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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