Wordplay: The Philosophy, Art, and Science of Ambigrams
Written by John Langdon
Broadway Books, New York, 2005
Reviewed by Allan Haley
You may be familiar with John Langdon’s ambigrams from Dan Brown’s bestseller Angels & Demons. If not, prepare to be dazzled.
For the uninitiated, an ambigram is a word or a group of words that can be read in at least two different ways. The handlettered title to the book “Wordplay,” is a perfect example – as is John Langdon’s name at the top of the cover. They can be read right side up or upside-down.
Langdon has taken his twin passions for language and visual art and combined them into a stunning little book of delightful typographic illustrations, each accompanied by a short essay. Both are guaranteed to enchant the eye and brain.
Early in his career, Langdon discovered the circular yin/yang symbol. He credits this symbol as the single influence that served as the springboard for his investigations into ambigrams. While many have tried their hand at drawing ambigrams (there are thousands of Web sites dedicated to them), Langdon has taken these visual puns to new heights. His work has a multi-dimensional character that is normally associated with the fine arts. Langdon’s designs involve the intricate weaving of the sensorial, emotional, technical, and spiritual aspects. Langdon’s investigation of the spiritual and esoteric realms, this aesthetic talent, and instinctual ingenuity provide a visual and intellectual feast for the reader.
The newly updated edition contains a full-color 16-page section of Langdon’s paintings, photographs and sculptures. If you are a lettering artist or type designer, this book is a “must have.” If you are a typographic aficionado or simply like letters, this book should also be part of your library. With the holidays upon us, it will also make a great gift.
- Allan Haley is Director of Words & Letters at Monotype Imaging. Here he is responsible for strategic planning and creative implementation of just about everything related to typeface designs. He is also responsible for editorial content for the company’s type libraries and Web sites.
- Prior to working for Monotype, Mr. Haley was Principal of Resolution, a consulting firm with expertise in fonts, font technology, type and typographic communication. He was also executive vice president of International Typeface Corporation.
- Mr. Haley is ex officio Chairman of the Board of the Society of Typographic Aficionados, and past President of the New York Type Directors Club. He is highly regarded as an educator and is a frequently requested speaker at national computer and design conferences.
- Mr. Haley is also a prolific writer, with five books on type and graphic communication and hundreds of articles for graphic design publications to his credit.