On an ordinary day, while working on a mundane ambigram for a personal project of questionable significance, I somehow unlocked an achievement… with a pretty unremarkable word.
Hello. Welcome back! It has been a while. Appreciate you dropping in.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of creating personal milestone ambigrams, most notably chain ambigrams – and the moment I got the hang of it, the once thought of as an arduous exercise became my second go-to experiment once the basic rotational won’t/don’t work. As exemplified with most of my newer ambigrams are chains.
One that I am very proud of is something I thought I could never come up for a long time is my Aquaman totem ambigram. A totem amb is basically a mirror amb with glyphs stacked on top of each. I never set out to do it as such and it’s obvious with the amount of sketches I produced leading up to the final AHA! moment. What makes my Aquaman totem unique is that it doesn’t really look like an ambigram. You’d think I just typed the characters on a single row and aligned it center… until you get to the “N” where it becomes clear that it’s definitely contrived.
Which leads us here. Another serendipitous creation. A spinonym at that.
A spinonym is an ambigram whose individual characters are flipped and/or rotated and/or skewed and/or inverted instances of a single glyph. In other words it’s the same “letter”.
Example: while the letters W and M could be just inverted versions of each other, the letters E and B (or the number 3) could just similarly be. However, for it to be categorized as a spinonym ambigram, they all could be represented by common glyph, perhaps like McD’s double arches, say for the word “WEB” or “MEW” (or “MEW3” if you are into evolving Pokemons).
As stated above, I was developing a thematically unrelated ambigram. The word was “games”. I was doing it directly on the PC referencing a minimalist sketch with the intent of arriving with a minimalist final art.
I have done a few G/S flips which while doable, sometimes could be tricky. The A/E flip on the other hand was relatively an easier task.
But wait, let me go on a tangent first, this is relevant to my process. Thanks. When I do types, I will most likely duplicate, chop off an reuse parts and instances of a glyph I find both pleasing and crucial to the final character design. It’s usually the letter “I” but could be any other that’ll be the foundation for all succeeding glyphs. This accelerates the design process and make the final design uniform. I do the same for my ambigrams.
So, after I ended up with a G/S glyph to my liking, I made a duplicate to be tinkered with. I flipped the “G” horizontally in preparation for the A/E glyph deciding to work on the “E” face first. The AHA! was immediate. Didn’t even have to chop anything off. I excitedly moved a few nodes in place and there it was. All it needed now was the “M”.
Shorter tangent: I had previously created a monoweight ambigram piece called “HUMAN”, so coming in I knew I’d be doing the “M” in a similar fashion, just three vertical lines with the middle shortened.
Done! Now I was only looking for stray nodes when another AHA! came. Was I that slow? Haha!
I again created an instance of the A/E glyph, reworked it a bit and arranged them to form: SAGE. No AGES. wait let me add…
Ladies and Gents, SAGES, my first spinonym.
Since, it was intended for a different word, I think the character design is a bit off for this specific word configuration, but it’s perfect for “games”.
While I’m glad I got another amb type for my folio, it’s the process of creation that got me most excited – even if it’s by accident. And that is why I’m going to try and purposefully design a spinonym with a character design befitting the word in the coming days.
In the previous installment of this blog I briefly mentioned the lag between posts. And as I was trying to finish up on the artworks for that (while simultaneously procrastinating) I was able to sketch out and work on a whole lot of other ambigram designs. This is one of those.
The Haribon (a portmanteau of Haring Ibon or Hari ng Ibon), literally, king of birds, is endemic to the archipelago and has dislodged the (Red) Maya as our National Bird for about 20 some odd years now. Previously (mis)named Monkey-eating Eagle for it’s initially reported dietary habits, this wide winged predator is still listed as endangered mainly due to displacement by deforestation. A monogamous pair breed usually every other year, hatching only one chick to rear give or take until about a year after.
Going in, I was hoping for a mirror ambigram as a final result – so i can top it with a graphic rendering of the bird with its glorious shaggy crown and wings spread wide. But as I’ve always known for it to be, it’s the word that dictate the form. This time it’s a rotational ambigram.
I tried out other faces but Blackletter makes it more regal. After the final ambigram was created, I opted to simulate the gradient hatching pattern usually found in currencies.
That took a minute! Welcome… and welcome back.
After Issue 35 came out, I was adamant to have the next installment of the Ambiverse Series featured on this issue — DC nerds like me will get it. I had a good enough lead to finish up on all the pieces I wanted to do and those I had been working on and was confident that I’d make the deadline.
It seemed that everything was going along well when after Issue 50, work stuff derailed that. For nearly a year, ambigramming took the back seat. By the time I was free to get back on the drawing board, “I was off my rhythm”, I think was my justification. While I did sketched a lot, I procrastinated more.
Then my computer suddenly could not read my backup drive where all my previous pieces were! Cold chill running down my spine at the thought of losing all my data, never mind recreating every other unpublished ambigram, was enough to break the spell…
When I finally got it running again, I placed all my eggs on other baskets — multiple baskets — and found myself hatching away with a few more designs that weren’t part of my original lineup. Definitely, one of the better thing to come out of a hair-pulling event like that.
So after a 19-month break, finally, it’s here! I present Ambiverse Volume 2.
First up is Cyborg. #CyborgAmbigram #ChainAmbigram #Anaglyph3D
This was the first piece I worked on, immediately after Volume 1. The ambigram was created digitally, from vector to raster straight from my mind’s eye. I had the specific type thought of well ahead and I suspected that I’d likely have a workable solution if done as a chain ambigram. It was great seeing the y/b flip turn out to be as awesome as I thought it would.
I also imagined the final artwork as an anaglyph 3D hybrid where the ambigram would hover over the illustration, though with a bit of hesitation as the ambigram itself was already heavily stylized…
… but whattheheck! You only regret chances you never took, so, here we have an addition to the meager ambiglyph collection I started back with Issue 04.
Next, Atom. #AtomAmbigram
While I thought it would work nicely alongside the #FlashAmbigram and #ArrowAmbigram, rounding up the CW lineup representing the namesake shows plus DC’sLoT, this did not make the cut on Issue 35. The original ambigram design I had for “Atom” was done Blackletter style, so a rework was necessary… and not having an illustration at hand was kind of a big set back as well.
This one employed a bit of a cheat by using the arm of the W (M’s leg) as the K’s stem. Though, on its own the ambigram looks great especially on black and white, only now do I see, that it’d have been better served had I made the glyph/characters a bit heavier… maybe I’ll make an update on the next volume.
I was planning on including a Batman ambigram here, but it was quite similar (sharp tips, edges and all) to the relatively newer #HawkmanAmbigram above except that one is a mirror type ambigram. So instead, I went on to create Denny O’neil’s assassin getting medieval on us with the ambigram rendered regally with nubuck/leather texture on good-ol’ Blackletter.
Aquaman. #AquamanAmbigram #TotemAmbigram
THIS! …is my new favorite. Why?
Even before Issue 35, I had wrestled with this word/phrase. I’ve ripped voluminous pads of paper trying to solve “Aquaman” — see one of the older sketch I made below. Adhering to one of the tips I’ve listed on my essay in Issue 50, I was so fixated in coming up with what I narrowly thought of as a solution, working and reworking each glyph to “fit” my presupposed outcome, I had to walk away and was finally able to figure it out with a resounding “AHA!” just late last month! It’s ridiculously simple, one can argue that it isn’t even an ambigram.
And well, by virtue of patience I now have my very first #TotemAmbigram… always wanted to do one, never quite found the right mix, until this one swam up next to me and fixed its mucus-filled suckers on my face like Starro. As with the #CyborgAmbigram this too was straight up vector made.
Note: A Totem Ambigram is a vertically stacked or arranged mirror ambigram. A mirror ambigram, typically presented horizontally, is required to be symmetrical on either wing extending from it’s central Y-axis, making it readable on either the obverse or reverse side or when reflected on a mirror.
Having Aquaman and Shazam! come up fairly around the time their big screen debut is up is just a welcomed coincidence. I came up with the ambigram design around the same time as the #FlashAmbigram, but for reasons, my Captain Marvel illustration wasn’t to my liking. Or hehehe, let’s be honest, maybe I’m just really not that good with figure drawing… yeah, maybe that was it, so I just kept putting it off for later.
The featured illustration was finished fairly recent, just days after my external drive episode. I just sat down and scribbled away… took me three tries in two hours. I like his wide grin and arched brow.
This was not supposed to be here, but I thoroughly enjoyed Tommy Monaghan‘s exploits so much I had to sneak him in. Thank you, Ennis/McCrea. I wish DC would bring him back… better yet put him up in the big screen. DC’s answer to Deadpool isn’t Deathstroke, it’s the friggin’ Hitman.
The larger ambigram was based on my “HUMAN” piece this time set to a Serpentine-adjacent typeface. They have fairly similar configuration. Originally, I created a series of scratches chalking up death counts to form the original ambigram design, which when incorporated with the hatch heavy illustration, don’t seem to pay off, so I decided to make the switch.
And finally, Sandman/Morpheus. #SandmanMorpheusAmbigram #EndlessAmbigram #Symbiotogram
For a while now, I had been trying to finish my Endless Series (ambigrams based on Neil Gaiman’s opus) but I’m stuck with just these two plus Death…
As this also was not supposed to a part of this series, I thought it’d be such a waste keeping it all tucked away for when I finally get to really be working on the others. Better get it out there for critique so that I could improve on it and maybe force me to work on the unfinished ones.
The idea was: when all the pieces are finished, the Endless Series could be put together like a puzzle to form a larger overarching image. So for the time being, let us enjoy the preview below.
Below are composites of the initial pencils, created at different points in time, for the pieces featured on this post.
Thanks for going through this far on this essay. See you next time.
I initially wanted this to be a “How To Make…” write up. But with what I had learned starting from the first time I tried my hand out at ambigramming straight through when I had decided to dedicate this blog mostly to my personal exploration of the artform, was that while – just as with other discipline – ambigramming could be taught, I wondered how will I be able to make a step by step instructional presentation when ambigrams can be created through a number of different methods. So I decided to focus on one, my method. But the thing is – my methodology may only make sense to me and maybe even more difficult to put in words.
After multiple rewrites on the content (wrote the first draft 24 May 2015) – and title changes – I opted to forgo with the instructional format as the tone, voice and language sounded a bit of a put on (and another version that seemed to be a long winded anecdote) and settled with the idea of just flat out sharing my creative process.Personally, I don’t think I am anywhere near the point where I could impose with authority the way I do things anyway.
49 published posts (two were non-ambigram related), over a hundred ambigram designs, 24,373 words as of last count, hundreds of unsorted stack of scrap paper, over 1TB disk space and 4 years later, it all remains to be just a bunch of jumbled up mental post it notes – a mishmash of pointers I remind myself, plus some actual written stuff at the back of virtually every sketch or some notebook to remind me how I came up with certain solutions or what inspired me to do the piece and tips I picked up from other designers and a couple of orphan .doc files. This for the record is my attempt (fourth, actually) to put them all together in one place.
*** sidetrack ***
Yup! 50 posts. And while I never really set out to find readers and followers for this blog (as I just needed a regular outlet and a place to put up my work on so I can force myself to not procrastinate too much), I have managed to get a few likes, a re-blog and 30+ followers with only one of them I personally know, not to forget some very nice people who became clients! I know, 30something in an era where a hundred followers is considered lame, yet for me having even just one person mildly interested enough in what I do already is a biggie!
So, as a gesture of appreciation to everyone kind enough to have followed, liked and all that stuff, AND whoever else stumbled upon this inconsequential parcel of web space, whether intentionally searching for the topic or not, I present a hopefully helpful insight – of which I do not impose on anyone – how I do ambigrams.
First, a couple of caveats…
- I believe there is no right or wrong way to make an ambigram. Whatever works work.
- This is not a “How-to” guide, it’s more of a peek in to my process -pointers I check myself with while I draw my ambigrams.
- The list of tips below are just that – tips. They are not commandments to live by. My process may or may not work with anyone else’s. You may think that my notes here are all bull and that’s fine, go with what you feel will work for you and you’re free to cherry pick.
- Ambigrams, I think, are just the same as optical illusions, or as Neil deGrasse Tyson put it: ‘brain failures’. In concert with the eyes – our complex but somewhat flawed primary organ for observation, our brain is easily tricked by patterns, lines, shapes and forms when seemingly arranged in such a way that titillate our own biases and preconception. Also our brain has evolved to recognize and pick out patterns (especially faces) even and especially in a clutter or among “background noise” the way our precursors saw the zodiac patterns in the night sky, or the faces on toasted bread or sides of a mold laden wall. Therefore, our objective is to try and trick the brain, or exploit that shortcoming, into recognizing a word where that very word was formed not necessarily with its “proper” parts. Where characters and glyphs are setup trying to convince the brain into thinking it is what it appears to be.
- Most of these tips assume that you do intend to push through with this artform and willing go and actually get your hand wet with it. Because like in any discipline you need to work on it, learn as much as you can about it, and dedicate time to honing the craft. A person just don’t go applying a “Y” incision on anybody without first going to med school expecting things to turn out just fine or pick a fight with Conor McGregor on a whim without going through some form of training. Talent can only take you so much.
- It also assumes that we are aiming to craft a proper ambigram. Not even a perfect one, but a proper one.
- Not all words are ambigram friendly.
A Somewhat In Order Unordered List
There are no rules in ambigram making. Well, sort of.
So long as it’s legible, it’s all good. However, a really successful ambigram (as intimated by those better at this than I am) is one that even with all the manipulations applied to it, follows basic typographical fundamentals.
Keep the letterform consistent.
As with making a poster (or most printed materials) try not to mix up types and fonts. It gets too busy and taxing to the reader. Another characteristic of a good ambigram is that it does not seem to be a specially lettered word until after you rotate or flip it. If you began with a Sans Serif type then there shouldn’t be a Blackletter glyph in there unless of course the ‘concept’ calls for it.
While it is mainly aesthetics I try to keep all forms fairly similar, I try my best not to mix my “double storey a” with “single storey a” on a piece unless there really is no way around it. I have a similar problem with placing caps between lower cases but sometimes you just have to roll with it.
Keep the letterform consistent II.
Or define the ambigram’s personality. This comes in the later stages, usually as I finalize (mostly done digitally) the piece. I take on the most prominent letter and work on it first. It does not need to be the first letter, but the letter that will appear most frequently (especially with Filipino words: the letter A appears with great frequency in Filipino words). Once that letter has been interpreted to my satisfaction, I use its parts in building up the other letters employing as much (or little) modification necessary. This help ease in the reader with the word as they do not need to decipher each letter, since, as seen on the figure below, certain letters appear somewhat similar to its previous incarnate. Similarly looking parts and ligatures lend a consistent personality to the ambigram – as if it was set to a very specific type, the way one would apply a font selection to a regularly typed word on a word processor or a graphic design program.
Which leads us to… typography.
A little background knowledge on lettering basics IS a big plus.
Back in college I passed LETTERING 101 and 102 by the skin of my Speedball C-tip. I was not an exceptional calligrapher nor letterer, I was average to say the least but I had this knack of retaining useless information that works just as well with useful ones. I am not bookish but I read a lot and pay attention to things I know I should know even after college. Printing is a big part of my profession so I tried to be as much informed as I could in the early days, and typography has got a lot to do with printing. What I had learned then(well mostly), added to my design studio and freelance experience has provided me adequate practical understanding of the basics of typography.
So, empower yourself, know the basics, read up on it, learn the difference between types and spacing… and kerning, and width… and the parts of a type… etc. Like me, you need not be a John Hancock but you have got to be able to know a bit of it since you are basically making word art.
With that I offer a link to a downloadable type cheat sheet that I made for myself at the bottom of the post, with no obligation on your part. It focuses mostly on the anatomy of type – could be helpful in identifying or discerning which part of the type you’re supposed to be manipulating in the construction process of your ambigram. And whodathunk that types have parts and classification, amarite? At the very least it could be useless trivial fodder at boring parties, but you are free to keep it for yourself or share or pass it around if you so wish.
Research. Explore. Exploit.
This is an integral part of any creative undertaking. When I do logos, poster works, album covers and even when preparing for a meal I already know how to make, I do my homework. And this goes also with ambigram designing. Study the word you intend to work on. Include in your study word association and etymology, not just the meaning of it. Better understanding of the word will greatly help you in interpreting and setting it to appropriate type.
If you go over my ambigram work you’ll probably notice that I mostly incorporate or design them around a theme. Call it Conceptual Ambigram… or don’t. Anyway, with the research I had done for the ambigram itself, I am able to plan out an even bigger idea than I started out with. And if done correctly, would inevitable make the ambigram more well rounded. Of course not all ambigrams need to be this elaborately designed as a good ambigram can, should and will stand on its own merit. But I feel it should also be flexible enough to be incorporated with an even bigger concept and play well with its environment and not only exist in the vacuum of negative space. (Negative space, hehehe… get it..? vacuum..? space..? typography joke..? lame? ah well)
But before you jump into doing convoluted pieces…
Take up simple words first…
Take it easy. Start tackling simple word problems first, and after you’ve got the hang of it, it’ll be easier finding solutions to more complex word combinations after having gone through with the easy stuff.
… then interpret it in mono weight letterform…
The simpler the better. Besides, having created your ambigram in mono weight first, you now have the foundation you can build upon should you decide to stylize the piece.
…then try doing it in Blackletter.
Like it or not Blackletter is THE welcome mat for beginners. I found that it has the flexibility needed to “coax” a glyph, or at least a part of it, to form the letter you need. Blackletters, usually, are created with parallel vertical parts that you can easily re-purpose for the flip. What type can afford you the bowl or stress of an “o” to turn into a stem of say… an “r”? Yup, Blackletter, while being an old-timey font is probably the most flexible and ambigram friendly type classification.
Spell the word out…
And then below it- spell it backwards. With my early works, this was a system I devised so that I could actually see which letter correlates with which when flipped. I have not done this for a while now because I had become increasingly familiar with letter correlation and seeing which combination works best, but I do go back to it when the word I’m doing require very complex combinations, especially with chain ambigrams. This system, though, has its limitations, as sometimes a letter with two legs will match-up with a single stemmed letter thus prompting you to “borrow” from the next which kind of messes up the match-up. However, for beginners this could very well be a useful step as you try to manage your way through your own system.
Use less of flourishes…(gasp)
I am the biggest transgressor of this. I did not realize I enjoyed putting too much flourishes on my earlier works (now, I only sparingly sprinkle them around as crossbars). While these are great runaround solution, too much of it tends to be distracting.
The ambigram above was both my debut piece and first foray to competitive ambigram making, bagged 2nd place I believe. Ooh, look at them lovely flourishes! Remember kids: do as I say, not as I do… hehehe
For coupled words and phrases, layering them may be a more effective solution than having them on the same plane. Only be wary to not overlap or overcrowd where it’d be too busy to read. Sometimes this too work on single words where a ligature could overlay itself on top of the next glyph to act as part of the corresponding overturned letter. Choosing to do this, however, you may have to flex a lot more creative muscles than you’d normally use with mono-weight and monotone ambigrams but the reward could be very satisfying having made the ambigram more dynamic.
Layering a medium “Bang” over a heavier “Big” and a couple of larger iterations somewhat created a gradually expanding radial motion suggesting an explosive origin of sort. And while “Bang” was on top, you are still prompted to say “Big Bang” because “Big” is more imposing (and probably familiarity with the phrase helps a lot too).
Approach it as you would any puzzle.
Not only is ambigram an optical illusion, it’s also a puzzle to be solved. And as you would with any puzzle, you first look at all the parts available to you and recognize which would act as the linchpin or the keystone or a cipher that could thread through or hold together or break the code to help you set things in motion. How do you do that? (Un)fortunately, through multiple failures.
ACTUAL TIP –> Make each glyph slightly elongated or taller.
The brain can recognize (most of the time) the top half of a letter at a glance. Familiarity will get you halfway through recognizing the word. Remember, we are hardwired to recognize and pick out patterns. Try covering the lower half part of the ambigram below, and see if you can make out the word.
By the way, this is the world premiere of this ambigram. And after a painstakingly long time debating with myself what to call it, I have finally decided to name this one “theory”. Its proximity to the Big Bang ambigram was purely coincidental.
Keep on sketching…
When developing a piece, explore every possibility. Try different combinations, letterforms and ambigram types. Sketch away… use the back of misprints and discarded reports from ten years ago… save a tree.
Keep a pen handy (better if with a notebook) wherever you go, you’ll never know when the muses shall visit you next. The idea for the piece below came to me while I was stuck in traffic with no pen and paper around and I had to consciously block everything else out until I got home, so I wouldn’t forget. You can check out the final ambigram by clicking >>> this link <<<.
While not necessary, learn a graphic design program.
You can create great ambigrams by hand, so you don’t actually have to. Computer programs just get things done a lot faster, not necessarily better. But wouldn’t it be nice to have that know-how in your arsenal, ready to be pulled out when needed? So if you do decide to try your hand on a software, invest on a vector based program.
Use an existing font… as a jump off platform.
While it’s easy and novel using a readily available font and work it to form an ambigram, more often than not the final product appears to be forced and awkward. Believe me, I used to edit fonts straight away. It’s a great exercise, I can attest to that, but there seem to be no pleasure (at least to me) gained from it. Now, I usually try and approximate the general characteristic of a certain font but still work the ambigram from scratch. The ambigrams below were based off Serpentine.
Take advantage of all the glyphs available.
You don’t stop with just the letters, no, you have at your disposal every numeral, symbol, punctuation and diacritical mark! Use them if necessary. Best example I can give you is my most favorite piece, PASKO! Take notice of the last two glyphs, the “O” and the “!”, as they were kerned tight enough to form the “P” when overturned. Of course, I had to adjust all the other letter spaces to even them out.
Hey! It seems that while this piece has appeared in Nikita Prokhorov’s Ambigrams Revealed and other places, this is the first time it has graced this blog!
Ask for advice.
A lot of people have been doing this a lot longer than you’d imagined. And the people that I know who have and still are, are so generous with their feedback and advise. Look for and try going on forums or join a community. I belong to an FB group called Fellow Ambigrammists.
Check out other ambigrammists work, and wallow in sorrow with the realization that you’re too stupid to have not thought of or done that piece first! You’re never going to be as good as them! (That last line was a self-deprecating sarcasm, just in case it went whooosh! by you.) But really, you don’t have to be as good as anybody, you just have to find your voice, your style, your niche. So, learn from their work… digest… take inspiration from them… interact with them… ask questions… then incorporate whatever you’ve learned from all these with your next attempt.
Show your work and take a hit.
Not every “ambigram” you make will be appreciated the way you thought it’d be and get an A+ grade or raving reviews. Take note: just because you can “read” the ambigram doesn’t mean others will be able to. Sometimes the best comments you can get are those that ask “What does it say?” or “This so and so letter seems weak.” or “Can’t read it.” And that is just fine. What could come after that is an intelligent discourse on better approach to specific faults in the piece and all these new information will provide you new and different perspectives that’ll challenge you in to coming up with more creative ways to tackling the next iteration or an entirely new piece.
Much as it feels good to get a “like” when I post on the Fellow page, my actual intention is to get relevant feedback that could bring attention to possible flaws that I might have missed due to my own biases. I try as much not to prime the members with captions obviously to test the ambigram’s legibility. That is why I even put up Filipino ambigrams, or as I call them Suliktad, for the same reason.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Try the word out on a different ambigram type. Aside from the usual rotational, you could try it as a chain, reflective, perceptual shift or a symbiotogram. Yes, there are other types of ambigram you can exploit. Go for it, just remember each type operates on slightly different principles.
If that don’t work as well… do not be fixated on a single word/phrase/name.
Be open to the possibility that the word/phrase you are trying to create is a non-ambigram friendly word, maybe it’s just not doable. Find a more suitable synonym or another form of the word. There are plenty of words that I have been working on and have just recently cracked and there are even more that I haven’t. Or…
Just, Walk away… Renee…
When you’re at your wits end, walk away. Go read a book, binge watch The Night Of, listen to Tina Fey’s Bossypants audiobook, immerse yourself in the discography of MC Miker G and DJ Sven, climb a mountain, ford a stream, follow a rainbow, take up line dancing, do gardening, repair that leaky faucet you promised your wife you’d do or work on other materials and designs. Put it out of your mind. Then after a spell, come back to it with hopefully fresher eyes. You might realize that you are just being stubbornly myopic and looking for a solution to the wrong problem.
Forget everything I said…
After churning out designs after another based on your methodology, things start getting… familiar. And familiarity keeps you blind and numb to creeping faults in your system. You tend to be complacent and dependent on it because it works for you, you’re accustomed to it. So, once in a while, go against your gut. Move out of your comfort zone. This might or might not deliver a pleasant looking piece, but it’s beneficial either way in the sense that it’ll keep you in check, on your toes, and not rest on your laurels. Shake things up. Challenge yourself.
If it is truly necessary for creating ambigrams to have a rule, even just one… then definitely, an ambigram needs to be legible. A really successful ambigram can be read easily even if you are not familiar with the word or its meaning.
There you have it, my ambigram making process. Winding it down, let me add this one “WHY” to the list. Why I do ambigrams.
The “Yes!” simultaneous with a fist pump moment.
Or simply put- the Eureka! or Aha! moment.
This is probably the biggest driving force for me, something that I thought was lacking in my attempts with other discipline and artform. I tried Visual Arts in my college days, it’s not for me. Experimented with photography and then video production, which I both enjoyed very much and still take on from time to time, but it wasn’t my calling.
Easily, over 75% of my ambigram solutions were followed immediately after with fist pump gestures. In fact, to me, ambigramming provide twice the gratification. First, this rush that happens midway through the process after having solved the puzzle. And second, as I contemplate on a finalized version of the ambigram. There’s this feeling of satisfaction and completeness I get after cracking the code and finding a solution to the problem at hand, and then looking at the final piece. Not better than sex – as nothing is, but relatively close.
And now we’ve come to a not-so-real-time account of me doing an ambigram.
First, apologies for the camera work. As you’d soon find out it’s not easy shooting yourself (with a phone) as you draw. The camera tends to wander off the subject as I zoned in on sketching, and at times the pencil would just hover about as I shift my focus on the phone to see if I have it all still in frame. Also, there was supposed to be an annotative track over the video but the recording was awful and I sounded nervous so I took it out. Maybe on my next attempt. The video was sped up enough so we can still follow the process without getting a headache because at normal speed it seemed to be just dragging on. Am sure no academy award will find its way to my mantle with this stuff.
The Oprah moment we’ve all been waiting for… Freebie!!!
Finally as promised here is the >>> link to my cheat sheet <<<. Enjoy!
Hmm… nice way to celebrate my 50th post, 4th year with WordPress and end 2016 with. Hopefully you could all check back in for issues 51 and 52 for an ambitious multi-layered rotational and chain combo suliktad and journey back to the Ambiverse. Maraming Salamat, po!!!
UPDATE! (11 July 2019)
The website http://ambigr.am hosted one of its ongoing monthly ambigram competition – this one themed “beginnings”, and the Graces smiled upon my entry: BIG BANG, this very ambigram featured here! Well, thanks to everyone involved for the honor. Do look the site up for some wonderful ambigrams created by some very talented designers. Cheers!
With a mental picture of the word “BANG” in ambigram, I initially thought there was no reason to see it through especially without an exclamation mark to cap it. But the character type style I had in mind was a break away from the usual Blackletter type or the mixed Formal/Serif type I do, that I had to see if it’s actually doable. It’s almost a cross between Geometric type Sanserif and a Slab Serif, a very rare ambigram style, at least in my folio.
Anyway, with an almost finished form of the word done in CorelDraw, It just presented itself to me. Like having two particles colliding then creating all sorts of sparks and light inside my head. BIG BANG. The “B” and the “G” was already there and all I needed was a natural ambigram character… the “I”. But I thought it would even be better if I set the type in a heavier weight – very apt for the word I was going for… and have the word “Bang” lay over it (and I’m all about layers!)
I had no intention of providing a crossbar for the “A”, which I thought in this case would make the “N” less recognizable, but as it stands the form could also be read as “N-V, I-W or M-I”, so I know I had to do something other than the usual “safe trick” of a small glyph between the legs (that usually works with Blackletters and Serifs) as on the onset I knew it would not go well with the type style I had set the ambigram in.
Taking full in, what now had become a new concept, I cheated. I went to my unpublished work (for Ambiverse2) and reinterpreted the atom illustration that I used for a similar purpose. And I think it fits well here. Serving both as the “A” crossbar and an appropriate illustrative element (no pun intended).
Add a couple more instances of “BIG” in different sizes to simulate or suggest radial motion and a starburst behind… voila! The beginning of a new universe.
This piece debuted a couple of months back on the wall of the Fellow Ambigrammist Facebook page.
While Edwin Hubble was first to observe the expanding universe, it was actually Georges Lemaitre who proposed the hypothesis we now call The Big Bang Theory (not the sitcom) built upon Albert Einstein’s General Relativity. He was an astronomer, mathematician, physics professor… and an ordained priest, Jesuit, I think.
It was said that Einstein brushed this theory off initially because it did not conform to his (Einstein’s) static universe belief, but almost immediately after Hubble’s discovery was published, Einstein openly endorsed Lemaitre’s hypothesis. Einstein then denounced his own “cosmological constant” modifications on his equations allegedly referring to it as his “greatest blunder”… which, as it now turns out, astronomers believe could possibly explain the theoretical Dark Energy… but that’s another story.
Got that from watching a whole lot of Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson etal Youtube videos and BBC docus.
#danadonajr #ambigram #imagefoundry
Having been fortunate enough to work between 1994-2007 for the grand-pappy of labels in the Philippine recording industry, I had the privilege, in 2003, to collaborate with two of my musical heroes in time to commemorate over two decades of unparalleled contribution to OPM, Lolit and Pendong (sans Mike and Saro) of Asin.
Growing up with a musician parent has opened me up to appreciate a grand spectra of music genre, ‘though I feel that even without my father’s influence I would have gravitated onto some great music by myself. (He’s more of a standards kind-of-guy, but would later in his career sometimes crank it up a notch by taking on a few pop music in his repertoire.) As a “totoy” then a“Bagets” in the mid-70’s and through the 80’s, I was swept for a ride with the emergence of what is essentially the foundation of Original Pilipino Music (a distinct category in Filipino music separating it from the indigenous, the standards, the foreign covers and Kundimans): the Manila Sound, the Manila Pop(ular) Music, Pinoy Rock, Pinoy Novelty and Pinoy Folk- to which Asin’smusic is categorized. As (probably) with most of my peers, my introduction to the music of Asin was via a bootlegged cassette tape… and the 70’s and 80’s saw the proliferation of bootlegged everything in Manila, especially mixtapes. Along with their contemporaries, Asin’s music was teeming with social commentaries. Interestingly enough, the music they brought forth significantly plays more than just as background score to the most tumultuous part of the country’s contemporary history. Their music became staples in the cries for sociopolitical change at that time and for the years following. While classic OPM ruled the airwaves at that time, the early 80’s through the early 90’s saw its decline when MTV crashed the party, the Manila Sound, Pinoy Rock and Pinoy Folk has been relegated to weekend radio playlist up until a renaissance of sort took its place back mid-90’s.
Fast-forward to 2003 at Vicor Music, Lolit and Pendong had just signed a contract for an anniversary record release. Armed with my Nokia 3210 (yyyyup!), I got Lolit’s mobile number and forwarded her my bespoked ringtone “Cotabato” based on Ang Bayan kong Sinilangan. And because my boss’s office was about three meters away from mine I heard Lolit play the familiar 8-bit tune, followed by a short shriek and a roomful of chuckles. I was outed by my boss’s executive secretary (who btw gave me Lolit’s number) and was ushered in to be introduced as the guy to handle the album cover design and packaging. Pendong and his wife Chat just as soon, asked to be sent the same ringtone. (Whew!) Lolit later revealed that she shrieked because she was just talking about the song and Saro (their departed original vocalist) moments prior and thought it was a haunting!
The pictorial for the inlay, press and marketing releases was another first for me, as I had in collaboration, top caliber and veteran cinematographer Charlie Peralta behind the lens at Roper’s putting in to film what I had only a few days back sketched out. We would later on work on a couple more projects.
Creating the ambigram brought back a lot of great memories… working with the band, and of my 13 year gig at Vicor and even further back when I was younger. At times humming and/or bellowing out lyrics while bobbing my head with the full playlist in my head as I finalize the ambigram, making it a fun couple of days.
Although I almost hardheadedly kept on working on an S/I flip which had me going for a couple of sketches, a fairly easier and more pleasant solution was to, apparently, extend one of the “A’s” leg as a “tail” which would serve as the “N’s” back leg when flipped… making the “S” a perfect pivot. Stretch out each character a bit and ease out the tail to even up the spaces between the “I” and “N” when overturned. Since there were just two glyph to contend with, it was a fairly quick vector process than usual.
Based on the initial sketched design a vector file was created and then tweaked a few different ways. With the ambigram finished to my liking, I thought to myself that it would have been great had I known ambigram 15 or so years ago and have this piece (or a similar version) incorporated with the Baybayinscript on the cover I had done. But no… the Asin logo* holds way more coolness points with its history than this newfangled fan creation. Maybe on a future tribute album release or something… and after this maybe I’ll try a few more with other OPM legends.
#suliktad #danadonajr #imagefoundry
* The more commonly recognized Asin logo is actually it’s second logo. Earlier albums carried a stylized logo with the letters drawn as individual (salt) crystals.
Panday is arguably the most popular Filipino male comic book hero, and second most iconic, next to Darna. (Ang) Panday ( (The) Blacksmith in English) was created in the late 70’s and fleshed out in to the big screen in the early 80s by Philippine Cinema’s Action King, Fernando Poe Jr., which most likely gave the character just the right amount “creds” for it to be catapulted and cemented to its place in Philippine pop culture.
Although the original cinematic version of Panday, presented ala fantasy adventure period flick, slightly differ from the source material which has a more contemporary flavor to it, all the basic premise are pretty much the same, wherein the blacksmith Flavio forges a dagger from a meteorite and uses it to vanquish evil despot Lizardo and his horde of Orc-like creatures, engkantos and plain clothes henchmen.
The final ambigram above is the third version in a series of sketches and redraws with play on either just Panday and Ang Panday. I went with Ang Panday as Flavio is most often referred to with his title within or outside the story. The other two versions are below.
Initial sketches go as far back as 4-5 years ago.
I decided to present the final art the same way I did the Darna ambigram in hopes of being able to continue on and create a series of homage pieces on Filipino comics characters, similar to what I intended with the DC Ambiverse series.
This suliktad (ambigram) took me years to make.
It’s one of the first words I tried out back when I started doing ambigrams. I think I may have saved the old sketches back home but I remember setting aside the idea since I did not like what I had done then. (I found one of the initial design exploration! See below.) I tried using different “font” style that would fit in with the essence of the word, but nothing seems to fit.I’d come back to the word now and then but I’d set it aside in favor of other more cooperative words.
And while NOW it seem that I had arrived at a “no-brainer” solution, I only was able to visualize it in my mind and put it on paper a few months ago. Makes me feel stupid trying to flip the “U” for over four years. And also probably because I stubbornly wanted to retain the em-width of the “M”. The trick I found was to keep the initial stroke of the “U” detached from the next stem and add a tail that when once inverted- would form the “Y” with its ascender just casually resting over the initial stroke of “U”. GENIUS! I think… The vector process took a while to be done as well because… you know… procrastination. Hehe…
The final vector was a result of multiple revisions and form exploration.
While I felt the letterform in the sketch was great, the initial vector output was not really working for me so I made changes that I felt was warranted. I replaced the small individual crossbars of all the “A’s” with a longer ribbon as crossbar to sweep across two characters, and instead of having the initial stroke of the “U” tilted, I just italicized the whole word. The “G/A” flip looked forced and droopy so some node edits were done.
Gayuma is as you may have guessed, love potion in Filipino. Similar to most western pop culture references it it supposed to be ingested (unwittingly) to rouse up some sort of blind affection(?) to someone’s object of infatuation. Come to think of it, in today’s setting such a thing would definitely be considered illegal.
Anyway, I already have something ready for my next post, so just stay tuned, if you will. Happy Valentines!
This ambigram is supposed to be sent in as a competition piece for this contest in ambigr.am, a new ambigram dedicated website. “Supposed to be sent in” because I totally forgot to. Hehe.
Anyway, I created this piece around the same time I created the other “villains” pieces in 2013, that I then submitted to a competition in ambigramsrevealed.com. So yeah, this is an old one. I submitted four in total wherein I had to choose between sending in “SITH” or this one. I decided to send in “SITH” as my fourth entry and this was left in the “to be revisited” pile. I thought it didn’t look vile enough.
(The other entry to that Villains Challenge was posted late last year with the title “chapter 52, page 624”, if you’re interested. Also I might post the other two entries some other time.)
While excited to see the outcome of this new hosted competition, I initially had to regretfully tell Kai Hammond, of ambigr.am, that I might not be able to join in the fun. Work stuff. But then, going over some of my files for leftover glyphs and symbols for an unrelated project – I saw the ambigram file again and it fit the theme of the new competition. I took it out of “the pile” and dusted it off and as I said above, totally forgot to send it in before deadline.
So I thought I should just post the piece here instead. It’s called ALIENS. just in case it’s not as legible as I thought it to be . 😉 And here’s a radially zoomed in version.
The original sketch design, I remember (I wanted to post it here but I cannot find it anywhere), form these glyphs like long alien fingers with suction cup-like ends, at least that’s what I was going for. But thought it looked more like a blob of nasal excretion so I tried out other letter forms in CorelDraw from scratch.
And before finally deciding to put 12 different crop circle-ish glyphs around the finished ambigram, I had initially thought to layer in various alien-ish characters on top or below it but scrapped it because I felt it might be too distracting.
And there you have it, my first 2016 ambigram post. Be sure to check back in a couple of days as I’ll be posting a newly finished piece in time for Valentines. Well I did not create it for Valentines exactly but thematically (is that a word?) it fits!
Thanks for stopping by!
The images above are the first in a series of (hopefully 52) ambigram designs paying homage to DC comics, its Multiverse and the character(s) depicted, presented like a comic book cover.
I have this lengthy rant about my fan-boy persona clumped up in my brain but I thought it’d be better to just focus here and give a small backgrounder on the concept…
I began sketching both ambigrams right after watching the Season 1 finale of The Flash. Still high with that awe-inspiring ending, I was able to come up with three nice ambigrams and a few more needing a lot of retouching. I was happy with the end result (especially with Arrow) that I immediately looked for a previously created (and unrelated) “atom” ambigram and reworked it to make the style of the type look superhero-ish. But I had other stuff to do, so just as I had done with my other previous superhero ambigrams, I saved the vector files and placed everything on a folder for future use.
I don’t know how it happened but right after re-watching both the Legends of Tomorrow preview and the Batman V Superman trailer, weeks after, there was a “bang” somewhere in my mind and a universe was created.
Two (or multiple) interpretations/perspective, one subject.
I was surprised that it took me this long to recognize the parallels that when it hit me I was grinning like The Joker with a fresh plan to ruin old Bat-ears’ nocturnal runs. I’m going to make a comic-book cross-over event parody! And it will turn the universe upside-down. (Hey, I should have used that as a subheading! Hmm…)
Coining the portmanteau came almost naturally. Reworking DC’s 2005-2012 logo into an ambigram was easy since it’s almost an ambigram in its original form.
I will be honest though, in saying that I may not have enough material and/or patience for that matter to push on with this… as I will have to do 52 “One-Shot” comic-book cover inspired designs on top of my other ambigram works. It seem so overwhelming. And the way I design/do ambigrams… this will take more than 52 months to finish! However, I like this concept very much that I’m taking on the challenge however long it takes.
As I began working on the illustrations, I realized that it has been ages since I flexed my figure drawing muscles and *insert self-deprecating laugh here* I am very, very rusty! The last time I did full figure drawings was probably back in college. When I did my layouts for pictorials for CD inlays all I did were roughs with very little detail. I am going to need a lot of practice… now, where did I leave my Burne Hogarth?
Finally, since I already mentioned my ATOM ambigram above, it’s going to be one of the two designs I’ll put up here next time.