Visible tattoos

Hi everyone, daily lurker but very occasional poster here.

A little background; I currently work as one of four designers at a small consultancy here in the UK. I have a full sleeve on my left arm which both the Design Manager and Business Manager at my employer don’t mind being visible. I wear long sleeves out of courtesy when in the studio, but there are invariably times in the workshop when long sleeves are not allowed.

For the past five years or so I’ve been thinking on and off about getting a tattoo on my finger, but have been seriously thinking about it over the past year. It would be relatively subtle. Obviously, it would be better to not do it, but that’s a whole different argument. :slight_smile:

What I’m actually interested in are the thoughts of other designers and managers within the design industry. Would you be happy introducing a potential new client to someone with visible (hand, neck, etc.) tattoos? Is our industry one that can tolerate it?


Well, I had that kind of discussion with a co-student about 15 years ago:

He was fully tattooed, even in the visible areas around the neck and under arms. But not on the hands or face. I asked him if he didn’t fear to become unemployable in a “reputable job” and he had an answer to the point for me: “You know,… I did that on purpose, I do never want to end up in a job again, that you would call “sensible or reputable”, but If you even think in that category Tattoos obviously are not for you…”

I asked him again, if he did not fear to spoil future chances, like perhaps being elected into some kind of public office. " I am who I am, either people would suddenly vote for someone like me, with all the tattoes, or they vote for the next jerk in a tie and suit…"

There really is not much more to it. 15 years later I am perfectly fine with never having cought that bug, but to each is own…


I’d say it depends on your clients, or even your client’s clients (the end user). What type of products do you want to design? Someone like Alessi may prefer K.Rashid, some medical B2B may prefer white-shirt-and-tie-guy, someone like DeWalt might feel that the tattooed dude will actually make the design team more authentic.

I don’t know if it is fair to clump all tattoos (visible or not) as being acceptable or unacceptable.

There are tasteful visible tattoos:

And then there are some that go too far:

I referenced both of these because they are the same basic idea, “I want star tattoos on my face”. One is tasteful and almost elegant, while the other is ridiculous.

I am tattooed also. But I chose to keep them pretty much invisible. They run along my shoulders and under the neck line so you can’t see them. I have always been of the belief that it is better to have them hidden. Design is a competitive business I never wanted to loose a job over what I looked like. That is kind of how competition works sometimes its not what you have it is what you don’t that matters.

I would say if you want to get it then do. But on the flip side if you don’t get hired at the place you want to work because of it then don’t complain. I have seen/heard this a lot. People get mad because people rejected them based on how they looked. Well if you want people to treat you the same then you will have to act the same. This sucks but such is life there are social norms if you choose not to follow them you will be rejected based on that. In no way I am condone this behavior but it is a fact of life and unavoidable. To that note I have seen plenty of people with visible tattoos in the industry so how big of a problem is it. I really can’t say. But I have had jobs that I am sure I could not have gotten if I had visible tattoos. So the choice is yours. I always felt the cons out weighted the pros for me.

That hurts !
Nature has given them everything it could. You should respect what you got and work with it.

I am not totally against ink, but seldomly I do see something that makes me think “Wow, that was worth the pain!”

Most are more like “meh…wannabe…more meh…”

Personally I would never exclude someone based on visible tattoos. We are in a creative industry, expecting the designers not to be creative seems like a bad idea. Personally I don’t have any tattoos, mainly because I am fickle and I can’t imagine having to choose… and I’m also a whip, combine those two things and no tattoos. :slight_smile: Also really good tattoos are expensive and I’d rather spend my cash on horsepower… I digress, so while I don’t mind it to the point that I just don’t care… it really seems to bother some people and I could see some employers not allowing it. My wife works for a hospital with strict no visible tattoos rule. Since they can’t discriminate based on appearance, those with visible tattoos have to cover them. So one of her co-workes that has a full sleeve has to wear a full compression type arm thing to cover them while at work. Same place once allows 1 piercing in each ear, but my wife has 4 piercings in each so she has to take them out every day. I think it is totally stupid, but those are there rules. As long as you are comfortable with electing to deal with that, it’s your call.

Agreed with Yo, we are in a creative industry. I am the only guy in our office with visible tattoos (two half sleeves). Some days I rock a tank top and shorts, others I wear business casual, depends on my mood. In some business settings I can tell that the older conservative crowds stare a bit but I have never been bothered enough to hide them. I never considered it an eye sore nor a problem and personally value expressing oneself uniquely. My coworkers in fact have since wanted a few of their own. I had a professor who was fully inked with large gauge earrings, and has since held quite a few prominent positions and started his own school AC4D.

Thanks for the replies everyone, good to hear some reasoned and differing views on this topic.

This basically echoes my feelings. I don’t really ever want to work anywhere where the senior members of staff would think that the decision to get a tattoo affects my skillset. That’s not to say that I don’t understand that some employers do have policies on these matters, for whatever reasons, but I would definitely feel uncomfortable working with/for an individual who decided that having a visible tattoo all of a sudden means that I can’t sketch as well.

@ Architorture - I hope that mine fall into the tasteful category, but I definitely see your point. A socially questionable phrase plastered across the knuckles makes someone come across entirely differently than someone with a small pattern on one finger.

I completely agree with the above. If I get turned down for a job because of it, it’s a life lesson in how the world sometimes doesn’t work in the way everyone believes it should. I think it’s important that if I am to do this, I’m fully aware of the potential outcomes later in life, and accept them.

Thanks Michael, it’s good to hear this from someone in a ‘hiring’ position of seniority. What I take away from this is that if I went for an interview at consultancy X, whose work I really admired, but the rejection came back with the main reason cited as “we don’t allow visible tattoos”, would I really want to work for them anyway? I appreciate a company’s right to impose these rules, but I don’t think our employer/employee relationship would exactly “click”.

Interesting to hear someone happy to have everything on show and let the client make their own mind up, how does it generally go? Have you ever lost a client because of it? (That you know of?)

Having said all of the above, I would never want something like this to jeopardise winning a new client at any employer, let alone my current one. If I do get this done, I will likely be wearing a plaster (band-aid for the Americans on here) over my finger for all new client meetings just in case.

Thinking of our current clients off of the top of my head now, I expect 99% of them would be fine with it if the next time they came into the office I had a visible tattoo because of the rapport and trust I’ve built with them, and the fact that they know I can deliver their work. However, quite what percentage of them would have decided to use us over another consultancy if in the first meeting they saw a visible tattoo, I couldn’t say. I’m not about to bite the hand that feeds me so as a precautionary measure I will likely cover it up in new client meetings.

There are definitely cultural aspects to consider. Visible tattoos in creative industries in North America? Not a problem. In fact I think for graphic designers it could almost be a ‘plus’. But visible tattoos in Japan could more stridently exclude one from dealing with clients or working for certain companies. Even non-workday visible tattoos could be an issue, if for example there’s o-furo (public hot baths) involved…tattoos = yakuza. Or so I’ve been told.

We had an engineer come to work for us, who left his previous company (trucking transportation) because they didn’t allow BEARDS. This is in Seattle.

What? I thought beards were standar issue in Seattle? I feel a little inferior being all clean shaven when I go up there! :slight_smile:

As long as we are talking about tattoos, are there any designers here with tattoos that did not design their tattoos? Or, how much freedom do you give your tattoo artist?

And for that matter, let’s see them. I know I am interested.

If you are talking about strict codes of dress. UPS had or has one of strictest I have ever heard of. They have or had a bunch of rules governing facial hair and length of hair cut and piercings. I don’t know about visible tattoos but I can only imaging they have had rules on that.

In the way of my own designs for my tattoos one is completely my design. The other was modified by the artist because he brought up some great points about composition on the body and how to get it to fit better. So I went with his suggestions. In the way of freedom I would say the initial design is a great starting place for the artist. I would like to strongly say artist. If you go to a good tattoo artist they are truly artist. Most of they can draw as well or better then most of us. There expertise in placing art on a body and knowledge of there tools is amazing. So just like if you have a client you want them to respect your opinion because you are the design expert you should treat your tattoo artist the same they are the expert. If you don’t feel you can do that then find an artist you can do that with.

I’m lucky here at my work. I have long hair and a hefty beard (hair is tied up at work though). We’ve got 2 guys in the planning dept who lay out the furniture, still in the office here, who have sleeve tatts. Not a problem.

I’ve got a pinterest board of tattoos but like Yo, always find something else to spent the coin on.


I was looking forward to staying at a capsule hotel in Tokyo that we booked for one night a few years ago. It turned out to also be a bath house, and we had to find a new place to stay because one of my friends has a Rebel Alliance tattoo on his forearm…

More on topic: that’s a good point. If you ever have to travel to Asia (not unlikely) that could be an issue. I’m not sure, but you really don’t see any tattooed folks there…

It’s all about design.