My Values (Knuckle Tattoos)

In week 4 we explored our values as a designer and how they can be visually portrayed.
So what are my values? I started by making a note of everything I felt made me, me.

being introspective this way is quite hard. Or I found it quite hard. For me, graphic design has never been about my own personal ego. A lot of my value as a graphic designer comes from my ability to be adaptable. Something I’ve always felt I learnt in a weird way; My first proper job was working behind a bar in a busy little touristy town, Brixham. Enjoying a flood of affluent tourists in the Summer and an otherwise quickly evolving demographic of locals my time behind that bar quickly jumped from pouring pints of lager for local fisherman to preparing wine spritzers for visitors from the Cotswolds (you get the idea of the contrast i’m sure!) To be successful at this job I had to be adaptable, how to talk the talk of the local crowd and how to be presentable for the other half. I was very, very good at this job and it taught me quickly how to bring my own personality to different walks of life, how to empathise and importantly how to talk, talk and talk some more to all sorts of people. This adaptability has sevred me well as a designer and certainly taught me how to pitch work and win clients.

That said, and following the weeks brief, I explored what I felt were my values. I was maybe a little harsh on myself at times, but I wanted to be honest.
I chose the five words to describe myself:


So I set about creating a moodboard for the first point: Rebellious.

At a point of exploring the rebel, I was reminded of my love for David Bowie. There seemed no better personal reflection of rebellion than the lightning bolt! The idea of the body art of David Bowie painting the lightning bolt across his face reminded me of the marker pen art of Sagmeister and the idea of very literally wearing your emotions on your body.

image: Sagmesiter

I thought about how I could potentially portray this imagery on my own body, which made me realise there is a common thing we all do to portray a bit of who we are on our skin: tattoo’s.
I started to explor some of the world of tattoo culture. I fairly recently visited an exhibition on tattoo as art and personality: “Torbay Tattoo Tales” taken from the “British Tattoo Art Revealed Exhibition”
Part of this exhibition was how stories were told through the art people had on their skin. I explored the meanings behind tattoo symbology, mostly urban legend, but an interesting research regardless!

Inspired by their tattoo heritage, brand Sailor Jerry includes a tattoo meaning list on their website. This is an interesting way that sailors portrayed information about themselves as a mark of pride or achievement or superstition.

Old-school tattoos are rooted in the American serviceman’s interpretation of traditions and symbols that go back thousands of years. Every tattoo or ‘Flash’ is a personal statement but there are certain common meanings. Here are a few of our favourite Tattoo Meanings. –

Another source of inspiration was the idea of “Prison Tattoo’s” with a bit of a darker history and much more steeped in urban myth, the most famous being the tear drop tattoo which according to suggests that the person with this tattoo has committed murder, or are seeking revenge for murder! (Scary!) – (15 prison tattoos and their meanings, 2021)

My workshop piece
So inspired by the nautical tattoos (and only mildly deterred by the prison tattoo’s) I looked at creating some tattoo illustrations to represent my values.
I chose the lightning bolt for Rebellious, based on how I reached this idea.
I chose a heart for intuitive – going with your heart.
I chose scales for judgemental – the classic portrayal of judgement.
I chose a ghost for transparent – I also thought of leaving this one blank, but felt it seemed “incomplete” rather than a strong message.
and I finally chose a camp fire for story-teller – which I liked the concept of, it felt a much nicer way of portraying the telling of stories than a pen icon or similar.

With my icons finalised I wanted to apply these to my knuckles… I wasn’t quite willing to commit to them as a permanent adornment to my skin just yet! So I took a photo and tried to use photoshop to mock these onto my skin.
A combination of free transform, multiply transparencied started to make these look right. I blurred them slightly as a real tattoo is never that sharp. I also tried to tinge the black colours a little blue/green to more emulate the colour of a real tattoo.

On reflection, I don’t know that these look particularly real. However, I’m happier with the icons themselves than I am perhaps with the mockup. I think the icons are the important part as they are the representation of me and not the way I use photoshop! (don’t tell my design clients that…)

Corrections1. 2021. 15 prison tattoos and their meanings. [online] Available at: <,that%20they%20are%20seeking%20revenge.> [Accessed 13 May 2021].