I was contacted by Ragehaus, a design team from Virginia consisting of Derek and Kim. The recently finished an identity project which focusing on...you guessed it...an ambigram! They asked if I am interested in taking a look at it, and since we already established it was an ambigram, the answer was 'absolutely.' Continue reading below for the complete interview and examples of the work.
Dorinda Gayle Identity
1. How did you first become trapped in the world of ambigrams?
I guess we got involved in ambigrams through John Langdon's website right after the release of The The Da Vinci Code in theaters. We remember watching his alternate opening sequence and we were both blown away. That was one of the first times we had ever seen ambigrams used so well and the motion really lent to the design of the ambigrams themselves. Definitely a defining moment of inspiration.
2. How did the idea for the Dorinda Gayle ambigram come about?
I remember from the very beginning of working on this project that Derek had it in his head that he was going to do an ambigram. He attributed it to the situation where my mother's art was hung incorrectly in a gallery. Yet, because her work is abstract it can be appreciated from many angles. I think it was this quality that allowed Derek to fixate on an ambigram.
While designing the logo, we were designing the card at the same time. We really wanted the logo to be the centerpiece, and after a few doodles I immediately saw a relationship between the "D" and "G" shape. That's when we knew this would be the perfect opportunity for an ambigram.
3. To design a successful ambigram, and most importantly, to design one that works well for a specific type of business/company is very difficult. Why did you feel that it was the correct solution for Dorinda Gayle's identity?
I think the qualities of an ambigram complement my mother's work perfectly. As I mentioned above, her work is abstract and can be viewed from many different angles. An ambigram's letter forms tend to have abstract qualities so that the letters can be interpreted differently depending on how it is viewed.
Aside from her artwork, she's a very whimsical and lovely person. We really wanted the mark to reflect HER as well. And an ambigram just seemed right.
4a. How involved was the client in the initial concept process, and did she know that an ambigram identity was in the works?
She actually wasn't involved in the process until she gave the okay to go to print with the card. She talked about creating a new image for herself and her new art, so we surprised her with it as a Christmas present.
4b. Did she know what ambigrams were before that point in time, and what was the initial reaction to the proposed ambigram identity?
She knew what an ambigram was but I don't think she really ever thought of their application to design. She saw the logo and loved it, but when we flipped the card over to demonstrate the ambigram, she screamed with amazement.
In her line of work, she is used to seeing business cards with pictures of the artist's work and some simple text. With the ambigram logo, she now has something to help market herself as she grows in her artistic medium. She doesn't have to be defined by a picture of her work, she has something more that represents her work.
5. Is this the first time you created an ambigram for a client, or have you created other ambigrams as well? Can we see more examples if they are available? (Derek)
This is the first ambigram we've created. We've both doodled them and sketched them to past the time, but this is the first we actually set out to finalize. We really hope to do more in the future, but the reason has to be there. We never want to design an ambigram for a client for the sake of the "cool factor". That's the wrong reason to design something a certain way for anything. If we do any ambigrams in the future, we will certainly share them with you.
6.What is your individual & unique approach when embarking on an ambigram design? (Derek)
Being from a digital generation, I have to admit this ambigram was designed mainly in Illustrator. I think this one was easy because it was just two letters. I started with a few quick sketches to get a concept, then I took a few choice typefaces and sliced them up in different ways. The final product was "Frankensteined" and redrawn from Goudy Text Lombardic Caps.
In other sketches with words and phrases, I've sketched for days. If I get stuck, I start looking at different ways a specific letter can be drawn (blackletter, script, serif, sans serif, Lombardic, block…etc.) and normally that yields a blueprint for getting around the problem.
Then I handed it over to Kim. She's much, much better with color.
Once Derek had the ambigram formed, I took it and made it the final logo. The layers and colors were used to represent the characteristics of glass.
I have to admit that the ambigram was all Derek. Of course this doesn't mean that he didn't ask for my opinion or suggestions. I think that is one of the most important parts of our process.
7.Are there any specific ambigram designers that inspired you to dabble in ambigrams? (Derek)
John Langdon hands down. As we said earlier, we saw the proposed opening credits for The Da Vinci Code and love them. Also, the artist that did Method Man's "Life/Death" tattoo. I think it was Mister Cartoon.
8.In your opinion, what makes ambigrams so unique that people are drawn to them? (Kim)
I think people are drawn to ambigrams because they are visual puzzles. When you consider the way you read western text from left to right and top to bottom, you find that text has a set relationship with our eyes. However, ambigrams break this relationship and really play on the eye's ability to identify letters. Sort of a trompe l'oeil with text.
I think it plays to the natural curiosity of humans. I think there's a degree of illegibility to them, and yet people want to know what they say. Each ambigram is different and once people figure out how one reads, it's imprinted on their minds.
Ambigrams are the closest thing we have to surreal typography. One word or a few letters can express two different words or ideas simultaneously. I think ambigrams remind people that even something as common as everyday letters can be seen in an innovative, yet beautiful way.
*Obligatory "it was fun" comment *
Thanks for featuring us. It was a blast.
Derek & Kim, thank you for the informative submission and great work! The link to Ragehaus's website can be found on the right under the 'contributors' section.