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Nikita Prokhorov’s Ambigram of the Month: Easy/Hard

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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, takes you through his process of creating an ambigram for easy/hard.
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Selecting a word to turn into an ambigram is one of the toughest parts of the process. As an ambigram designer, you want to turn every single word into an ambigram! But you have to be aware that you may select a word, go through the process of sketching and developing the idea, and in the end, it won't be an effective ambigram. But that alone shouldn't deter you from trying, because the exploration process is as valuable as the end result itself, if not more so. The discovery you make along the way while experimenting with different letter combinations and styles can lead to some surprising and unexpected outcomes!

When selecting a word or words to turn into an ambigram, the type of ambigram can often guide your choices (but not the end result). A symbiotogram is a type of ambigram that reads as one word in its initial orientation, and when rotated 180 degrees, reads as another word. This opens up a plethora of possibilities, but the most obvious one is….opposites! Black or white, light or dark, fast or slow…the pairings are virtually endless! But for some reason, the combination of easy/hard came to mind almost immediately, so I decided to give it a try.

My first step was to write out the words in uppercase and lowercase, using simple letterforms, until a possible solution presented itself. While still a long way off from the final result, this barebones structure was a good hint of the possibilities and structure of the ambigram.

I could see already that I would have to mix cases for this specific piece. The h/y was almost a natural match. The e/d was a fairly easy combination as well, with some minor tweaks. However, the ar/as combination was the most challenging one. Two 1-to-1 letter combinations weren't possible, so it would have to be a 2-to-2 letter combination with parts of the letters overlapping.

More in depth development revealed that the central ar/as combination was not as challenging as I thought. Using a lowercase 'r' allowed me to use a similar style 'a' for either word, with just some slight adjustments.

I also experimented with some letter styling, but in the ended decide on a simpler black/white design. While finalizing the ambigram itself, I also drew a quick doodle of a possible decorative element for the ambigram.

Due to its overall balance as a word, a decorative element would probably not hinder the legibility or readability of the final design.

End Result
The end result turned out quite nicely. With almost any ambigram, you can make minor tweaks until you can't click the mouse button any more. But I felt it was a good stopping point, as it was easy to read, easy to understand, and conveyed the concept of opposites using a symbiotogram. As my friend and fellow ambigrammist Clayton Mabey said upon seeing the ambigram, "The easy is a little hard, but the hard is quite easy."

You can download PDF or TIFF versions of this ambigram here.

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