“Tattoo.” When we hear the word, many images come to mind. You might picture something simple, like a rose, a cross or someone’s initials. Or perhaps your mind sees something more elaborate and fantastical.
The word itself was derived from the Tahitian word “tatua,” meaning “to mark.” However, this does not indicate the Tahitians invented the tattoo. Tattoos have been worn by all cultures for many centuries for religious reasons or even as protection against evil. Clay figurines have been discovered showing ancient Egyptians used tattoos as early as 4000 B.C.
Fast forward to the 1900s and find that tattoos have been used to brand prisoners, as a mark of a sailor (think Popeye’s anchors), by Harley bikers or even to profess one’s love for their “MOM.”
Nowadays, tattoos can be seen virtually everywhere. They have gained popularity among individuals of all income brackets, genders, religions and age groups. They are displayed with pride by rock stars, movie stars and pro-athletes, to businessmen, housewives and the average college student.
Tattoos make a canvas of one’s body, a walking piece of artwork for all to see. They can be used to make a statement, as shown in a recent edition of PETA’s newsletter. They allow one to express individuality and beliefs, as well as create visual insight into a stranger’s imagination.
Inspiration can be drawn from the colors and patterns of today’s tattoos and certainly be applied across all design media. Ed Hardy is one brand that has used tattoos as inspiration across its line of clothing, perfume, shoes and handbags. Walk-e-Woo™ has put the visual lure of the tattoo to work on its line of dog collars. If you prefer something less permanent than inking, you can simply wear a shirt designed to make the wearer look like he or she has full arm tattoos. Good Ol’ Sailor, a line of organic Swedish Vodka, is uniquely packaged in tattooed bottles.
Lady Gaga featured Rick Genest, a model covered head-to-toe in zombie tattoos, in her “Born This Way” video. Genest has since garnered international attention and appeared in an ad for Dermablend™ makeup.
Mattel™ even released a “Totally Stylin’ Tattoos Barbie” in 2009.
It’s probably only a matter of time before more companies and designers across all media follow suit and incorporate the imagination of tattoo design into their brands. After all, if we aren’t afraid to express our innermost thoughts and dreams permanently on our bodies for all of the world to see, what’s stopping us from using it in everyday design?
Courtney Cavanaugh, USA office