fit, take a step back and try to find another route to the solution. But thank you for your entries and I hope to see you in future competitions!
The style of lettering works very nicely with the background graphic – well done! There are a few minor changes that could be made to the solution and one big one. The Y could be made bigger, and have the tail dip below the baseline. This would make the A fit in better with the other letters and be more legible. The first E could do with a shorter bar in the middle, so that it is less prominent when reading the D. The final problem is the B/L, which unfortunately I don’t know how to fix. You could try rounding out the edges to make it look like a B, but with this method I don’t think it will ever be completely legible. But it is a great attempt and it looks very nice!
I understand you are trying to make each letter fit in a box like the original logo, but unfortunately this is the least legible way of making an ambigram. The N/N is naturally perfect, however the other letters are only legible because the logo is so iconic. In this situation there are 2 choices:
Sacrifice legibility to maintain the original style.
Sacrifice the original style to maintain legibility.
You chose the first one – which might work well with other logos, but in this case it makes the challenge of creating an ambigram impossible. If you are sure that you do not want to change the style from that of the original logo, it might be better to choose a different cartoon channel to parody!
I do like this one – I enjoy the RA/M solution, as well as the M/K. The style of lettering is very energetic and fits perfectly with the two cartoons you have chosen. However, the diagonal split down the middle where you change the colours is intensely distracting and makes it significantly harder to read. I understand that you are trying to show the colours of both brands in the same design, but it goes back to the two options I mentioned in the previous example. In this case however, I think there is a good solution! If you make the same ambigram in both styles, and place one on top of the other I think that will get the point across well enough. When turned over, Pokemon will be in blue and Doraemon will be in yellow, but that doesn’t take away from the magic of the ambigram, and it will make it a lot easier to read. If you send me an updated version like this, I can place it here with the other designs!
I have never played hide and seek in tall grass before, but now I wish I had! The main thing which makes this harder to read is the consistency of the letters. The D is the only letter which is the ‘wrong’ size here and it makes it harder to read. Unfortunately it’s not an easy problem to fix, and you might be better off playing around with different lettering styles and solutions to find something which fits better.