I read a book called Wordplay this weekend, by graphic artist and typographer Professor John Langdon. Langdon’s best known for his mastery of the ambigram, sometimes called an inversion, which is a graphical figure that spells out a word identically from more than one orientation, typically rotationally or reflectively. Langdon became quite a figure in pop culture through his association with Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, stories which not only include ambigrams and symbology as integral elements of their plots, but include the protagonist Robert Langdon, whom Brown named so as an homage to John.
Can’t say enough good things about Wordplay, an absolute must-read. Langdon taps into incredible realities that tickled every corner of my brain. It’s the type of read that people would describe as “life-changing”, although this one was more of a sort of confirmation than a revelation. It’s as if what he’s pointing out isn’t really anything new to me; it’s an awareness that has always been there, a layer or two below my consciousness. Not so much eye-opening as it was brain-clearing.
Along with plenty of mind-blowing eye candy, Langdon gets into not only his mechanical technique, but a history of his influences, a list on which M.C. Escher ranks near the top. Langdon also pointed out how, while in college, he became obsessed with the yin and yang symbol and the Tao. He took his studies further than most sane people would, and his growing love for the Tao became not so much a philosophy or a belief system, but a way he sees the world and a filter through which he notices its elements. He developed a heightened awareness of the opposites in the Universe — Black/White, Life/Death, North/South, etc. — and began creating ambigrams that not only read twice visually, but conceptually.
Did I say I loved the book?
Anyway, I couldn’t help from having a whack at things myself, starting with my name. Here’s the animated version to make the ambigrammaticality* more apparent:
*Sorry, I couldn’t resist using “ambigrammaticality” in a sentence for the first time.