Tattoo Interview

Lydia Skinner inter­views me for her dis­ser­ta­tion, enti­tled, “Why words? An Analysis into Typographic Tattoos as a form Communication, and Projection of Identity.”

  • Lydia: Do you have a design back­ground as well as pho­to­graph­ic one? (you seem to know a lot about typog­ra­phy.)
  • Me: I got a Bachelor of Science in com­put­er sci­ence, so no for­mal edu­ca­tion in design or pho­tog­ra­phy, but I have a career in mar­ket­ing, which means I design for a liv­ing. Design and pho­tog­ra­phy are also hob­bies of mine, but I take them very seri­ous­ly, so maybe “pas­sions” would be a bet­ter word.
  • Lydia: When you got your tat­toos did you con­sid­er what peo­ple would think?
  • Me:It was more when con­sid­er­ing the loca­tion. I may not be in an indus­try that frowns upon tat­toos, but that does­n’t mean I won’t be in the future. That’s why I got them on the inside of my wrists, which lets me hide them if at a job inter­view, etc. I’ll admit that there’s a lit­tle bit of van­i­ty involved too, as they’re par­tial­ly a form of expres­sion for me, and to hide them com­plete­ly would mean my expres­sion would be sti­fled. That’s about it. I did­n’t expect to be judged harsh­ly or favourably in social sit­u­a­tions because I don’t believe tat­toos don’t have the same neg­a­tive (or even pos­i­tive) con­no­ta­tions as they used to.
  • Lydia: You say that your tat­toos reflect your cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty, do you think that tat­toos are a suc­cess­ful way of pro­ject­ing identity/ per­son­al­i­ty?
  • Me: I do believe that tat­toos are suc­cess­ful at pro­ject­ing identity/personality, but most­ly inso­far as pret­ty much any­thing that any­one does will reveal some­thing about them. For exam­ple, one can read into the way a per­son puts but­ter on their bread by how much they put on (a clue about how health con­scious they are), or how they put it on (large clumps instead of an even spread could mean less atten­tion to detail). That’s because so many peo­ple get tat­toos nowa­days that don’t mean any­thing to them, so a tat­too becomes more of a dec­o­ra­tion than a mes­sage. I’d be more like­ly to agree that they do a suc­cess­ful job of pro­ject­ing iden­ti­ty if a tat­too actu­al­ly had some­thing to do with one’s cul­ture or back­ground. i.e. You got a kan­ji tat­too if you’re Japanese, or a trib­al tat­too if that was specif­i­cal­ly part of your cul­ture, not just because it looks cool.
  • Lydia: Why did you choose to have them done on your wrists?
  • Me: Mainly because I could see them (as the words are a reminder for me to fol­low the Tao).
  • Lydia: What made you want let­ter­ing done? Do you think it car­ries the mes­sage more effec­tive­ly?
  • Me: I want­ed let­ter­ing done because I found it’s the best rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the idea of Tao in my head (aside from the yin yang, but that isn’t as esthet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing to me). Lettering does­n’t car­ry a mes­sage any more effec­tive­ly to me. Chinese char­ac­ters are a spe­cial case though, as they can be con­sid­ered both an image and a word, so maybe this is why I find them just as effec­tive as images.
  • Lydia: Do you think peo­ple make assump­tions about you because you are tat­tooed?
  • Me: I think peo­ple did a long time ago, but not any more, because tat­toos have become so main­stream.
  • Lydia: Recently typo­graph­ic tat­toos have become extreme­ly pop­u­lar, what do you find appeal­ing about them?
  • Me: I’m a bit of a typophile, so I can appre­ci­ate typo­graph­ic tat­toos when they’re well done. However, I don’t find typo­graph­ic tat­toos any more appeal­ing than any oth­er type of tat­toos, because what mat­ters is that the medi­um (words vs. images) fits the mes­sage.
  • Lydia: Do you find your tat­toos are a con­ver­sa­tion starter?
  • Me: Sometimes. Most peo­ple don’t notice them; I find that the inside of the wrists is an innocu­ous spot. About half of the ones that do will ask what they mean, which occa­sion­al­ly leads to an expla­na­tion of Taoism if they ask me.
  • Lydia: Do you think that it is impor­tant for tat­toos to have mean­ing, or can you appre­ci­ate them pure­ly for the aes­thet­ic val­ue?
  • Me: Tattoos can cer­tain­ly be nice when they’re art for art’s sake (with­out any mean­ing), but I find that very rare, since most seem to be done with­out a lot of con­sid­er­a­tion and end up being a tat­too for tat­too’s sake. I’ve per­son­al­ly always tried to attach mean­ing to my expres­sion, but I try not to judge peo­ple who don’t.

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