09. Carson Brown
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 , Michigan, USA
10. Chuck Anderson
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.
- Right forearm to wrist: David Allen, Chicago, USA
- Lines and birds on right arm: Rich Kocis, Peace of Art Tattoo, Chicago, USA
- Mountains/clouds/birds up to shoulder: Kore Flatmo, PluraBella, Cincinnati, USA
11. Gavin Strange
It's no surprise that Gavin Strange (opens in new tab)'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.
- Justin Cota, Mantra Tattoo Studio, Cheltenham, UK
- Designed by Ollie Munden
12. Jessica Hische and Russ Maschmeyer
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, , New York
13. Brian Carley
Executive creative director Carley (opens in new tab)'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: , Brooklyn, New York, USA
14. Jon Contino
"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, , Brooklyn, New York, USA
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."
- Marcos Attwood, Broad Street Studio, Bath, UK
- The Black Lodge, Portishead, UK
- Mark Cross, East River Tattoo, Brooklyn, USA
16. Rick Nunn
"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, , Leeds, UK
Next page: More inspiring tattoo designs