“I designed my own …”

As a graphic designer who does custom commissioned work, my job is to listen to my clients and create designs based on their wants and needs. I am not a puppet reproducing the work exactly as they request it; I am adding my own style to each piece and making certain that the pieces are sending the messages that the client wants them to send.  When I create the pieces, I am using my background and knowledge of graphic design principles to polish the work, keeping in mind the basic rules that give a design its desired impact. I take the thoughts a client has and I turn it into a finished product – something they can take to their clients as a representation of them or their business.

Recently I got a new tattoo. It’s a beautiful piece done by Matt Terry of Fus Tattoos. He’s an amazing artist, specializing in custom work. This is not some off-the-street tattoo dive that you should walk into and pick something off the wall. You’d be missing out. I had my appointment months in advance, and Matt and I had several discussions during those months regarding what I wanted and how exactly it would look. Did I design the tattoo myself? No, I didn’t. The reason is because I know my genre, and while I had a good idea of what I wanted, I know that Matt is the expert when it comes to tattoos. I collected photos of other tattoos I had seen that I liked, I had my artist friend Amanda help me come up with a general concept, so I could know what to tell Matt. I told him what I wanted the tattoo to be of and where I wanted it, and even told him that I wanted a jasmine as a centerpiece of the tattoo. Although I specified the location, the size, the color, even the flower — it was still Matt’s creation and Matt’s interpretation of my desire. This is Matt’s art.

I am an artist, but I am not a tattoo artist – I don’t understand the medium. Controlling a tattoo gun, working on skin, the contours of the human body … none of these are my expertise. Having an idea of what you want and what you like is key when you are getting a custom piece done (such as a tattoo, or a logo). However, don’t discredit the artist for the thoughts and hours and effort that he or she puts into making your commissioned art the very best of what you had ever imagined.

An example that comes to mind is years ago when a client mentioned to me he had designed an ad. I was skeptical – I knew he didn’t have any knowledge of design software – so how could he possibly have designed it? I cautiously asked him which software he used, and he became slightly flustered and then clarified his ad designer had designed it – he just told her where to put the words on the page. As the conversation continued, it came out that she also had the ideas for the graphics, not him. I can’t imagine how crushed the ad designer would have been had she heard him taking credit for her work.

Since that instance, I have heard many mentions of people designing their own tattoos, their own web sites, their own logos. If it was done though the hands of a commissioned artist, please remember to give credit where it is deserved. That said, if a work is truly designed by you, it is always pleasing to see someone express creativity. Congratulations and I am proud of you!