sophie francis

Inkling - A Vision of Tattoo Culture (Hons)


inkling - a vision of tattoo culture

The current media available for the expression of tattoo and the culture attached to it is extremely limited. Magazines such as Inked, Tattoo Life and Tattoo Society are not designed with the intention of enforcing the pejorative views of tattooing, yet still hold connotations of dangerous or sexualised. These pervasive ideals are then reflected in the identities of those within the tattoo community and reinforce the desire to control one’s perspective of self through tattooing, in the hopes that others may see them as they see themselves.

Without a solid community foundation and an accurate depiction of tattoo culture, those who identify within the culture of tattooing can feel misrepresented, frustrated and isolated.

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There was potential to alter and reverse this negative discourse and inspire and articulate a new era of acceptance and involvement within the tattoo community. This was achieved through competing with existing tattoo media or traditional tattoo publications to challenge the way the message of tattoo and tattoo culture is currently being communicated; through print media.

I chose to specifically explore this area of publication design in the hope of informing someone else of a personal experience or sense of self that is negatively formed by other people’s ideas, beliefs and reactions. I explored how design strategy and thinking could influence ideas, in the hope of effecting a positive societal reaction. To focus ideas, I began to explore how design thinking could be applied to inform and challenge ideas surrounding tattoos, or more specifically, the themes of identity that encompasses it all

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Issue 1 of Inkling is a 78 page publication that focusses on the innovative practises and styles of artists in Wellington.

Snippet of Inkling Magazine ft. Interview spreads from Rhys Thomas (@pokestaytattoo)

In addition to creating a publication on a topic I am passionate about, I was fortunate enough to collaborate and design for Electric Ink Skincare, an awesome tattoo aftercare company whose ideals coincide with Inkling’s. See the adverts featured in the carousel above.

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From my initial research I found I wished to connect the audience to those within the tattoo community by communicating an accurate portrayal of tattoo culture, with a particular focus on the subcultures here in Wellington, through a curated collaboration between artists, academics and collectors, opposed to bombarding the audience with an excessive amount of unrelated or irrelevant content.

Ethnography - To connect story and experiences to a wider social and cultural understanding. In order to further immerse the project, and avoid limiting the research to cater exclusively to the negative prejudices towards the tattoo community, I started collecting stories and experiences belonging to artists and collectors within tattoo culture. This was achieved through field work that involved a combination of observation, interviewing and participation in events within the tattoo community.

Auto-ethnography Experiment - I felt that the experiences I had endured in my own journey as a tattooed person, mirrored some of the responses from the artist interviews. In order to fully understand the tribulations of some people within the tattoo community, I decided to facilitate an experiment inspired by the In Your Face: Confronting Tattoo Prejudice, a Subculture Documentary, that aimed to get as close to an insiders perspective or view of the situation as possible.

Both research methods enforced the need for a publication that could respond to society’s dismissiveness and negative predispositions in regards to tattoo culture.

Exploring layout and composition - excerpt from process workbook.

Exploring layout and composition - excerpt from process workbook.

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To further connect Inkling Magazine to the tattoo community, an online presence was needed. To see the full UI/UX process of Inkling’s online presence, click here.

iPad composition sketches/ ideation from process workbook

iPad composition sketches/ ideation from process workbook