Ambigrams: East & West
The earliest known ambigram design from the West was ‘THE END-PUZZLE’ done in 1893 by Peter Newell. In the East, perhaps the earliest ambigram design with known period is the signature of painter and monk Bada Shanren 八大山人 (1626 - 1705). His stylized signature of '八大山人' resembles the phrases for 'laugh at it' (笑之) and 'cry at it' (哭之) at the same time, implying his confusion and feelings of grief for the fate of his country.
In the West, ambigrams were made popular by Dan Brown incorporating John Langdon's ambigram designs into the plot of his year-2000 novel bestseller Angels & Demons. In around 2013, Japanese artist Issei Nomura (野村一晟) was inspired by Angel & Demons to dive into ambigram design with Eastern characters, which in turn made ambigram with Chinese characters (kanji) popular in East Asia after media coverage from Japan, Taiwan, China & Hong Kong in 2017.
Design tool Matters
In the West, calligraphy is done with pens so strokes are of sharp lines and curves. In the East, brushes are used instead for calligraphy. I believe writing/lining instruments such as pen and brushes have great influence on artistic styles. So far, most of ambigram designs are done with lines and curves, even for Eastern characters (like shown on the right). Today, a typical ambigram design process is to first draft the design on paper, which requires repeated flipping the paper manually. The author would then make the final design on a computer using vector graphics editor programs. This manual paper flipping could impede the workflow, and sometimes it's not easy to do tricky mapping on paper.
Expresii Ambigrams: Brush Calligraphy strokes + Quarter Mode
We demo with the Chinese characters for Yin (陰) and Yang (陰). Yin-Yang is a popular subject for ambigram previously done several times by Japanese authors (see works done in 2009: 回文ユンブイカ, unknown author; 2010: oyadge01, oyadge01×意瞑字査印; 2013: Issie Nomura, 2014: 意瞑字査印; 2015: 意瞑字査印, Satoshi Ito; 2018: Satoshi Ito, ARTAKANA). In fact, the famous Yin-Yang symbol ☯ inspired John Langdon to do ambigrams back in the 70's.
With Expresii, we can make the strokes with authentic calligraphic look, which sets it apart from all previous ambigrams of Eastern characters:
- Nelson Chu 2018.11