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May 19, 2008



Designer? Yes.
Tattoo? No.


I'm a graphic designer and will be getting a tattoo in a few weeks. It will be a short phrase written in Helvetica Neue. The statement about location made me laugh out loud as I still can't decide where to put it—despite a year's worth of consideration!

David Airey

I'm a designer with no tattoos, mainly for the reason you state – I couldn't choose one I know I'd be happy with forever.


I'm a graphic designer and i hate to alter my skin with graphics, symbols or other staff.

Joe Hastings

I am a designer with tattoos and I can't see the issue. Tattoos are more about personal choice and expression than a self branding exercise or design experiment.

If you considered a tattoo but didn't get it because you are worried about font or weathering, it just means you haven't found a good enough reason to get a tattoo (or you are botching out and are using your career as an excuse!!!).


Yes, yes. Commit to your choices...


I am a designer, and I could never pick one mark, or design, that I could be sure of liking forever. Let alone a font.

Vicki Brown

I'd like one, but I've never really had a reason to get one. But if I did, it would be very personal (not necessarily in location!) and therefore I don't think my career would come into it. It definitely would not be a logo! And it doesn't have to be green/blue you know...


traditional tattoos should be ok for any graphic designer. i do not thin a tattoo was supposed to show commitment to something, but to beautify your skin and/or appearance. i am getting a samoan tattoo on my legs and arms. i truly believe that traditional tattoos will never go out of style for a graphic designer, as they will be forever beautiful. think aztec or inca, you still love it today.
yes, i am a graphic designer :)

Wil Freeborn

designers need a brief
(I have tattoos)


I am not a graphic designer.


Yup I'm a graphic designer with three tattoos. I have a fairly large faery falling through bubbles on my back, and on my inner wrists I have a interrobang on the right side, and an irony mark on the left side, both set in Palatino Linotype. The interrobang was easy enough to find but I had to design the irony mark myself.

Dirk Sabbe



I have a Pilcrow tattooed on my upper arm: http://acejet170.typepad.com/foundthings/2008/03/the-pilcrow.html

Loïc Boyer

When I'm queuing in the supermarket, there's always at least one or two chubby guys with their kids and their tribal tatoos.
“Damn, what happened to our society?” is what comes to my mind.

Loïc Boyer

…but I guess the french society is not the same as yours, and the meaning of things is different beyond the sea.

Loïc Boyer

…but I guess the french society is not the same as yours, and the meaning of things is different beyond the sea.


Means commitment to one thing: it's gonna stay there.


Incidentally, I'm not an expert in this area but my tattooist suggested that skin growth can play havoc with precise typographic character shapes, not to mention kerning, so Luz, proceed with caution. Talk to your tattooist, you don't it turning out like this:


I have an anchor on each forearm.


How about getting a decent grid tattooed over your body, and then you can align temporary tattoos on it whenever you fancy...?

James Kirkup

& yes.


Grez, do you smoke a pipe and eat spinach too?


I think it's a little bit of a generalisation to say that any one profession/person/type should or shouldn't get a tattoo. I'm a graphic designer and although I only have 3 tattoos they're pretty large ones - full sleeve on my right arm included. The one thing I will say is I ALWAYS design them myself, and make sure they are unique to me, because I'm a designer and I'm picky ;-p

And yes, I would get something in a font, but only in a nice one. No makeshift gothic script for me, thanks. I have some gorgeous traditional Japanese script on my back (custom drawn by a Japanese calligraphy 'master' as they call them, very beautiful writing indeed) which sort of counts. It is beautiful typography, nonetheless.

I know I'm a damn difficult customer for my tattoo artist, but I want things to be perfect. Each design took me months and I would always stress to anyone - PLEASE take time choosing what you want to get, it's there for the rest of your life! (lasers excluded, of course). It makes me cringe to see the cheesy 'English bulldog' tattoos, names emblazoned in dodgily-kerned fake English gothic script (all in caps - NOOOO!!!!) or the many hundreds copying Beckham's famous angel tattoo solely because he has it. Very, very unimaginative.

It's a personal choice and highly subjective - just like design, just like art. Tattoos have been a part of art & design for many centuries, and I'm fascinated by their history. Yes of course you get the morons who just get a tattoo to 'look cool' or follow their friends (yawn) but some of us are intelligent and respectful about it. It's a mark of someone else's lack of education and tolerance when they choose to tar me with the same brush as the aforementioned morons, when I'm quite happy to tolerate and respect EVERYONE else, tattoos or not.


On a side note, my best friend is a graphic designer and an absolutely brilliant illustrator - he's currently training to become a tattoo artist as well, because he's interested in it. Picking it up damn quickly too. I'm pleased as punch that he's doing it, not only as a Masters degree holding illustrator but a qualified and experienced designer who WILL kern text properly and WILL design tattoos with stunning layout. 90% of the tattoo artist I've met are excellent artists in terms of drawing, but few can design in terms of the talent of a graphic designer.

joel Dalmau

i just got a black band 'round my wrist - that way i didn't have to worry about sans or serif, tracking, nor leading. cop out? maybe... looks cool though :)

Daniel Coulbourne

designer yes tatoo no


Remember that episode of Tales of the Unexpected:

"In the winter of 1946, an old man called Drioli, a penniless old tattoo artist, is begging in the streets of Paris. He recognizes the name of an artist in a shop window: Chaim Soutine. Drioli realizes he has a valuable work of art, a portrait of his dead wife by his friend Soutine, and he is offered a huge amount for it. He desperately needs the money, but how can he deliver the picture to a buyer while he is still alive? - the masterpiece is tattooed on his back.

One man offers to pay for a skin-grafting operation, while another invites Drioli to live at his hotel, the Bristol in Cannes. Drioli chooses the second offer, and he goes off with the man. Not long afterwards, an unknown painting by Soutine turns up for sale in Buenos Aires. And it seems there is no hotel in Cannes called the Bristol."

A Banksy tattoo anyone?


Working as a designer I don't have a tattoo.

The reasons:

– no way for tattooer to make a pixel perfect crisp line.
– font issues. I can't expect the tattooer to have the same interest in typography as me, I understand that. But without that trained eye a font based tattoo could really look like crap. Bad kerning for life is not what I want.
– I would never know what to get.
– all tattoos look the same. Eventually they all look messy. Yes, there are different styles of tattoos but they still have the same appearance. Washed out and blurry.
– trust issues. I'm kind of a detail and control freak in my work. In the same way that I don't like to pass my work to someone else to finish I wouldn't want a tattooer to take my original design and adapt it to a tattoo.


tattoo? yes. graphic designer? not technically. admit it ben, you're just chicken...

Blair Thomson

Yes... got a half sleeve in a traditional Japanese / mangaesque sort of style. Totally disconnected with the design aesthetic I practice as a designer. More the rock star in me breaking through!

Tattoos are personal expression. Tattoos are 'art' more than they are design, and this is an entirely different subject area.

Tattoos can also be total crap (a large percentage out there no doubt). Also very similar to design.

Prescott Perez-Fox

One of these days I'll get around to designing a crest for my family. That might end up in tattoo form.


I just dont know if i could cope if the tatoo artist went slightly wrong or something just wasnt quite right. It could be very hard to live with....

I guess its the lack of control over the finished thing that freaks me out!

Isaac Downing

Designer? Yes.
Tattoos? Affirmative x 3

Dennis Wakeley

LOL at the Apple tattoo :D


i don't consider myself a full-fledged graphic designer, though i design text for scholarly stuff. i've got a hedera from minion ornaments on the inside of my right shoulder (see here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/meowkarenmeow/265908696/) - my most typey, designery tattoo - and i have two others. my design interests definitely have an effect on my choices and make me more discerning, but i think it's just a slightly more intense version of what any really careful, smart person goes through when they contemplate tattoos.


Exactly as above - keep changing mind/style/ideas and cant think where. Some classic tattoo designs grow better with age and wear i think.

I'm jealous of people with full arm sleeves - i'd love that, but lack the commitment such art/pain that'd involve


I'm a graphic designer and I have two, with plans for several more and intentions of starting on a half sleeve next month.

mave gibson

I'm a bit surprised/disappointed that this type of generalizing is being done - especially by creative professionals, who I would expect to better appreciate the appeal and value of professional, quality creative work. as a graphic designer with tattoos, I just have to say it all comes down to what kind of customer you are.

the key to really great tattoos is finding an artist who does excellent work that stands on its own. the more creative control you can give your tattoo artist, the more likely it is they'll create something truly original and beautiful. you choose an artist based on their style and aesthetic, their skill and portfolio, and you trust in them to work their magic.

sound familiar? this is exactly the same process one should follow if seeking truly great design work.


I am a designer and I have three tattoos with plans for many more in the future. I would say that the biggest concern for me was to get them in places where I wouldn't constantly see them. As a designer I think my main thing is that the more I looked at it and scrutinized it, the more I would find flaws or things I would want to change (as all designers are wont to do with their own work.)

But I have to say that it did take me a looong time to find a design that meant enough to me to put on my body for the rest of my life.

RUby Pseudo

Oh it's you! Couldn't understand why people were suddenly reading the tattoo interview, pheweee... now it all makes sense. and yes. i have a tattoo - two. tattwo. etc.


Does this post have the most amount of comments on this blog?


Nope, that's The Design Disease with 146.


i'm a graphic designer and i have two. but they're not done in black ink, because i hate the way that looks when it starts to fade. so the colors are red, brown, and white...kind of a nice natural, earthy look.

they symbolize times in my life. so...i'm not too worried about them getting old. and the designs are simple enough to update them as i get tired of the look and they fade.


even though i have a feeling it will be obsolete in a few years, i want the USB symbol on the inside of my forearm.


I'm a graphic designer and I have 3 tattoos. One is a real big tribal, sort of a homage to Wucius Wong its a tribal that was designed using the "penetration" element of design. I also have a logo i designed for my dad and i's upstate house. maybe i defy the rules of a designer- i have tattoos and love them and i hunt...thats a big designer no no, right?

Dennis Wakeley

I actually have both, yes...

Emily Wilkinson

I think it's not what your tattoo looks like, but what it means to you that is fascinating. Someone I used to know (a designer) very sadly lost a baby that she wanted to call phoenix, because of this she has a huge phoenix tattooed across her back. It's beautiful because of what it means to her, not because of what anyone else thinks of it.

I have a on/off relationship at the moment with my tattoo, a little sun I had done when I was 16 (far, far too young). Now if I had one done today I would probably make it a little more stylish and elegant, but I would still have a sun because it's meant to stand for eternal optimism. I have also made in the last year a wonderful friend, who co-incidentally has a tattoo of a sun in exactly the same place!


I am graphic designer and i have a two tattoo also one my shoulder and second arm.


Yes and No.
I am very indecisive as a person, couldn't decide WHAT to get and WHERE on my body. That was 15 years ago. I don't care so much for it anymore.


im a designer with one design driven tattoo..well set of, on my left wrist i have 4 colored CMYK squares and the other wrist 3 RGB squares, the artist did a great job of mixing inks to make the colors very vibrant and bright :)


Why is this just words? Can I send a picture of mine? You'll never see another one like it.

Tattoo Designs

I love the apple tattoo. lol


I am a graphic designer in training and I have several tattoos. They took alot of thought, but both are also very sentimental regarding my father who died a couple of years ago and the 37 year marraige between my parents. Having said that, my tattoo artist does amazing work and I can see why someone might be hesitant, but I don't really think that depends on being a designer or not...it's a personal thing.


i got 2 tattoo's when i was 17, i probably did rush into it and now i absolutely hate the writing style because nobody can ever understand what it say's. The style and font looked good back then but wasnt thought through well enough. So without a doubt THINK FIRST and consider what the tatt will look like in a few years and if you will still like it.


I'm a graphic designer. I have the hand/arm from Saul Bass' "Man With the Golden Arm" poster on my tricep.


If you're a graphic designer the only way to go when considering what font to use is Zapf Dingbats! (And on your forehead)


Yes to both.


This is obviously something that plays on designers minds! I don't think it's generalisation but more to do with the way graphic designers think. I have the same issue. I have been thinking about it for years and I still can't decide. I have looked at favourite art movements, favourite artists/designers for inspiration but nothing helps. I would want it to be personal and aesthetically pleasing and not the crap you see on most people! Maybe if I set myself a brief it might help...

Account Deleted

I am a graphic designer.
I am looking for some cool & creative tattoo.


I'm a graphic designer with two tattoos; half sleeve and inner forearm. I got them for personal reasons and I'm going to get more. I love and appreciate many art forms, tattoo styles included. Graphic design isn't really even "art," it's visual communication, and it's generally done for the purpose of advertising a product or company. Just because I can layout a brochure or create a logo doesn't mean I want that kind of work on my own skin. Tattoo artists know how to design tattoos, not graphic designers. Here are some words that come to mind when I think of tattoos I've seen that were designed by graphic designers: BAD, LAME, STIFF, OVERTHOUGHT, UNNATURAL. Sure I came up with the general ideas and placement for my tattoos, but I let the artist do his work. I didn't manipulate him like a puppet. I'm very surprised by the amount of designers posting who can't grasp this concept. A tattoo artist should be chosen by how much you respect their body of work (like mave said "this is exactly the same process one should follow if seeking truly great design work"). Loosen up people. Take a chance. Get out from behind your Mac from time to time. There's more to life than kearning and leading...



lorena delgado

Im a graphic designer in Peru and i have 12 tattoos so far, and plan on getting more. I'd rather have a colorful and fun -wrinkled - skin when im old than just a plain -wrinkled - one.

Tari Newman

Yes I am a female graphic designer. I am 60 years old and I have a 5 year old tattoo on my wrist. I want more, just can't decide what or where.

Tari Newman

I also have a bluebird on my belly that I got in 1973. Ladies, nothing on the belly. The stretch factor is not cool!

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