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An ambigram is an art form that may be read as one or more words not only in its form as presented, but also from another viewpoint, direction, or orientation. The words readable in the other viewpoint, direction or orientation may be the same or different from the original words. Douglas R. Hofstadter describes an ambigram as a "calligraphic design that manages to squeeze two different readings into the selfsame set of curves." Different ambigram artists (sometimes called ambigramists) may create completely different ambigrams from the same word or words, differing in both style and form.
Ambigrams have also been called, among other things:
The earliest known non-natural ambigram dates to 1893 by artist Peter Newell. Although better known for his children's books and illustrations for Mark Twain and Lewis Carroll, he published two books of invertible illustrations, in which the picture turns into a different image entirely when turned upside down. The last page in his book, Topsys & Turvys contains the phrase THE END, which, when inverted, reads PUZZLE. In Topsys & Turvys Number 2 (1902), Newell ended with a variation on the ambigram in which THE END changes into PUZZLE 2.
From June to September, 1908, the British monthly The Strand published a series of ambigrams by different people in its "Curiosities" column. Of particular interest is the fact that all four of the people submitting ambigrams believed them to be a rare property of particular words. Mitchell T. Lavin, whose "chump" was published in June wrote "I think it is in the only word in the English language which has this peculiarity," while Clarence Williams wrote, about his "Bet" ambigram, "Possibly B is the only letter of the alphabet that will produce such an interesting anomaly."
John Langdon and Scott Kim also each believed that they had invented ambigrams in the 1970s. Langdon and Kim are probably the two artists who have been most responsible for the popularization of ambigrams. John Langdon produced the first mirror image logo "Starship" in 1975. Robert Petrick, who designed the invertible Angel logo in 1976, was also an early influencer of early ambigrams. Robert Petrick was a friend and associate of John Langdon in the early 70's.
The earliest known published reference to the term "ambigram" was by Hofstadter, who attributed the origin of the word to conversations among a small group of friends during 1983–1984. The original 1979 edition of Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach featured two 3-D ambigrams on the cover.
Ambigrams became more popular as a result of Dan Brown incorporating John Langdon's designs into the plot of his bestseller, Angels & Demons, and the DVD release of the Angels & Demons movie contains a bonus chapter called "This is an Ambigram". Langdon also produced the ambigram that was used for some versions of the book's cover. Brown used the name Robert Langdon for the hero in his novels as an homage to John Langdon.
Ambigrams are exercises in graphic design that play with optical illusions, symmetry and visual perception. Some ambigrams feature a relationship between their form and their content. Ambigrams usually fall into one of several categories:
There are no universal guidelines for creating ambigrams, and there are different ways of approaching problems. A number of books suggest methods for creation (including WordPlay and Eye Twisters).
Computerized methods to automatically create ambigrams have been developed. The earliest, the 'Ambimatic' created in 1996, was letter-based and used a database of 351 letter glyphs in which each letter was mapped to another. This generator could only map a word to itself or to another word that was the same length: because of this, most of the generated ambigrams were of poor quality. In 2007, the Glyphusion generator, was developed. It uses a more complex method, with a database of more than 400,000 curves, and has two lettering styles. "Mirror" ambigram font designed and produced by Robert Petrick and published by MyFonts/Bitstream Inc.
|Look up ambigram in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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