Wordplay with John Langdon

Even if you’re not familiar with his name, you’ve probably seen or heard of John Langdon’s work.  According to his website, Langdon specialty “is making abstract concepts visual, almost always through the design of words, letters, and symbols.”   His abigrams are the best representation of that concept and they have become the most notable area of his work. Ambigrams are “words that can be read equally well from more than one point of view.” Langdon has been working with ambigrams since the early 70’s when he discovered the concept but you are probably most familiar with his work with author Dan Brown.


The “Illumanti” ambigram and the “Illumanti Diamond” were integrated into Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons in 2000 along with cover art created by Langdon. Dan Brown also named his lead character Robert Landon to help recognize Langdon’s contribution to book. Angels and Demons  went on to become  an international bestseller and helped spawn Brown’s successful followup The Da Vinci Code. Then in 2009 the movie adaptation of Angels and Demons  was released starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon and audiences were able to see the “Illumanti Diamond” brought to life on the big screen.



Langdon was featured in the summer issue of Surround Yourself, where we talked all about type—the history, the process, and the artists behind it all. His goal in creating is to take people back in history, when type and art were united, and create pieces that not only look remarkable but also have something to say. Because of his widespread success with creating ambigrams for major companies and artists and his approach to the whole process, Langdon was an obvious choice to include in the issue.

Beyond creating ambigrams , Langdon finds time to paint, write, and teach college students at Drexel University.  He even found time to write, Wordplay, focused on his research of and experience with ambigrams.  Drawing inspiration from writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Salvador Dali has given Langdon the insight he needs to turn type into a piece of art in more ways than one.

When you visit Langdon’s website, the first thing you might notice are the yin/yang symbols. His interest in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism inspires much of what he does. Considering it a logo for Taoism, Langdon mentions in Wordplay that the yin/yang symbol is one of the best ever created because it pairs polar opposites in a way that works perfectly. He uses this as a guide when making his highly-esteemed designs.

To see more of John Langdon’s work, visit his personal website. All images and video are property of John Langdon and Sony Pictures.