Holiday Ambigram | Skillshare Projects

Maureen Perry




Holiday Ambigram

For a while, I've been wanting to create an ambigram that reads "Merry Christmas" one way and "Happy Hanukkah" another. It seems to me that it would make the perfect non-denominational (or, rather, multi-denominational) holiday card. I've never made an ambigram, but I was determined to make it happen. I wasn't going to let a small thing like having no idea what I'm doing get in the way of realizing my idea.

So I set to sketching.


The beginning proved difficult. I tried many combinations and relationships, with little success. Do I rotate? Flip? Do I separate the words? It soon became clear to me that "merry" and "happy" would make an excellent pair as one another's mirror image. That double R could be a double P upside down. So I went to work on those two, hoping "christmas" and "hanukkah" would eventually work out in the distant future. I pushed that out of my mind.


Finally, getting somewhere:


And some feeble attempts at the second word, which at this stage still looked like a mess.


But I struggled on, until I finally got to a structure that kind of worked! There were still a lot of problems, but at this point, for the first time, I was convinced that it COULD be done!


Trying an alternate r/N:


Going back to the beginning to see if there were any better solutions:


And my first success! The second word gets a little cramped, but besides some balance issues, I think it works pretty well!


I keep going. Below, you can see Option 1 against Option 2. The only difference is the "hris" / "anu." Option 2 has the two "a"s in "hanukkah" matching better, and gives us a lowercase "r" in "christmas." There are pros and cons to each, and I haven't decided which I prefer. The first "hanukkah" is, I think, slightly more legible, because the second "n" is kind of funky.


I show two people whose opinions I trust. The first prefers the first option, the second prefers the second. So I keep going. My third option combines the two, using the h/a from #2 but the Ris/nu from #1.


A couple more sketches just because different possibilities keep appearing in my head:


But that didn't really go anywhere. So for now, I have my three options. Here they are, all together:


And I suddenly find myself with a fourth option:


I made a more refined sketch of Option #1, and worked on some of the balance issues:


Sorry it's taken me a while to post an update! I took your advice, Nikita, and simplified the letterforms as much as I could while still keeping the style consistent. More sketches:


More worked out sketches:


There's something about "merry/happy" that I'm still not quite happy with, now that I've changed the style of the second word. I think the first word works much better with the curved connections between the Rs/Ps, but now it doesn't work as well with the newly flourish-less second word. I might just need to add one flourish back in—perhaps the cross of the "t." That might bring everything together.

There's also a tricky situation with the "M and "h," because the thick strokes of the two letters don't match up. The second vertical of the "h" should be thick, but then the "M" would have two consecutive thick strokes. So I'm not quite sure what to do about that.

I started redrawing it in Illustrator, because I knew it would evolve in the process, and I hoped it might clarify some of my unresolved issues. Work in progress:


The Y feels possibly too small, as does the s/h pair at the end. The thin of the "M" and "h" still bothers me, so that needs some fiddling. Some of the curves need work, and some of the line weights need consistency. But it's getting there!


Tried the M/h with a thickened line. It's way too heavy. Then I tried a few different alterations, below:


I finally did the two exercises: 1. finding natural ambigrams, and 2. analyzing the ambigram potential of two words (I chose "maureen" and "woman")


And I started another ambigram, keeping with the holiday theme, this time for the upcoming Valentine's Day.


And did a basic preliminary vectorized version:


Nikita, I took your suggestion and came up with a v/e combination that is much more legible! Now I've been trying to figure out a way to make the central N a lowercase n, but I can't seem to make it work as well. I made the "nt" combination work well on its own as a pivot point, and also made the "en" combination work well on its own as an alternative pivot point, but then it really does throw the rest of the word out of wack in a way that's far less legible than my first version. The rest of the letters just work so well together when the N is the pivot point! All the verticals match up so happily. I THINK what's best for the overall legibility is to keep the N as the pivot point.


So I set about trying to make a lowercase n rotationally symmetrical. It KIND OF works bottom left, below, but there's always an extra stroke in there somwhere, and overall it's still not as legible as the uppercase N.


Back to the drawing board, adding some style and letting the ornaments give me some leverage. While the n is working BETTER, I'm still not convinced it's better than the uppercase N.


Experimenting with v's and n's:


Currently working on another one:


And this "n" suddenly JUST came to me, as I was working on something else, right after Valentine's Day! What terrible timing!



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