Ambigram. How to design it?


“The ambigrams have been my research topic, to try to explain I had to learn”

It is a work of trial and error. It takes knowledge of typography and perception.
It is an act of illusion and magic, as magic is tricks.
In the rotational ambigram knowing the magic is in difference legible traces of ornaments.
The top of a word is the visible area, the lower half hidden area to do the trick!

The brain decode signs …

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

… and difference between ornaments and legible strokes

“Taken from the experiences of Adrian Frutiger about decode of signs”
@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

The upper middle is the visible area …

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

…  the inspiration comes to the meaning, form, with the feasibility, the rest is process.


When you have an idea you will find matches …

 @Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

… But first you have to sketch by hand

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012


What is ambigram?

Ambigram means any graphic word or number, or combinations of both, it offers various ways of reading a single word or of one or more different, either by rotation or reflection, for emphasis, his counterform, motion or sequential transformation. The ambigram is an optical illusion.

Ambigram called every word graphics that can be readable in the sense that is observed, either by rotation, reflection or movement, allowing the emergence of the same word or of one or more different.

The ambigram is usually associated with magic and that uses illusion, we are witnessing a transformation that goes beyond our understanding, we are surprised and fascinated us fall prey to this illusion, without thinking or trying to go further, you can enjoy of magic and even mythologizes, most people still puzzling over the word do not totally understand how it was done, and not even suspect a trick behind it and in what cases is the product of human creativity and the automation of a computer.

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

The Art of ambigrams

Only he who has mastered the art of the ambigram understand all the variables involved in producing the illusion and can replicate in ambigrams surprisingly readable.

Making ambigrams is a magic act, a gimmick, a kind of illusion. The mastery of a skill ambigramista equivalent to a magician who amazes us with his act, but do not know how he could perform such a feat, in front of our astonished gaze.

Any act of magic is based on the trick of hiding, in disguise, that our eyes can not see what caused the illusion, do ambigrams, alike, is to hide certain traits of a bill to create the illusion in their investment that is another.

What ambigrams do is take advantage of mimetic capacity that has a way of pretending to be another letter, the letters have this capability because our eyes never see the big picture of things but only the most descriptive traits of it. Later we will explain how to take advantage of these perceptual limitations.

Making ambigrams is a fun, kind of puzzle that can become addictive when its creation becomes a habit.

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

By creating an ambigram is always a seeming impossibility, experience shows that nothing is impossible, it’s a matter of turning one or a thousand times before finding the perfect solution, it is actually possible given the infinite variety of resources in ways and styles.

To understand what an ambigram and tricks or tricks at its disposal, is important to know what is involved in nature.

In principle, the ambigram is a form that offers a dual reading, so it is an ambiguity, to be read, is a perceptual phenomenon and being content is a topic typographic letters.

Perception and reading Reading in principle, is able to interpret the nature, to understand the codes of the environment, the reading is related to the ability to understand letters, words or phrases giving access to language and allowing it to understand what passed.

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

The Recognition of letters, easy to read, then the degree of ease of reading text is what you would call legibility.

Readability is related to perception, or how our brain interprets the forms we see through our eyes.

Of how we perceive the forms has been studied for years as a result of this are the laws of Gestalt, they pose as our brain discriminate between what is figure and what is background, also, as grouped by similarity of form or analyzing the associations and dissociations.

The first ambigram was created by Peter Newell in 1893 and the first latinamerican ambigram was “Somos” from Perú in 1986.


Are the ambigrams a good way to develop creativity?

    After being involved in the investigation of this interesting topic certainly think so. I think there is an unlimited universe in the field of illusion that provides a wide field to the development of thought is an underdeveloped area and conducive to providing new ways of expression.


@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012


Below you can read the interview the Na! Magazine (Perú) by Rafael Vivanco (Perú).

Na! Magazine – Peru: What other uses, other than logo, would have an ambigram in the area of ​​design?
As holders is a challenge for their ability to produce one or more leturas as signage for motion graphics and video clips an area little explored but rich in possibilities. Addition is to note that there are many varieties of ambigrams, there are rotary variable read from 45, 90 or 180 degrees, the mirror is producing one or more readings to be reflected, the figure-ground there when unambiguous counterforms There is another type based on the emphasis or thicknesses, and even fractal kinetics is among many alternatives.

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

What advantages do you think is common with any other logo?
As mentioned before, I believe in your ability to persist in memory and that is a form of induction to persuasion.

How hard is that calligraphy, as a means of building the ambigram, legible and easy to understand? Represent a problem or gives originality?
Like all design work requires a process evaluation and analysis certainly represents a lot more work than a single reading labeling whose greatest difficulty would be to find the appropriate letters or resonant with the signs or phrase.

full ambigram poster@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

The ambigram requires particular attention to the tricks to fool the eye, these answer some fundamental premises:

  1. The brain does not see letters, see words, many deceptions or tricks are based on the simplicity of the view that repair is not usually much into detail.
  2. Most words have their recognizable features in the upper half, in the case only if the Q is downward, in the descending lower cases are greater, only the g, j, usually pyqoz downstream by way and style.
  3. The brain does not object if the same letter appears in various forms whenever they are legible but these are made simultaneously, you can combine lots of high or low combined box or not and an infinite variety of styles that can be combined either always and when no interference or noise. The style tends to mimic the differences.
  4. The ambigram is composed of many monograms doubles or trios reversed letters when one letter is as wide as the mo w, these units are interspersed with links allowing the simulation cases decodable or hide other features that are not.
  5. The brain recognizes as a letter like that which gives, if a stroke is not recognized as such is considered adornment and provided there are no interferences that hinder their reading or decoding.
  6. Many letters and style as ambiguous in itself, either in the mirror or to be drawn, that capacity is greater in some styles than others.
  7. The constructive notions of style, typical of the architecture correct typographic, calligraphic usually gives unity and coherence concealing deception and maximizing its ambiguity.

@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012

Here we should not forget to mention the two great ambigram pioneers, John Langdon ( and Robert Petrick (
If you arelooking for more information or inspiration of ambigrams you can visit the one of the best websites with rich information.

John Moore of Venezuela

Born: Venezuela, 1951
John Moore is one of the most prolific typographic designers in Venezuela, he studied graphic design in the Institute of graphic design Neumann from 1972 until 1976. In 1980 he took a workshop with Milton Glaser and since 1983 he has worked as an art director and creative director in many advertising agencies such as Foote Cone & Belding, Leo Burnet and J. W. Thompson branding high-profile brands such as Kraft, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson and important banks and other best brands of Venezuela and Caribbean. Parallel he has participated as an artist in major scientific expeditions to the Amazon and has won many international awards for his films of experimental animation. In 1996 he published his book “Signos de Identidad” about his design of three decades of brand marks. Since 1976 he began working designing fonts, he was a winner of three Latin American Biennials of typography “Tipos Latinos”. Has participated in many international design conferences in Latin America and his work have been published in many international magazines in America and Asia.

Poster for I Love Design for Durango Mexico 2012, an event to celebrate the Designer’s day.
@Copyright John Moore 2006-2012


Original texts by John Moore, translated by Maria Papaefstathiou.


Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (


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