The Perfect Book for Ambigram DesignersMay 20th, 2009 | By Nikita | Category: Design Secrets
Those of us who love ambigrams, who live & breathe ambigrams, and can’t write a single word without attempting to turn it into an ambigram, know that there are no books that teach ambigram design. There is no Ambigram Bible, Teach Yourself Ambigrams In 24 Hours, or Ambigrams For Dummies.
There are books that showcase ambigram design, most notably John Langdon’s Wordplay and Burkard Polster’s Eye Twisters. John Langdon’s book gives everyone a great insight into his philosophy & personal world of ambigrams, while Burkard Polster’s book exhibits ambigrams from various artists across the world. Langdon’s and Polster’s books show examples of wonderful ambigrams and the process behind them, but they don’t teach you how to design them. So, what’s a novice ambigrammist to do?
Well, never fear, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That light comes in the form of Letter By Letter, An Alphabetic Miscellany, by Laurent Pflughaupt. This book does not include a step-by-step guide to creating ambigrams nor does it magically transform its readers into professional ambigrammists. So why am I calling it a perfect book for ambigrammists?
If you remember my first post here (and if you don’t, feel free to take a look at it) I discussed what ambigrams are and why they can be so difficult to create (and to create properly!). We are so used to seeing letterforms in a specific application that it is hard to imagine them existing in any other context. Letter by Letter opens your eyes and helps you see each letter as not just a specific form (with a single meaning) but also an entity that is flexible and can be perceived differently, depending on the context.
First, Laurent starts the book off with a short historical introduction. He covers Cuneiform, Hieroglyphics, Proto-sinaitic/Phoenician/Greek/Etruscan/Latin alphabets, as well as various typographic styles & period. He then shifts into formal analysis of letterforms and letter anatomy, discussing various structural elements & topics such as the Golden Rectangle, colors and their connection to alphabet.
This is where the content becomes relevant to ambigrammists. The third section of the book examines each letter in excruciating detail (I only say excruciating because I can’t imagine how much work went into each letter’s section, let alone the whole book!) Laurent starts by tracing the origins of each letter and its evolution, going back as far as 800BC.
He discusses various uses of each letter, while making connections to each of the alphabets discussed in the previous chapter. Then, he talks about various aspects of each letter, such as shapes/interpretations, meaning & different abbreviations. In every section devoted to a letter, a timeline is included; this timeline traces the origin of each letter from its earliest known record to present day, and shows its evolution within various alphabets & typographic periods.
Sample section (letter D, page 2)
So after reading all this, aren’t you asking yourself ‘how the heck does this book help me become an ambigrammist’? This book helps you become more flexible when examining a word and understanding its potential to be an ambigram. If you are used to seeing a letter in one way, this book will help you see that letter in a completely different light.
If you’ve taken a typography course, various topics such as letterform structure, proportion & consistency have been hammered into your head. After reading this book, as well as examining various ambigram examples, you will be able to get out of your own (restricted) way of seeing letterforms and will be able to maintain a more open mind, which is essential when attempting to create ambigrams.
So what are you waiting for? Go buy the book (or sit at Borders & read it), and get to work!