This competition I am trying something new – I will not write the ‘translations’ for any of these pieces, in the hope that you might have fun reading them on your own!
This one by John Langdon was my favourite, and the winner of this competition! The letters were cut from a sheet of rubber, painted white, and glued on. I cannot attest to whether or not 1961 was in fact a good year, but I’ll take John’s word for it. The most impressive thing about this piece however, is how he managed to photograph a reflective sphere without getting the camera in shot.
I must say that I almost chose this one by Alessandro as the winner – I would have been thrilled to have received this as a birthday cake, and I’m sure Emily enjoyed it.
Believe it or not, I had never heard of pyrography before I saw this submission, and I’m eager to try it out.
I find it very hard to pick winners sometimes, and this nearly came first place, but unfortunately it took me a couple of attempts before I could read it. But I do love the concept – it makes me wonder if Otto actually carved this into the ground or if the wind happened to blow the soil into this shape.
Each letter is just a copy of the previous letter, rotated by 45 degrees (or 1/4 pi radians). It looks like it was copied and pasted digitally, so it might not be suitable for this competition, but I love the simplicity of the design so I’ll allow it!
If anybody is wondering where they can find this pen, it is called the Pilot Parallel, and they come in an impressive range of sizes. I think I have a 6mm one somewhere, and it would be hard to tell the difference between that and a poster nib!
This one I couldn’t read without help, but I’ll include it anyway because I loved the concept. It’s written in Morse Code, and it says Annual Earning – Annual one way and Earning the other! The issue is that there are no spaces between the letters so there are many different ways you can group the dots and dashes, meaning that attempting to read it took a lot of trial and error, and I could not manage it!
If somebody could find a clever solution to this problem that would be fun – and this opens many possibilities for new ambigram formats. How about a braille ambigram? Or a semaphore one?
I was a little hesitant to set this theme for the challenge, as I knew it would be quite difficult, but I was very impressed with all the entries received! It took me a while to choose, but here is the winner:
It is simple an effective, and the animation adds a lot to the theme! Punya submitted a lot of animated entries like this, so keep scrolling to see them all!
Here is the runner up – I feel slightly bad for not choosing this as the winner as it is a bit more ‘clever’, but it took me a little while longer to be able to read it:
Notice how the F has a rotational symmetry of order 3, and also rotates to make the A, which is what leads to the fractal effect. And the photoshop effects add a nice atmosphere. Very inspired!
This one made me laugh a little. This style of fractal is typically called a tree, but here it is turned upside down, and called a root. 🙂
The T/RR is very clever!
This one goes to show that you can make something effective with only pre-existing fonts! The E/M looks very natural, and it got me thinking that any chain ambigram can be converted into a fractal ambigram just by turning the chain into a spiral.
And now, as promised, here are the rest of Punya Mishra’s animated designs:
Hello everybody – it seems this theme has sparked a lot of inspiration, with many wonderful entries!
And the winner is:
Up/dn by Jennifer Lynch. I know it is small, and I know it is simple, but in my opinion it is the most functional one! Here, you can see it being used as the upvote/downvote symbols on the ambigram subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/ambigrams/
This one was my favourite entry! However I could not select it as a winner because the fact it is an ambigram adds nothing to the design functionally. The sign is stuck to the fencing, and there is no reason to turn it upside down. However, it is very pretty, so I decided to mention it!
This one is very functional – often there is one button for both play and pause, and with this ambigram, there need only be one word to show both functions!
it reminds me of the famous ambigram doormat, but with a more polite sentiment!
Another brilliant idea! A sign to help hotel staff know which rooms need to be cleaned.
If you are prone to grumpiness at work, perhaps this sign would help your co-workers know how approachable you are feeling without having to talk to you.
Do you have intimacy issues and need a nonverbal way to communicate to your lover that you are in the mood for sex? Look no further!! Bonus points for the upside down heart 😉
This is a nice functional ambigram. It is to indicate whether or not the dog needs feeding – I like how the expression on the dog turns from grumpy to satisfied!
A nice idea for toilet signage – I can imagine the lock mechanism rotating and updating the message!
This is a nice idea, but I can see how some unscrupulous students might abuse the ambiguity of the stamp to show their parents how they pass every test!
The same solution as the winning entry! Unfortunately this one doesn’t win because of context – an up/dn button on an ambigram website is more functional than an up/dn button on a lift, because it also has the function of providing context of the website.
Come in, dolls shop open / Sorry, dolls shop closed. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to read the word ‘Sorry’. But the lettering is beautiful!
Imagine this design on a set of glass doors – on one side you would know to push, and on the other you would know to pull!
And there we have it! Thank you for all your submissions, and I hope you enjoyed looking at everyone else’s.
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.