Ambigram analysis: John Mayer

Jun 17th, 2009 | By | Category: Design Secrets

The inspiration for an ambigram can come from almost anywhere. It could be a commissioned piece, a gift for a friend, or a ‘just because’ in-the-spur-of-the-moment desire to create something unique and unusual. But, even if the inspiration is instantaneous, you still have to go through the analysis & determine whether your chosen word will make a successful ambigram or not.

In this example, the song ‘Out Of My Mind’ by John Mayer was on the radio. I have always been a fan of blues, and I like Mayer’s music because he can switch seamlessly between the mainstream artist and a classic blues man, whose guitar-playing abilities rival those of Hendrix and SRV. While listening to the song, I wrote down the name of the song and artist, almost mechanically, in my sketchbook.


(click the image to see a larger preview)

Of course, my next thought was ‘Oh!Ambigram!’ since I already had my sketchbook open and had pencil ready in hand. First, I wrote down the words ‘john mayer’ in lowercase, lowercase cursive, and uppercase.


(click the image to see a larger preview)

Usually, I start off with writing the future ambigram in uppercase, but in this case, I decided to write it down in several different cases. At first, I decided to work with all uppercase letters. Uppercase letters are much easier to draw, read, and work with; they have much fewer tails, serifs, ears, and other typographic structural elements that are ubiquitous amongst lowercase letters.

After writing down the words ‘john mayer’ in all uppercase, I wrote it upside down to see how the letters lined up, and then began a more in-depth analysis.


(click the image to see a larger preview)

After looking at it for a few minutes, I realized that my initial assumption that uppercase would be easier to work with was erroneous. When I realized that I also came to a few other conclusions:

- After I decided to use very simplified lowercase letters, I realized that a 1-to-1 ratio would work perfectly for this ambigram.

- I was lucky enough to have a ‘central’ letter, the M, which has an equal number of characters on each side; in addition, the M was very easy to modify to read the same way upside down.

- The words ‘john mayer’ was as close to a natural ambigram as I could come; I had to make but a few slight changes to make it both readable & legible.

In the previous image, you saw a few quick sketches of each letter pair to see how they would look underneath each other. Here is a more finalized sketch:


(click the image to see a larger preview)

After I finished the first complete sketch, I also realized that this would be a perfect opportunity to use an actual typeface to finish the ambigram. Usually, I steer away from using already designed typefaces and always hand-draw the final diagram, then trace it in the computer. However, for this ambigram, I wanted to portray the effortless sound and classy style of John Mayer’s music. I didn’t want a heavy or even a regular typeface weight for this ambigram. So in the end, I decided to go with the tried and true, overused & abused, perfect and boring: I chose Helvetica Light as my typeface weight. After some very minor adjustments, this was the final solution.


(click the image to see a larger preview)

End of process!

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  1. hey, i looked your ambigrams here on the ambigram website. They are really cool. Can you make an ambigram of my name too?

  2. Thank you! It’s very interesting to see steps of making an ambigram.
    The o/e rotation is rather readable, the most difficult to rotate, I think.

  3. Vinayak,
    Contact me at

    Igor, thank you for your comment. Care to submit an ambigram?

  4. I cant wait for Johns new album in November. I already love “Taking on Water” and “Half of My Heart” Im sure this will follow in line with his previous albums and stay in my cd player for months after the release.

  5. [...] Here is a breakdown of a clever person drawing a super sweet ambrigram of John Meyer’s name! They have a good understanding of letters and fonts, and they just play around by drawing with what they have written down. [...]

  6. Wow, this is totally awesome!!! I love it. I love john mayer, his music, his guitar, everything. Thanks for this amazing work. Can you make more of john mayer. I’d like to see them.

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