Design Showcase: Tattoos

My brother turns forty this week, and to celebrate he got a new tattoo. I was very flattered (and kind of nervous!) when he asked me to come up with a couple of design options for him. He wanted an image that would incorporate the initials of his three daughters: I L K I M E. Originally he’d considered doing just a straight line of text but then decided he wanted something with a little more flair. So I whipped up three very different ideas:

I L K I M E tattoo design option 1

Option #1 This sketch is indicative of my default style – lots of flourishes and shading. If you look over my shoulder during a business meeting, you’ll see something like this in the margins of my notes. The only problem with this sketch, in my opinion, is that it’s a little too soft and “girly.” My brother’s other tattoos have harder edges and are more tribal in their style.

I L K I M E tattoo design option 2

Option #2 I did half a dozen versions of this design and finally had to decide on one as my favorite. I was going for a more primitive feel, like a woodcut print. Can you still pick out the letters?

I L K I M E tattoo design option 3

Option #3 Probably my favorite out of the three because I think it matches my brother’s style the best. The letters are easily identifiable, and because I did this on the computer rather than sketching it by hand, it has an industrial hard-edged look but the shapes formed by the clusters of letters make it look like an abstract, almost alchemical design.

I wasn’t sure which design he was going to go with until I received pictures of the final product. When I did get his picture-mail-text I was THRILLED with how it turned out:

I L K I M E tattoo final

As you can see, his tattoo artist took option #3 and edited it to make the letters even more recognizable and added texture and shading to make the piece look really tough. This is a great example of artistic collaboration – one person came up with a concept, someone else spun a couple of options, and a third person took it to the finish line – all three of us made it happen, and all three of us expressed ourselves through the final design. Love it!


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