The Natural Ambigram Hunt

Jun 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Design Secrets

When a person is deemed to be a ‘natural’ at some task it means that task or activity comes easy to them.  Pete Sampras is a natural at tennis, Bob Dylan is a natural song writer, and George Bush is a natural at developing new vocabulary. This type of pure natural talent isn’t ubiquitous, but it’s out there.

Natural ambigrams are ones that don’t require any modifications. Flip them, mirror them, reflect them, and you get the same word, and very rarely, you get a different word. In the world of ambigrams, a rotational ambigram (one that depicts the same word when rotated 180 degrees) is the most common one, followed by some reflective ambigrams, and very rarely, if ever, a symbiotogram.

Let’s take a look at a few examples, shall we?


This is one of the few natural ambigrams that works as a reflective ambigram in two different ways, as well as a symbiotogram.

Reflection v1


Reflection v2


Mirror (a rare case where the mirrored word is a symbiotogram.)


suns – rotational

This ambigram is pretty self explanatory.


How about a bonus? Eliminate one vertical stroke of the U/N, add a dot, and you have a SINS ambigram!


sos – rotational

When you need to be saved, what better to use then a graphic that can be read the same way in two different directions?


pod – rotational


bid – reflective

Reflection v1


Reflection v2



Reflection v1


Reflection v2



This ambigram might require some slight modification depending on how you write it, but it is pretty straight forward as well.


But wait…what’s this? Let’s take the G, mirror it, and…now we have a reflective ambigram from the same word!

Reflection v1


Reflection v2



Reflection v1


Reflection v2



Reflection v1


Reflection v2


Note that each one of these ambigrams is sketched on paper in a slightly different aesthetic, then simply held up against a mirror and photographed. I’m no David Copperfield, so these ‘illusions’ are as real as can be!

Now, you may be asking yourself, what good is studying, drawing and redrawing natural ambigrams?

There are several parts to that answer. The first part is blatantly obvious: you do not have to worry about legibility, since it’s already a natural ambigram!! This allows you to focus on aesthetics; thus you can give your ambigram almost any look & feel that you want, without reducing legibility and/or readability. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, as you can ‘over-stylize’ even the most natural ambigram so that it will be hard to read and understand.

The second part of the answer is simple: you are developing your hand and eye ability to recognize ambigram potential. We have to practice our skills; whether you’re an athlete, musician, poet, writer, designer, etc. you still have to work on honing your abilities. Why should ambigram design be any different? Once you train your eye to recognize and your hand to draw (and stylize) natural ambigrams, you can switch to more complex words and attempt to turn them into ambigrams.


Here is my challenge to everyone: take one of the natural ambigrams you’ve read about in this article, or find one that I haven’t mentioned. Attempt to stylize each one at least 3 to 4 different times so that each version exudes a different style. Do this by hand, not on the computer!! Then scan/photograph the sketches, email them to and we’ll post them along with a write-up and analysis in one of the future columns.

Happy ambigramming!

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    Check out the drink bottle. Well it’s not an ambigram, but still a cool design. It’s ‘cin’ in all 4 ways.

(page contents are not an accurate historical record. Many pages were modified in 2012)
If you liked this page, you may also be interested in creating your own ambigrams or ambigram tattoos.