23 designers and their awesome tattoos

17. Sara Blake

awesome tattoos: Sara Blake

Sara Blake didn't plan loads of tattoos, but things got out of hand

"I never intended on being a very tattooed person," smiles freelance illustrator Sara Blake, who's now pretty comprehensively covered. "I started with a small one on my shoulder, and it grew from there. I like things you have to suffer for in order to earn." 

Blake has forged an artistic relationship with Steve Boltz at Smith Street Studio, having some earlier tattoos removed since working with him. "His brief is pretty simple: I give him a body part, an animal subject matter and the rest is up to him," she shrugs.

Tattoo artist: Steve Boltz, Smith Street Tattoo, Brooklyn, New York, USA

18. Alan Wardle

awesome tattoos: Alan Wardle

Alan's magpies represent his favourite soccer team

Newcastle-born, London-based designer Alan Wardle is now on his second tattoo, and believes each one should have a bit of meaning behind it: "Being a North East lad, I wanted something to represent the area, the people and the memories that made me who I am today," he explains. "Magpies are the nickname of the football team I grew up supporting, and I had to have two because of the nursery rhyme. Couldn't have one, and bring sorrow on myself."

Tattoo artist: Mitch Allenden, Inspirations, Leeds, UK

19. Suffoca Boyce

awesome tattoos: Suffoca Boyce

Suffoca Boyce knows what time it is

"A lot of artists get tattoos for the same reason: they enjoy art, and being expressive with it," suggests Suffoca Boyce, founder of Suffoca Clothing. "Where better to reflect your life stories and interests than on your own skin?" Once he found an artist who shared his wavelength, he gave her free rein to interpret the brief. 

"My woman piece took three sittings," Boyce recalls. "I really enjoy the whole process of getting tattooed; it still makes me nervous beforehand, but I feel like I've accomplished something great after."

Tattoo artist: Valerie Vargas, Frith Street Tattoo, Soho, London, UK

20. Jeffrey Kalmikoff

awesome tattoos: Jeffrey Kalmikoff

Jeffrey Kalmikoff's tats took a total of 36 hours to complete

Jeffrey Kalmikoff, head of product and design at Betable, has a winged hourglass on each upper arm inspired by the Latin phrase 'Memento Mori' (remember death). "One is full, with big feathered wings; the other empty with tattered, broken wings," he explains. 

The scenes below are inspired by a line from William Cullen Bryant's poem, Thanatopsis – 'All that breathe, will share thy destiny' – and are intended to be a macabre way of stressing the importance of making the most of the time you have. The two arms took around 36 hours in total.

Tattoo artist: Tim Biedron, Deluxe Tattoo, Chicago, USA (but now at Pioneer Tattoo)

21. Joshua Smith

awesome tattoos: Joshua Smith

Joshua Smith isn't too bothered about his tattoo typo

Illustrator and designer Joshua Smith is influenced by tattoo culture, particularly from the 70s and 80s, when they were taboo – and he believes that they may become so again, with current 'trends' becoming ugly and dated. His own ink is more individual than that: "I decided to get my kids' names, and also the word 'Piety'," he recalls. "I ended up misspelling it as 'Peity', but the meaning of the word is the 'pursuit of perfection', so there's extra meaning added," he shrugs. "Mistakes add something epic to life."

Tattoo artists: 

  • Script tattoo: BJ Betts, Orlando, USA
  • Skull, snakes and roses on lower arm: Angelo, Red Letter, Tampa, Florida, USA
  • Top of hand: Big Sleeps, Norm Will Rise, LA, USA
  • Fingers: Ghost Wolf, LA, USA

22. Matt Booth

awesome tattoos: Matt Booth

Matt's sleeves stem from a lifetime's fascination with tattoos

Web designer and Flash developer Matt Booth was fascinated by tattoos from an early age – as a child in the 70s, he once embarrassed his mother by telling a man off on the bus for drawing on himself. As an adult, Booth opted for a full Japanese-style sleeve that took six four-hour sessions, with two weeks' healing time in between. "I like where it cuts off at my wrist; so much so, that I haven't worn a watch since having it done six years ago," he chuckles.

Tattoo artist: Louis Malloy, Middleton Tattoo Studio, Manchester, UK

23. Nigel Dennis

awesome tattoos: Nigel Dennis

Memento's tattoo-focused story kicked off Nigel Dennis' collection

Tattoos, for designer and illustrator Nigel Dennis, are a permanent record of temporary feelings and states of mind. After getting his first tattoo on an impulse, and partly inspired by the movie Memento, he hasn't looked back – and gets "the itch" every few months to get another. "It's really addictive," he insists, and has had six or seven different artists work on him to-date. "One of the pieces was inspired by John Dyer Baizley's work," he explains. "I love his band, and I love his art."

Tattoo artist: "Six or seven different artists."

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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.