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Nikita Prokhorov’s Ambigram of the Month: Unity

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Nikita Prokhorov, author of Ambigrams Revealed: A Graphic Designer's Guide To Creating Typographic Art Using Optical Illusions, Symmetry, and Visual Perception, honors the city of Boston with his latest ambigram, Unity.

Upon hearing news that affects them in a positive or negative manner, people for the most part respond with a discussion or a debate, which can turn heated in the blink of an eye. Most graphic designers, upon hearing the same news, will often respond in a creative manner: a drawing, a design, a photograph, or a combination of the above. This design was my response to the tragic events at the Boston Marathon.

The word choice for my “designer response” was not a difficult one. I wanted to pick a word that was easy to understand (as an ambigram) and also sent out a positive message. As you can tell from my sketches, I switched between the words “unite” and “unity” several times before I actually settled on “unity”. The word “unite” (in my mind) subtly called for unification against something or someone, while the word “unity” simply calls for everyone to come together: not against a person, or a group of people, or a government, but just to come together as people and to stop these senseless tragedies from happening.

Turning the word “unity” into an ambigram was not a very difficult process, but one that still needed exploration because there were a few different options and a few tricky letter flips. In my head, and on paper, I tried the following combinations:

Option A.
u/y, n/it. For this option, the n/it flip was a predictable flip, easy to read, and due to its structure, forgiving of diverse typographic styles. But, the u/y flip was a challenging one that would have conflicted with the simplicity of the n/it flip.

Option B.
u/ty, ni/ni. This structure offered a lot more consistency across the whole word. The ni/ni flip offered a nice central pivotal point, and the u/ty flip fell into place relatively easily (as seen in the sketches).

The exploration (figures 1 and 2) was mostly a lowercase vs. an uppercase designer debate with myself. Because of the beauty of the lowercase ni/ni flip, it made sense to keep the u/ty flip lowercase as well.

The final touch was the addition of a globe illustration to further portray the concept of the word (figure 3). This is a good example of why vellum and pencil (or marker/pen) are some of the best tools you can use for ambigram design. If your ambigram is 100% glyphs, you can sketch the bare bones structure of the word and then use vellum to overlay it over the basic sketch and play around with some variations, rather than having to redraw the same bare bones structure multiple times. If your ambigram has additional elements (such as the globe in this example) you can finalize the ambigram on its own, experiment with those various elements (illustrative styles, colors, etc.) and then match them up simply by overlaying them on top of each other. It is more fun this way rather than creating layers in a software program.

So, there it is! Unity. It’s much easier to draw on paper than to achieve in person, but hopefully some day that may change.

You can download a TIFF version of this ambigram here.

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