Deke’s Techniques: Creating an ambigram in Illustrator

Published by | Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

This week, Deke’s Techniques turns our world upside-down, only to find that it’s the same as when it was right-side up. Deke sets out to create an ambigram in Illustrator, and he chooses a particularly appropriate word (both in its structure and meaning): Adobe.

For those of you who aren’t devotees of either Douglas Hofstader (Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid) or Dan Brown (Angels & Demons), an ambigram is a typographic treatment that—to quote Hofstader— “…squeezes two different readings into the selfsame set of curves.” The particular type of ambigram Deke explores this week is one in which you turn the letters over, only to find that it looks and reads exactly the same in the new orientation:

The free video this week shows you how to exploit Illustrator’s dynamic Transform command to work out your ambigrammatic tendencies, watching as you create one half of the word and see it flipped in real time on the other side. For members of, Deke’s exclusive video addition to the Online Training Library® reveals a more complicated double-word phrase that can still be turned upside-down without a shift in meaning.

Stop by next week for another free technique to find out what mysteries Deke has in store.

Interested in more?
• the entire collection of Deke’s Techniques 
• courses on Illustrator in the Online Training Library®
• courses by Deke McClelland in the Online Training Library®

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One Response to “Deke’s Techniques: Creating an ambigram in Illustrator”

  1. Nikita says:

    On one hand, it’s a great video in terms of using AI as vector based drawing program. On the other hand, it’s extremely misleading because it omits all the vital steps that take place BEFORE an ambigram ever makes its way into the computer, primarily brainstorming and sketching. The ‘adobe’ ambigram is almost a natural ambigram: it requires very little effort to turn it into an ambigram. A natural ambigram is a word that, when rotated/mirrored/etc is ALREADY an ambigram: some examples would be ‘suns’ (suns upside down), ‘mom’ (wow upside down OR mirrored vertically), NOON, or S.O.S.

    Although natural ambigrams are quick, fun and easy, they don’t reveal the true nature of the ambigram creation process. Some ambigrams can take you a few minutes because the letters are conducive to being viewed/understood upside down. Other ambigrams could take you months (or even years) to complete, while you explore a virtually endless mass of letter combinations & flips. But, all of this brainstorming, concept development and sketching…is done BY HAND. If your ambigram is poorly drawn and illegible, you can be a virtuoso with any program, yet it will not make your ambigram more readable, legible & aesthetically pleasing. You will get incessantly frustrated while trying to use any program to redraw a poorly drawn (on paper) ambigram. The more refined your ambigram is on paper, the easier it will be to recreate it on the computer.

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