Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ambigram for Pune, India

Earlier in the year Ambigram Magazine held a contest to come up with ambigrams for city names. I had done a number of quick pencil sketches for a variety of city names, some of which were presented in an earlier blog, including a sketch for the city of Pune, India.  A closeup of that pencil sketch is shown to the right.

To get that sketch to something more suitable for a logo, letterhead, or something that might be suitable for a T-shirt or travel poster I scanned the sketch into The Gimp to clean it up a bit then used Inkscape to make scalable vector image.  The steps that were used are outlined here:

  1. After opening the scanned image in The Gimp, the threshold tool was used to get a black and white image.
  2. A copy of the letters was rotated 180° and overlaid on top of the original black and white image.
  3. The resulting 'holes' in the letter strokes were filled in.

  4. The black and white image with the filled in strokes was imported into Inkscape and the trace-bitmap tool was used to convert the PNG image to a set of vector objects.  Because the 'N' and 'E' are rotated copies of the 'P' and 'U', the 'N' and 'E' were deleted and all the vector tweaking was performed only on the 'P' and 'U'.  Once the tweaking was completed to my satisfaction a copy of the 'P' and 'U' was rotated 180° and added to the vector image.  This ensures that the two halves really are rotationally symetrical about the center of the image.  The result is shown below:

When I look at this result I can still see the basic outline of an elephant lurking in the 'U' and 'N'; I see the curved part of the 'U' as an upraised trunk and the curved part of the 'N' as back end of the elephant.  This idea will be explored in more depth later.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Emily and Molly

This is the initial paper sketch for a symbiotogram of the names Emily and Molly. The design was inspired by my second submission to the Ambigram Magazine Couples Ring Design Challenge.

This design is intended to fit within a diamond shape but could easily be adapted to fit in an oval as well.  It was very tricky trying to get an 'O' to look like an 'I' when turned upside down!

Stay tuned to this page for further updates to this design.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Couples Ring Design Challenge

The ambigram to the right has been submitted to the current Ambigram Magazine design contest Couples Ambigram Ring Challenge.  This is a 180° rotational figure-ground ambigram with the names of my wife and me.  In the orientation shown here, the black figures spell 'SUSAN'.  When rotated 180° the white spaces between the black figures spell 'ERIK'.

This design was a bit tricky since the contest rules required the design to display a different name in each orientation (termed "symbiotogram') and 'Susan' and 'Erik' have a different number of characters.  While there are plenty of symbiotograms made from words with different lengths, the classic "Life / Death" design comes to mind, I prefer designs that don't rely heavily on modified Old-English or Old-German fonts.  I find that many designs that rely heavily on these fonts are difficult to read.

For this design the serifs on the 'E' and 'I' were mostly unavoidable; the serifs on the 'E' could be minimized or eliminated by extending the first upright of the 'N' to line up with the vertical extents of all the other figures.  Because we tend to focus mostly on the top half of letters, the extra black blobs between the first 'S' and 'U' and between the second 'S' and 'A' in 'Susan' and the extra white blobs between 'E' and 'R' and between 'I' and 'K' in 'Erik' seemingly disappear.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Latest Ambigram Design Contest

Ambigram Magazine has announced their latest design contest.  In this contest you are to design a symbiotogram that will be featured on a titanium ring.

All the details can be found here:  http://www.ambigram.com/ambigram-challenge-couples-ring

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mathematical Ambigrams

On the site QED Cat, you can find a very nice article written by Burkard Polster on the subject of mathematical ambigrams.  One of my favorites from the article is a 2x2 determinant written using Roman numerals:

As you see it written here you get the equation:  X·I-II·IV=II (10x1-2x4=2).  If you flip it as a mirror image you get the equation:  II=VI·II-I·X (2=6x2-1x10).

What other mathematical ambigrams do you know of?

Be sure to check out some of B. Polster's books on mathematics:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cairo - Part 2

In an earlier post I showed a very rough pencil sketch of an ambigram of the word Cairo.  Here is a preliminary model done in Inkscape.  The 'C' and 'O' are rough and need to be modified to be parts of a circle rather than sections of a path, and the outlines of the 'god' glyph inside the 'A' and 'R' need have more detail added around the head and other general cleanup done but you can see how the idea is transitioning from the pencil sketch to a more refined image.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Miscellaneous City Names

Yet another post in support of Ambigram Magazine's 'Where in the World' city name ambigram contest...  ...you'd think they were sponsoring this blog space.

In the two images below you'll find a number of different city names with a little bit of exploration work done on a few.

I'm sure I've seen the mirror-image version of 'Baghdad' before, so I doubt I can take credit for it. 

'Alexandria' feels like it wants to be a mirror-image ambigram but that 'N' in the middle might be a challenge.

To me 'Rome' feels like it wants to be rendered as a vertical mirror-image, but with the top half of the letters 'completed' and the bottom half reflecting the top.  You'll see that the tops of the letters are missing so that the closed loop at the top of the 'R' isn't completely closed allowing the bottom to also remain open.  This might work out better in the native Italian spelling 'ROMA'.

The 'Paris' idea has some merit and deserves to be pursued further.  I'm not sure that the 'A' and 'I' can both be convincingly rendered as the Eiffel tower without causing confusion over which is the 'A' and which is the 'I', but as with most ambigrams, our minds create what we expect to see so it would probably work.

'Cape Town' was explored only briefly.

'Baranagar' might not fit the Ambigram Magazine contest criteria if the judges are very strict (they state that the city name must be considered a major city), but all those 'A's are begging to be mirrored.

'Pune' was so obvious it almost hurt when it smacked me in the face.

'Bally' should be easy enough to complete as a rotational ambigram.

'Pasay' almost writes itself as a rotational ambigram, but again it might not meet the contest criteria if the judges are strict.

I only played with 'Manila' briefly to see what I could do with the starting 'M' and ending 'A'.  It should be fairly easy to manipulate the 'L' and interior 'A' to be legible in more than one position.

'Beijing' surprised me a bit.  I wasn't sure what to do with the 'E'-'N' combination and the current representation looks rather Art Nouveau.  I'm also not completely thrilled with the way the 'J' jumps out in the middle; it looks too much like a violin f-hole or an integral sign.  Perhaps if I made each of the 'J's the same height as the other interior letters it would be less obtrusive.  The glyphs should also be rendered to look a bit more like Chinese characters for emphasis.

Last, but not least, the second image shows something workable for 'London'.  I'm not too terribly surprised that it has ended up looking a lot like John Langdon's anagram of his own name.

Cairo - City of the Gods

In an earlier blog I mentioned that Ambigram Magazine had posted a new design contest.  This contest is all about cities.  To get me started (ignore the fact that I had already started in the first posting) I visited Wikipedia to get a list of cities so I could get a look at a whole bunch of names all at once.

Almost immediately, the name Cairo jumped off the page and into my lap.  In mixed case lettering it's not much, but look what happens when you apply all caps:  CAIRO  It's as if RA himself had decreed that a mirror-image ambigram would one day be summoned to proclaim to greatness of that city.

In the three renditions below you'll find a progression of ideas.  In the first image the 'A' and 'R' were altered a bit to find a glyph that could represent either letter.  The letters AIR prompted an image of a pyramid so in the second line I puposefully straightened out the leading edge of the 'A' and trailing edge of the 'R' to give a more definate pyramidal shape to the three middle letters.

In the third rendition I started by thickening up the letters using an outline block font and flattening the tops of the 'A' and 'R' so a more definite pyramid could be placed on top.  As soon as that had been done, the negative spaces of the 'A' and 'R' created a rough outline of an Egyptian hieroglyphic, so I quickly searched for some images that might fill that space.  As providence would have it, the hieroglyph for 'god' fit almost perfectly, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon the hieroglyph for 'town', which is an 'x' inside a circle.

In the next few weeks I'll be refining the image of the 'City of the Gods' a bit more before submitting it to the contest.

AMBIGRAMBIGRAM - What's in a Name?

Obviously the word 'ambigram' is heavily used by people creating websites and blogs devoted to the subject, so when I had to pick a name for this blog space it was no surprise when Google reported that the website ambigram.blogspot.com was already taken.  What to do?

Since ambigrams are essentially a graphical way of playing with words I thought it would be fitting to choose a name that played with the word 'ambigram'.  Two obvious plays on the word that were begging to be employed were 'ambigram·a·rama' and 'ambigrambirama'.  They roll off the tongue like the name of your favorite bowling alley or laudromat but they didn't quite suit my taste.

The next name that came to mind was the one I decided to adopt: ambigrambigram.  The word 'ambigram' already starts and ends with the 'am' letter combination and the popular form of ambigrams repeat the same word twice (overlapped) so it wasn't a stretch to take two of the word, overlap the 'am's, and come up with the result.

I hadn't really thought about what kind of logo could be done with the word when I started the blog, but here are some very rough sketches of where I'll probably end up.

The Ambigram Magazine 'Where in the World' Challenge

Ambigram Magazine has announced their latest ambigram design challenge:  Where in the World.  The idea for this challenge is to design ambigrams for the names of major world cities.  With that in mind, here are some quick doodles I sketched this morning for the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Amsterdam.  They are obviously rough, but should show each concept as a 'work in progress'.