AmbigramsAmbigrams are not so much puzzles as works of art. The skill lies not in solving them but in creating them.
What Is An Ambigram?An ambigram is a representation of a word or phrase that can be read in different ways - for example back-to-front or upside down. Most ambigrams read the same thing each way but some are designed to produce interesting word combinations.
The next simplest form of ambigram is a minor change to standard English lettering. This is often used in logos. Perhaps the best known example is the logo of the pop group ABBA where the first "B" is reversed. This logo looks the same when viewed in a mirror.
The most advanced and beautiful ambigrams go beyond typographic tweaking to become full blown calligraphic art. Letters are distorted in ways which remain readable and attractive whilst achieving the ambigrammic objectives.
Rotation and mirror image effects are the most common forms of ambigrams but there are others. One is the figure-ground ambigram where the background space behind the letters can itself be read as a word. This is reminiscent of the art of M.C.Escher.
HistoryIt's not clear exactly who "invented" ambigrams. Some people give credit to John Langdon in the 1970s. It also seems that Scott Kim discovered them at around the same time.
The likelihood is that various people had been playing with them for centuries but it wasn't until the twentieth century that they became widely known. The first known publication of ambigrams was in Inversions by Scott Kim.
Ambigrams became more widely known following their use by Derren Brown in the opening sequence of the first series of Trick or Treat.