23 designers and their awesome tattoos

09. Carson Brown

awesome tattoos: Carson Brown

Donnie Darko formed the inspiration for one of Carson Brown's tattoos

A fan of simple, graphic tattoos, freelance designer and photographer Carson Brown started with a circle: "I wanted a reminder of how to live that wasn't type, and didn't have significant cultural meaning," he explains. "I wanted to get the triangular void after watching Donnie Darko. I love that movie." 

Although he has no regrets, Brown does get a lot of people asking if he likes Pacman. "The triangle feels a little unfinished; I'd like to add more to the back of my arm," he adds.

Tattoo artist: Dav at Love, Michigan, USA

10. Chuck Anderson

awesome tattoos: Chuck Anderson

Forget about meaning; Chuck Anderson's tattoos are all about the aesthetics

Rather than attaching overly deep meaning to his tattoos, creative director Chuck Anderson has more of an aesthetic attraction: "I just love black-and-grey tattooing," he shrugs. His right arm sleeve is a montage of natural imagery, such as orchids, mountains, clouds and birds. The left arm includes his wife's name, 'Holly Giovanna'; a pair of cherubs; and a small 'NP' for NoPattern. "In some case I came with an exact plan, but for the big stuff I let the artists take my general idea, and do what they wanted," he explains.

Tattoo artists: 

11. Gavin Strange

awesome tattoos: Gavin Strange

Boats and bikes inspired Gavin Strange's calf tattoo

It's no surprise that Gavin Strange's calf tattoo reflects his self-confessed obsession with bikes: "The ship wheel represents both being by the water here in beautiful Bristol, and riding bicycles in general," explains the senior designer at Aardman Digital. 

His friend, accomplished tattoo illustrator Ollie Munden, designed it following a late-night iChat – and also crafted a pair of Mexican sugar skulls for the tops of his feet. "Most of my tattoos are hidden, and I thought, what better place to have a surprising bit of ink than on top of my feet?" grins Strange.

Tattoo artists: 

12. Jessica Hische and Russ Maschmeyer

awesome tattoos: Jessica Hische and Russ Maschmeyer

Jessica and Russ' matching tattoos come in RGB and CMYK

Before Facebook designer Maschmeyer met freelance letterer and illustrator Hische, he was considering an RGB tattoo. "I convinced him it would be 'conceptually stronger' if I got the CMYK version of the same tattoo," says Hische. "He was a little freaked out about having a couple's tattoo, but the more we talked about it the more it made sense. Russ got additive colour (RGB) since his career passions were primarily screen-based; I got subtractive colour (CMY) because I started my career in print design."

Tattoo artist: Virgina Elwood, NYC Adorned, New York

13. Brian Carley

awesome tattoos: Brian Carley

Brian Carley likes to leave the details up to the tattoo artist

Executive creative director Carley's first tattoo was inspired by the artist Dave McKean, who used to create the cover art for the comic book series Sandman. "I'm a bit of a nerd," he shrugs. The Saatchi & Saatchi creative director prefers to give the man with the needle relative free rein: "I'm not a tattoo artist: I don't understand all the idiosyncrasies of the art form, so I don't assume that I know what's best," he reasons. "I'm confident that the artist I'm paying will do the best job possible."

Tattoo artist: Three Kings Tattoo, Brooklyn, New York, USA

14. Jon Contino

awesome tattoos: Jon Contino

Here's the second spouse-inspired tattoo in our collection

"I wanted to get a classic pin-up style image of my wife on my forearm, but I didn't want it to look exactly like her," remembers creative director and freelance illustrator Jon Contino. "I thought it would be weird if we were out with friends or family and I had a giant, photo-realistic portrait of my wife within eyeshot." 

His solution was to use a reference shot from an odd angle, stripping back some detail to make the portrait more generic. The inking process took about one and a half hours in total.

Tattoo artist: Mohawk John, Three Kings, Brooklyn, New York, USA

15. 45rpm

Desginers tattoos: 45rpm

And here's the second one inspired by bicycles

45rpm, a Bristol-based artist and illustrator and member of the WHAT crew, believes that 'traditional' tattoos have the most timeless appeal, and prefers to let the artist interpret an idea in their own style. 

"Marcos at Broad Street Studio tattooed my bike-based piece. I said I wanted a penny farthing; he drew an amazing design," he recalls. "It's like collecting art from great artists, except you get to see it all day, every day. Each piece of ink reminds me of a good chapter in my stupid existence. No regrets."

Tattoo artist: 

16. Rick Nunn

awesome tattoos: Rick Nunn

This ampersand was Rick Nunn's first tattoo...

"I was always going to get tattooed; it was just a case of deciding what I wanted," begins freelance photographer and designer Rick Nunn. "After making that first step, the ampersand, the floodgates opened." Most of his tattoos have been a two-way collaboration with the artist – he'll often pitch a concept with a few doodles, and then bounce ideas back and forth. 

"I really like the feeling of being tattooed – it's kinda Zen," he adds. "That and being left with a permanent work of art on your skin."

Tattoo artist: Mitch Allenden, Inspirations, Leeds, UK

awesome tattoos

...but not his last.

Next page: More inspiring tattoo designs

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Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.