Author:

Maggie Macnab has been recognized as an innovative design communicator for over three decades in design publications and with international honors. She has written two books on design theory, Design by Nature (New Riders, 2011) and Decoding Design (F+W, 2008). She teaches at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Institute of American Indian Arts, the University of New Mexico, and Santa Fe Community College, and speaks and leads workshops on designing with nature in mind. Maggie is committed to beautiful and functional design and creative problem solving based in nature's richly practical process. Macnab Design Design by Nature Decoding Design

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The Organic Ambigram

The ambigram is one of the few modern letterforms that engage both your intellect and intuition simultaneously. It reads as a word while also communicating a deeply familiar pattern. This is something beyond the ambigram’s obviously clever construction. I’ve thought quite a bit about why I love this word-image hybrid, and I’ll set out here to uncover just what it is about the ambigram’s design and structure that makes it so captivating.

Anatomy Snake

My primary design background is as a symbolic logo designer, so I begin with what I know: symbols. I look to nature to create my work as a matter of practicality as well as aesthetics, because symbols are derived from nature and are the first language of all humans. Symbols engage us deeply as expressions of the organic principles and forms that life embodies. Nature is common to everyone, and when it is used symbolically in visual language, the chance of creating a relationship with the audience is significantly elevated because it mirrors the relationships within and around us. Nature even embeds symbols that mirror universal processes directly in our DNA.

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Symmetry: A Balancing Act In Two (Or More) Parts

Symmetry is the ordering principle in nature that represents the center of balance between two or more opposing sides. As a fundamental design principle, it permeates everything: from man-made architecture to natural crystalline formations. In nature, symmetry exists with such precision and beauty that we can’t help but attribute it to intelligence–such equal proportions and organization would seem to be created only on purpose. Consequently, humans have borrowed this principle for its most iconic creations and symbols.

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There are several types of symmetry, but the most basic are translation, reflection and rotational. Each of them has specific and practical expressions in nature, and each can be used to communicate intuitive principles when appropriately and subtly integrated in a design. As a simple aesthetic, these opposites that work together can add visual appeal.

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