Socially Conscious Tattoo


A tattoo which explores anxiety.




Other examples of student solutions.

Duration: 2 weeks
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

For this project students were asked to 1.) research a social or cultural issue 2.) synthesize a visual response using their skin as the vehicle for communicating their message 3.) for the purpose of informing, educating, or persuading a college-aged audience.

NOTE: I was not asking them to get a tattoo, I asked my students to design a tattoo! No extra points were awarded if they actually got the tattoo.

Learning Objectives

I want students to practice connecting their research to the visual solution they produced. I wanted students to consider how they can create an image that 1.) communicates and 2.) would appeal to the intended audience.


01. You will start your journey by identifying a social or cultural issue to explore. You will be expected to fully commit to one topic and you should have some research under your belt to discuss your topic intelligently during our next class. You shouldn’t have an idea of what your tattoo will look like yet because your research phase isn’t complete—but you might begin identifying concepts you can visually explore.

02. Your next step is to research, gather information on, and analyze your topic from a variety of angles. You are required to write at least a 2 page (double spaced with 1-inch margins) paper on your topic, demonstrating what you’ve learned through your research as well as articulating your personal point of view.


03. Now that you are well informed on your topic it’s time for you to bring together your ideas and points of view into a meaningful whole with the purpose of persuading, informing, or educating other college students. Sketch out your ideas. Most won’t be great, but hopefully, a few of your sketches will be worthy of developing further.

As you design your tattoo, consider and take advantage of the communicative potential of:

• Any text or writing in the tattoo. Carefully consider the voice and tone of your message.

• How the visual components reinforce your message (e.g. color, typeface, scale, rotation, cropping, proximity, etc).

• The location of the tattoo on your body and how this might be strategically used to deepen the meaning of your concept.



Vulgar or inappropriate topics are now allowed. If you have a question about the appropriateness of a topic, then simply come talk to me and we can have a discussion. We will mock up the placement of your tattoo using an illustration which shows where your tattoo would ideally be placed. I am committed to providing an atmosphere for learning which respects diversity.

While working together to build this classroom and our community I ask that you:

• Value each other’s opinions and communicate in a respectful manner.

• Appreciate the opportunity that we have to learn from each other.

• Share your unique experiences, values, and beliefs.

• Be open-minded about alternative views.



• A folder with all of your research, sketches, notes, and so forth.

• Your 2-page research/position paper

• An illustration of the tattoo and where it would ideally be placed on the body.

• A short summary of your concept and the design principles/theories used.


 Students tended to enjoy this project, so I always assigned it at the end of the semester when class engagement wanes. Students were asked to present their solution to the class and I've had students get emotional a few times when presenting their solutions. I read this as their being "wrapped up" in their topic, so I've started to help my students with a few strategies to distance themselves from their design solution emotionally. At the end of the day, we are going to critique the work that the student produced, but I'm careful not to critique the student or their beliefs.

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