The ABC squiggle is technically known as a “Lissajous curve.” We had no idea what that was, so we consulted Wikipedia.


In mathematics, a Lissajous curve (Lissajous figure or Bowditch curve) is the graph of the system of parametric equations

x=A\sin(at+\delta),\quad y=B\sin(bt),

which describes complex harmonic motion. This family of curves was investigated by Nathaniel Bowditch in 1815, and later in more detail by Jules Antoine Lissajous in 1857.

The appearance of the figure is highly sensitive to the ratio a/b. For a ratio of 1, the figure is an ellipse, with special cases including circles (A = B, δ = π/2 radians) and lines (δ = 0). Another simple

Lissajous figure is the parabola (a/b = 2, δ = π/2). Other ratios produce more complicated curves, which are closed only if a/b is rational. The visual form of these curves is often suggestive of a three-dimensional knot, and indeed many kinds of knots, including those known as Lissajous knots, project to the plane as Lissajous figures.

We don’t really know what that means either, but we do know that back in 1965, graphic designer Bill Kennard ripped off Lissajous to win the ABC staff competition to design a corporate logo.

He was paid 25 pounds for a design that was to grace television, letterheads, mugs, merchandise and newsdesks for the next forty years. We suspect Bill was ripped off.

Inspired by the ABC’s masterful plundering of their staffer’s intellectual property, Crikey is opening the field to see if our readers can better the squiggle — sorry, fancy curvy thingy. Sure, the ABC say they’re hanging on to their geometric marvel, but your genius could persuade them to change their minds …

The WINNER will receive a prize pack of tasty DVDs (including ABC series Absolute Power), The Chaser Annual and a book of classic Quarterly Essays valued at over $100. Not to mention the kudos.

Scan in your submissions and send them to [email protected] with “ABC Logo” in the subject field.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey