4.5 A tattoo


The brief was to design a tattoo based on the word Mum, and to use the design on a Mother’s Day greetings card.

Keywords from the brief:

  • Research the history and conventions of tattoos
  • Decide on how complex your design will be
  • Will you be using colour?
  • Draw up your design on a large scale
  • Write up your decision-making process


I bought two reference books that are dictionaries of tattoos and list the different images in alphabetical order. They are:

Each dictionary entry also includes a short description of where the tattoo was derived from and other contextual information.

I used this reference to identify possible symbols/imagery that would be appropriate for use in a ‘Mum’ tattoo design. All sketches and the mind map are at A3 scale.

Contemporary usage

I searched the internet for examples of contemporary ‘Mum’ tattoos to give me an idea of how far tattoo artists are pushing the traditional design and incorporating different symbols and imagery.

Generating ideas

I then created a mind map to organise and think through my research. I also create several thumbnail roughs to think through the design.


The overall design had to work at an A5 (greetings card) format.


The symbols used within the final design (swallow, rose, anchor) are very standardised so I felt I was working within some well understood constraints. This was evidenced from the internet research.

The design decisions I had to make were:

  • What style to use; contemporary or retro
  • Deciding the layout of the symbols/images to work within an A5 format
  • Choice and use of colour

The final artwork was created from pen and ink drawings that were scanned and coloured in Illustrator. The greetings card text was done in Photoshop.

What I learned from the exercise

What went well

  • I think the finished design works well with the conventions of the form


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