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greg stevenson

inspired by unrequited love

ambigrams, graphic design, identity, illustration

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In 1584 (soon to be Sir) Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), famed English explorer, poet, writer, – tobacco king! – and most notoriously ‘privateer’, seized land for the first English colony in North America, the State of Virginia, after a charter granted by and in honour of then Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), ‘The Virgin Queen’.

“Can you imagine what it is to cross an ocean?” Raleigh asks Her Majesty.

“For weeks you see nothing but the horizon, perfect and empty. You live in the grip of fear. Fear of storms. Fear of sickness on board. Fear of the immensity. So you must drive that fear down deep into your belly. Study your charts. Watch your compass. Pray for a fair wind”, he continued.

“And hope – pure, naked, fragile hope.”

“At first it’s no more than a haze on the horizon. So you watch. You watch. Then it’s a smudge, a shadow on the far water. For a day. For another day. The stain slowly spreads along the horizon taking form, until on the third day, you let yourself believe. You dare to whisper the word.”


“Land. Life. Resurrection. The true adventure. Coming out of the vast unknown, out of the immensity, into new life.”

“That your Majesty, is the New World.”

Dialogue from the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age, by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst.

The film is a fanciful exploration of the relationship and unrequited love between Good Queen Bess and Sir Walter, dashing cape maneuver et al., dramatically set against the threat of an impending Spanish Armada. At a critical juncture, a turning point, it all plays fast and loose. Recommended.

Completely unfounded rumour, my own, suspects the hand of famed mathe-magician and court advisor Dr. John Dee (1527-1609) with the symbolic selection of the colony’s name, as well as, perhaps, the tempest that saved that kingdom.

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The attentive viewer may (note) the bracketed zodiacal glyph that corresponds to both theme and tag-line – via TAROT – a completely accidental and unexpected bonus. Other mysteries may lie within. Speculations, comments, insights, welcome below.

Poem for a memory.

Re-branding exercise for the well-loved State slogan, part of an ongoing pitch. Visit Beautiful Virginia Soon!

Click this link to see the animated version:


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Be privy to the process, click here to view a case study documenting the ambigram’s various stages of development.

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