November 25th, 2008

The Design You Deserve

By Matt Owens

The Design You Deserve

The client designer dynamic within the field of graphic design has a lot of parallels to the tattoo artist and tattoo recipient. One of my good friends, who I have been tattooed by many, many times, has always said, “You get the tattoo you deserve.”

What does this phase mean exactly? Not unlike a design project, a person getting tattooed is paying money to receive a visual solution to a desired need. If, for example, a person needs a logo created, a designer will work with that person to determine the form the logo will take so that it best reflects the client’s need. Similarly, a person may want a tattoo of say an anchor with roses or a Tasmanian devil in a rasta hat. The tattoo artist will use other reference to determine the attitude and style the tattoo will take and will then make a sketch.

Both the designer and tattoo artist are going to take in what the person is saying and it is their job to interpret these desires into a visual solution. Now, the next step is where tattooing and design are identical. Now that the “client” has seen the “solution” to their desired need several things can occur. Ideally, for all involved the creative solution is to the client’s liking and we can move forward. This is not often the case. Clients always provide “feedback” – some of which may be valid and some that may not be appropriate.

I have found that the more a client messes with a design solution or a tattoo solution, the final product will often become compromised and have less impact or in the end may just plain look bad. The more you override the professional solution that the designer or tattoo artist has delivered and the more it’s modified, the end result will inevitably be less a reflection of the best solution possible and be more of an inherent compromise. From my experience, no one wants a compromise tattooed on their body forever nor would they want a janky looking logo to reflect their company.

A good tattoo or a good design solution is a matter of trust. The more you trust the person to do their very best to interpret your ideas and to let them have a degree of ownership over the final product, the happier you will both be. The person will get a great tattoo/design and the tattooist/designer will have a piece they can show.

Matt Owens is a designer based in Brooklyn, NY. He is a founding member of Athletics, an art and design collective comprised of some of today’s best and brightest.