Ambigrams, Angels, Demons & John Langdon

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 09/20/2005

I updated the top of my blog with my long-ago designed ambigram. It was already featured on Mike-Levin.com, but I’m just getting into customizing my Blogger template. Ambigrams have received a lot more attention of late, because of being featured in Dan Brown’s book, Angels and Demons, which is of course receiving a lot more attention because of the stellar success, The Da Vinci Code. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing an ambigram, just look at the graphic at the top of this page. It’s my name, Mike Levin. Now turn it upside down. Same thing.

I give credit where credit is due. I studied under someone Dan Brown calls one of the most ingenious and talented artists alive today, John Langdon, although John calls this a bombastic exaggeration. Visit his site, and you be the judge. With a Da Vinci Code movie coming, and an Angels and Demons movie being inevitable, I think John will have something of a cult-following before this is through. His artwork already adorns peoples’ bodies as tattoos.

Also, more credit goes to class-mates Chris Simon and Mike Welsh who held a little contest with peoples’ names. Immediately spotting the ambigramability of Mike Levin, they worked at it a little while. I still have the pencil sketch Chris did, which turned out to be the winner. He didn’t design the whole thing, but ambigrams rely on these tiny critical breakthroughs, and Chris made some of the key ones. I take credit for the refinement and final execution. Today, Chris is a highly talented videographics artist in the Philadelphia area.

The ambigram execution was actually circa 1990 on an Amiga computer, before the Web and before killer Photoshop plug-ins. I had read an article about how the emboss effect was achieved by superimposing negative images with a tiny offset. So, I used the circle tool of EA DeluxePaint to draw my logo with increasingly large concentric circles, starting from white, and going to black with each circle. This was essentially a glow effect. Then, I made a second copy with inverted colors. I turned on DeluxePaint’s transparency feature, and pasted one version over the other. To get nice sharp edges, I was also using the masking feature with a mask created from one of the concentric circles. After the emboss effect was finished, I did a little more work to get the 1-pixel indent all the way around the interior. I liked the results so much, that I put it on my original “super search” page back in 1997, and have kept it ever since.