An "ambigram" (a word coined by Douglas Hofstadter) is a word or phrase written in such a way that it reads in more than one orientation (usually rotated 180 degrees or reflected in a mirror to read as the same text, but sometimes alternate text).

I have a vague recollection of my first exposure to ambigrams. It was a small article in Discover magazine. There was some write-up about some fellow who had invented a particular font so that the letters could be read upside-down (possible as the same, or maybe a different letter formed). Supposedly he was inspired by seeing letters writen on the sides of rotating automobile tires, I think?

Anyway, the article showed how the word "NEWSMAN", if written in the font read the same way when rotated 180 degrees. This was pretty cool to me, and I kept a lookout for other words that had the same trait ("NOON", "dollop", etc...)

I never really experimented with my own fonts, though. Ambigrams were not something I doodled with very much.

In fact, it wasn't until late 2004 that I really renewed my interest in them (as a Christmas gift for my mother I purchased the book Inversions by Scott Kim -- a true master at ambiguous writing).

In late February of the following year I started trying my hand at my own ambigrams. Mainly this served as a way to kill time on cross-country airplane flights. Mostly I started doodling with names of my friends. Below are some examples (all of them are 180° rotational unless otherwise noted).

  1. Abby
  2. Alice
  3. Emily
  4. Heather (reflective) Champ
  5. Henry
  6. Jason
  7. Lauren
  8. Linda
  9. Marshall
  10. Sarah
  11. William
  12. I created an ambigram for the announcement of my Fall 2005 Puzzle Party: Puzzles From Wonderland.
I consider all of these very rough sketches. I generally only spent about 15-20 minutes working with a particular name, so it's not like I am trying to get them perfect. I'm also very much a novice with the drawing program I am using on the computer (OpenOffice suite), so both of those factors keep the above examples at the "prototype" stage. I display them mainly to hint to people what can be done with ambigrams (and maybe inspire others to doodle).

I will add more as I create them (and probably refine some of the above).

- Eric Harshbarger