Explore the history of ambigrams.
Ambigrams were first referenced by Douglas R. Hofstadter, who described them as calligraphic designs that manage to squeeze in two different readings. They have since been made famous in popular culture by author Dan Brown in his novels and artist John Langdon. The design style features in the plot of Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and one adorns the cover of his book Angels & Demons. In fact, Brown named his main character after artist Langdon, who helped foster the development of ambigram designs. Outside of popular book covers, you’ll most often spot ambigrams as logo designs or tattoos.
Top tips for designing ambigrams
So we know that ambigrams can be read the same way when viewed upside down, backwards or forwards, and from different angles. But which words can you make ambigrams from?
Words which make great rotational ambigrams include: Dollop, Pod, Swims, Illuminati, Proud and Faithful.
“[Ambigrams are] where logos and graphic design become a real art form, because you have to twist your mind and break or bend the rules.” - artist and designer Arnold Pander
Pander calls ambigrams a branding palindrome, “where logos and graphic design become a real art form, because you have to twist your mind and break or bend the rules to make it work.” Brands may want ambigram logos since they can hide a secondary meaning or convey a message beyond a simple brand name. Ambigram logos are also memorable and can help companies stand out from their competition.
As optical illusions, ambigrams are popular designs for tattoos. If you’re looking for inspiration for your ambigram tattoo, you can start designing an ambigram in Illustrator. Check out this tutorial on YouTube and have a go yourself.
Now you’re ready to attempt an ambigram design of your own. Making it meaningful and legible makes all the difference in the world. Need more inspiration before you jump in? Take a look at Behance and see what other artists are creating.