“Where In The World?” Ambigram Challenge Results

Jun 16th, 2010 | By | Category: A.C.A.C., Feature, News

The results are finally in!

The ‘Where In The World‘ ACAC challenge has been one of the best we’ve seen! We received more than 30 entries, and almost half of them were new participants!  This can only be attributed to the success of the previous challenges and all the fantastic work that has been submitted by the artists.

For this challenge, we don’t know what to be more ecstatic about more: the number of entries, the wonderful quality of the work, or all of the above! It is quite challenging to select the top ambigram, because every single submission has some quality that isn’t found in any of the other entries, and each ambigram has its own unique style.

The Results

[NOTE: If applicable, designs may be copyrighted by the respective artists.  We have permission to post them here, but you must get permission from the artist for any other use of their design, or to post them elsewhere.]

1. John Langdonhttp://www.johnlangdon.net/

This ambigram is beautiful, and probably one of the finest ambigrams ever created. Not only is the ambigram formed from the city and its description, but the complexity is mind-boggling.  One can only imagine the time involved in creating such a design.  Not only is the solution impressive, but the lettering strokes have been tweaked to perfection, with nothing noticeably out of place.  John made all the right decision in terms of design & aesthetics, and has shown us once again how a master practices his craft.

2. Elwin Gill –  http://elwin-gill-designs.com/

The hand-rendering here is exquisite, and that is part of the charm and appeal of this ambigram. Too often artists & designers forget to step away from the computer, stop relying on technology, and pick up a pencil & paper. Elwin does just that, and this is the first completely hand-rendered submission to place in the top 5 list.  Fantastic job Elwin!

3. Bastian Pinnenberghttp://unterart.wordpress.com/

Another spot-on submission from Bastian. Smooth & consistent lettering, and a great mini-ambigram “City by the Bay”, which San Francisco’s nickname.

4. Scott Kimhttp://www.scottkim.com/

San Francisco seemed to be a popular pick for this challenge, with another artist making it into the top 5 with the same city choice.  This is another beautiful submission from Scott Kim, another well-known name in the ambigram world. This ambigram is a perfect example of how well-executed lettering can make an ambigram stand on its own, without depending on additional elements or decorations.

5. Michael Irvinghttp://michaelirvingambigrams.blogspot.com/


The top 5 is rounded off by Michael Irving.  It wasn’t necessarily the quality of the ambigram that put this one into the top 5, but the challenge that Michael took on in attempting it.  New York City is a challenging city name to turn into an ambigram, and Michael does it quite well using his signature style. He has become a consistent contributor throughout the ambigram challenges, and his style has developed quite nicely over the course of his submissions.

With the top 5 ambigrams selected above, here are 5 more “honorable mention” ambigrams without comments to round off the top 10.

6. Renzo Bongocan – http://www.behance.net/Zoner


7. Johan Skylling
Standard CMYK

8. Daniel Dostal – http://daneel75.wordpress.com/

9. Daan Juttmann – http://dahtamnay.blogspot.com/

10. Dave Bailey – http://www.davebailey.us/
Where in the World - PARIS - Dave Bailey

We would like to thank all the participants in this challenge. It proved to be another great round of ambgirams!

Next Challenge: Ambigram Couples Ring

Design an ambigram couples ring, and if your design is the contest winner, you will receive an actual aerospace grade titanium ring deep-engraved with your design!  This is our best contest prize yet, so don’t miss your chance to win this beauty.

Just be sure to read the instructions, as the judging is partially based on your ability to follow directions. :-)

Check out the Ambigram Couples Ring Challenge.

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  1. WOW. Before schedule aren’t we. I salute the masters but where in the world is Bptyhey placed?
    Bastian’s and Scott’s pieces are fantastic. Irvings piece were quite dull. Hi can do better?

  2. My jaw dropped at Elwin Gill’s work. Maybe I’ll try making an ambigram that way some day.

  3. @skylling__it’s brotherly dude, not Bptyhey, And sorry, I can’t read yours, what is it, Stockholm, Stockport or Stockphols ??
    I guess Juttman’s or Renzo’s is better than Irving’s

  4. I regret my comment. It was rude. Had a bad night *hiccup*. Don’t want to offend anyone. It was probably the best ACAC yet. Cheers!

  5. Wow… One behind John Langdon, that is such an honor! His artwork is second to none, it’s like being an amateur golfer in the PGA and coming in second against Tiger Woods.

    I was really happy with the 619 added to the design, that is the area code here in San Diego, I thought is was a great touch. I do all of my ambigrams on paper first, I never intended on entering this exact design. I would have done it on plain paper, I did this design on yellow lined paper while I was in a meeting at work… the more I added to it, the happier I got with it. I honestly did plan on putting it on the computer and cleaning it up.

    Thank you all for the great and kind words… Keep up all of the great designs. Looking forward to the next set.

  6. [...] aby jego nazwa by?a w j?zyku angielskim.  Najciekawsze nades?ane prace mo?ecie obejrze? tutaj. W du?ym po?piechu, spowodowanym nat?okiem innych spraw przygotowa?em dwa ambigramy z nazw? [...]

  7. Hi Guys,

    Just a quick comment about the judging. Each entry gets a numeric score (like 8.6, 9.2, etc) that incorporates both difficulty and execution in a single score (we had more complicated systems, but as the challenge grew, we had to simplify) and then all entries are averaged to come up with the top 5 list.

    It is quite possible (and has happened) for a design to not be on ANY one judge’s top 5 list, and still make it into the top 5 results once the design scores are averaged. It all depends on having broad appeal, and scoring well with all judges at once.

    NAGFA hasn’t been participating in the judging as much lately, but we will always have 2-4 people scoring the designs for each contest.

    I do agree that sometimes I like one or two designs that didn’t make the “top 5″ list better than the ones that are in it, but we always publish the designs just as they’re scored.

    Oh, and congrats, Elwin! A second place work of art that was once a yellow-lined piece of paper ambigram that you doodled on during a meeting! Nice work.

  8. Elwin Gill’s work is amazing. That is an awesome ambigram. Sure seems to me like it would take quite some talent to do that on yellow lined paper! Good Job.

  9. The link to the next challenge seems to be broken… (2010-06-21 11:05 GMT-05)


  10. yup, the link is broken, noting found in there

  11. Erik, Rodney, try

    (I think they’d got a couple of words in the wrong order in their link)

  12. Hi everybody.
    I like Bastian Pinnenberg’s and Renzo Bongocan’s compositions: the former for the composition, the latter for readability.

    I would propose a few new “rules”:
    1) the ambigrams must be original for the ACAC and never been published before. I remember to have seen before John Langdon’s and don’t agree too much to use old stuff (even if it is so professional).
    2) temptation to “crowd” the ambigram with nice backgrounds to make it look better is strong, and it becomes stronger as good competitors are so many. Too often a background is used to “hide” poor ambigrams. With nice backgrounds it’s easier for a Photoshopper to win against a real ambigrammist… What if we propose neutral backgrounds? Or a double prize: composition (free background) and content (“naked” ambigram)?
    3) it would be nice that every submitter is listed, together with a link to the ambigram sent for the ACAC (everybody could judge on his/her own even if they are not published in this site), the votes from every judge and naturally it would be nice to know who the judges were. For the sake of clarity and transparence.

    Have a nice day

  13. Alessandro,
    Some good suggestions, thank you. We are in the process of implementing several new rules into the ACAC contest. To respond to your thoughts:
    1. Good idea and we are currently discussing that.
    2. The judges are asked to consider only the ambigram and not the background. There are cases when the background is an integral part of the ambigram, just as there are cases when it is simply a background image. We don’t know if we’ll forbid the use of backgrounds completely, but we may do it from contest to contest depending on the individual themes.
    3a. The judging is done based on a point value for each ambigram.
    3b. We have received anywhere from 15 to 40+ entries for some of the challenges. We post the top 10 because usually that is the best work overall.

    Hope I answered your questions. Feel free to email me with any other thoughts or comments. Thank you for commenting!


  14. Thank you for answering back so soon…

    First of all, sorry to everybody that have been or will be offended by my words. I’ve partecipated to NAGFA’s competitions before coming here. I’m not such a great ambigramist even if I know what I like and which are the common mistakes on the subject.
    Mine is “love” for ambigrams, not hatred against anybody. That told, I’ll go on.

    I’m a fan of Scott Kim after reading (ages ago) an article on American Science about him. I love his “simplicity” and the almost total absence of background. As Einstein stated “it is very difficult to make things simple”.

    Since then (already 20 years? how possible?) I followed ambigrams’ evolution, from the very simple first to the modern son-of-Illustrator ones.

    I believe that an ambigram to be such must respect a few rules:

    * readability: it must be readable by at least 80% of “normal” people (not only ambigramists; a 20% couldn’t find a meaning in a Courier New text). Sorry Johan Skilling but I cannot understand your city even after trying hard (it is even possible I’m among the 20% in this case, so don’t take it as an offence)
    The best judges to choose the winner would be the first 10 random people you meet on the way to the shopping mall.

    * simplicity: it is possible to work it out with pencil and paper. Using Coreldraw/Illustrator/Inkscape to add text effects is often a way to hide defects or poor design. If an ambigram is well done you don’t need anything added. I’m not against a meaningful background but it is rarely necessary. Some ambigrams are so “crowded” that the real text is lost among lines, floating curves and borders. In Dave Bailey’s the Paris is great even without the surrounding border, so in this case the background is neutral.
    A nice background full of colors and glitters and light rays can give “illegal” advantage on ambigramists not in touch with computer design. Again: if we are talking about composition, it’s ok. If we talk about content, it is not and backgrounds have to be kept as blank as possible. That’s why I proposed a double competition.

    * coherence. Fonts (look at John’s an his Fraktur-font LOVE compared to the rest) and letters must keep a resemblance along the way. John, I don’t hate you, sorry for being so rude: but you among us are a star and as such you are subject to judgement more that normal people.

    After this ugly (and arrogant) lesson I would propose a couple of extra ideas for ACAC:
    1) Fixed words. It would be nice to see how different people devise different solutions for the same problem. Instead of a theme it would be nice to have the same words/same sentence for everybody. A word with its opposite, for example. Long words, perhaps, just to make the game more interesting.
    2) it would be nice, if you prefere to go on with themes, to ask as an extra exercise to recreate the previous winner’s design. Without any prize, just the satisfaction to be put in the gallery among the best 5. <> We would feel less the time between ACACs keeping our head and hands busy…
    3) out of respect for every partecipant it would be nice to know how the ambigram has been judged. I can imagine myself: if I send ambigrams for 5 ACACs in a row without a feedback I would become annoyed refusing to participate further…

    Thank you for the possibility to express my ideas. I would like to know what other competitors think, not only the editors!

    Nice day

  15. Hi Alessandro.

    Here’s what I think about your suggestions:

    1. Thanks for your comment on my piece. I do agree that readability should be the first thing we ambigrammatists should consider and ordinary people are the best judges we have in this matter. Sometimes, I even think that at some point, we ambigrammatists may even have developed a “disease” wherein we are able to read each other’s solutions (albeit with difficulty) that would otherwise baffle ordinary people.

    2. I believe you realize that most ambigrammatists participating in the competition will most likely put their submissions into their own portfolios. That being said, decorative backgrounds should not be prohibited in my opinion. It depends on the artist if he/she will use backgrounds to further the beauty of the piece (Daniel Dostal does this, imo) or simply cover up for the ambigram’s weaknesses. I think we should simply trust the judges on this matter. We don’t want to restrict the artist’s creative juices now, do we?

    3. Again, fixed words restrict the ambigrammatist’s imagination. Your suggestion regarding two competitions (one with fixed words and another with a theme) is fair enough for everyone although our judges are still HUMANS. They need time and the fewer pieces there are, the better it will be judged.

    I don’t mean to offend but I really gave these things a lot of thought both as an ambigrammatist and as an ordinary person.

    Last note, anyone else thought of Mr. Langdon being a judge?

  16. In reply to the issues raised by Allessandro I have a few things to say.

    I do like the idea of requiring original work for the ACAC. Although I wouldn’t directly oppose submitting previous works, it feels more like a challenge if you have to make a new ambigram for the occasion. After all it’s supposed to be a challenge, not?

    This of course could partly be enforced by setting fixed words for the challenge, like the NAC often did. Chances that you have an ambigram ready for that particular word are minimal. Also, I agree that it is nice to see different solutions to the same word. It may even be easier to judge the entries fairly this way. However to entirely exclude theme based challenges seems a bit excessive. Working from a theme has some unique challenges of its own. I’d suggest a healthy mix between the two kinds of challenges.

    On to the judging criteria:

    – Readability. This is in my opinion too one of the most important aspects of an ambigram. Getting unbiased views on this might be tricky though. You suggested to ask 10 random strangers, but I can’t tell how feasible that is for the judges. This might easily get too time consuming, especially when the number of entries keeps increasing. However I would support a form of blind judging. I find the best way to evaluate the readability of a design is to read it without prior knowledge of the word(s) it depicts. Ideally all the judges should be unbiased like this the first time they look at an ambigram. This may not be possible though, because probably at least one of the judges will have to set up such a blind evaluation.

    – Simplicity. I understand your call for simplicity. Photoshopping and other advanced effects may seem an easy way out for creating a good ambigram. However, I don’t think that any amount of special effects will make a bad ambigram much better. And although it can improve a good ambigram, it can equally well spoil the design.

    Also I’d say that the use of advanced programs to enhance an ambigram should in no way be discouraged. This challenge’s goal is to showcase the best of what’s possible with ambigrams—the state of the art of ambigram design. If that requires advanced techniques, so be it (apparently it doesn’t seem to be necessary, as Elwin Gill’s hand drawn entry proves).

    – Coherence. I don’t have much to add here. It should be clear this is also a major aspect the ambigrams should be judged on. Also I trust the judges to be capable enough to evaluate this.

    Then some additional ideas. First of all on the recurring request to display more or all of the submitted works: maybe this could be hosted on an external page? It could be as simple as a Flickr ACAC account where the submissions are uploaded to. This would give a nice overview of all entries, without putting the load on the ambigram.com domain.

    Secondly, there still is a page on this site with the ACAC official rules. Although it isn’t clear whether these continue to be relevant, I’d suggest that, if they are, every new contest announcement should link to this page.

    Lastly it may be nice to send a standard reply to every ACAC entry that is sent in. An automated email system might even work; just something with a “Thank you, we have received your submission”. Maybe it’s just me, but I like to have a notification my entries were received and not got stuck somewhere in the tubes that are the internet.

    All in all I’m quite happy with the ACAC in its current form. Maybe these ideas will be of some value, but if there are other plans on improving the challenge, I’m fine with that too.

  17. A little note after Zoner’s post: your last line reads about John Langdon being a judge.
    If you took this idea from my comment about coherence you misunderstood me.
    If it is somebody else’s idea forget this post because I misunderstood your proposal.

    I was not saying that he could be a judge.
    I was so critical against his design that I added: I’m criticizing because you are so good. You are subject to judgement more than a hobbist ambigrammist BECAUSE you are a professional among us. While our design glitch can be forgiven in name of our naivete, the very same glitch from you is not so acceptable.
    I was referring to his use of a different font for the word “love” in the middle of the sentence. The choice of a Fraktur text (love) inside a Handwriting font (the rest of the sentence) is evidently an incoherence, as this “love” was already prepared and just cut-and-pasted into the final ambigram.

    Rereading my posts it looks I’m rude and know-it-all. Sorry.
    It isn’t because Italy was shot out the football World championship. I couldn’t care less and I don’t understand how grownup adults can run around in underpants kicking an innocent ball. I don’t even have a television to watch the games at home.
    The probable reason of my “bitterness” is called Emily: she’s 17 months old and while she is the best ambigram I made, she doesn’t let me sleep enough. It would be better to stop writing posts at 1 in the night and count till 10000 before pressing “Submit”.

    Thank you for the answers, it’s interesting to know other people’s ideas.
    Alessandro, Italy

    ps: …., 9997, 9998, 9999, 10000. Submit ;-)

  18. @Alessandro

    No no. I didn’t take the idea from your comment about coherence. I was simply saying that Mr. Langdon might be a good judge in the competitions since he is a professional and considered as one of the inventors of ambigrams. But I guess you could easily brush off a 14-year old’s opinion.

    I don’t think you were rude. I actually found some of your suggestions nice especially the one where you suggested that ordinary people be judges of an ambigram’s readability.

  19. agree with every point from Alessandro, and from DJ, and Zooner too ^_^
    vote Mr. Langdon for judge !!!!!

  20. FWIW: Following up on several comments regarding my work, I would just like the following to be known:
    1. When Mark and Nikita first told me of the idea of having the Ambigram challenges, I suggested that they should not declare winners. It would be my preference to simply share the opportunity to view the work of other artists, and exchange thoughts about the entries — in short, an educational experience. If the number of entries should exceed the practicality of showing them all, then I would have entries judged on an include/exclude basis.
    2. When the “where in the world” theme was announced, I wrote to Nikita and asked whether previously existing ambigrams were welcome, and was assured that they were.
    3. When I don’t enter a competition, it’s normally because some or all of my various careers (graphic designer, ambigram artist, painter, writer, teacher) simply do not leave time for the creation of a non-commissioned ambigram. (This also has led to the submission of a previously created piece).
    4. My REINCARNATE/REINCARNATION piece was created specifically for the ACAC.

    I regret having created the impression that I really want to “win.” (see point #1, above). I would like to foster dialog and cooperation among us all, for the sake of improving the overall state of the ambigram world, and the quality of the ambigrams we’re al creating.

    With best regards to all,

  21. John did email me, and I did tell him that ambigrams that were created beforehand were allowed for this contest. And I agree with what John said about creating dialog & discussion of our work; it would benefit us more as artists to discuss our work and share our thoughts & opinions.

    From now on, we will require that any submissions for the ACAC are created for that specific theme. Of course, there is no exact way to test it, so we will depend on the participants’ honor system. This will be the requirement for most, if not all, of future ACACs and will be specified in the rules for each individual challenge.

    Finally, the ACAC is still relatively new. As it continues to develop, we will continue to refine all of its aspects, from judging to posting work to commenting on the work. The feedback from everyone has been incredibly helpful, and hopefully it will continue.

    Thanks everyone!

  22. [...] Oh, at the end this ambigram wasn’t really recognized by the judges from ACAC but … i still love it. You can take a look at the winning  ACAC-Designs at ambigram.com [...]

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