Typography Today: Are Tattoo Artists Typographers?


“I design typefaces on the side, but I began to tattoo because I felt that I had more creative freedom and I could do letters that were a little more expressive and less rigid,” Bryan Heimowski says. “I still have a love for type design … but I wanted to start with something where I could develop my style.”

He defines his style as calligraphy-based, and freestyles with a Sharpie directly onto the skin. “I do keep in mind spacing and kerning, but that’s something that an artist should be able to execute from the beginning to end,” he says. “Regardless of whether the type is on a body or a poster, typography should fit where it’s being placed. Not just stuck on like a sticker.”

typography and tattoos

As both typographer and tattooer, Heimowski recognizes the place that calligraphy occupies within typography, though it might not fit into any standard definition.

“Everything has its purpose,” Heimowski says. “Whether it’s to create a legible or fancy typeface, they have the same function. And that function is to convey a message. It just depends on what message you’re trying to send.”

As a result, Heimowski stresses that it’s important—for tattooers and typographers alike—to understand what the function is, and how it will inevitably change over time.

“How do you think people took a leap from blackletter to sans serif? Through innovation. If typographic art is going to move forward, it’s always going to have to try something new,” he says. “I really don’t see typography as being set in one single way that it should be done. That’s like telling a painter to only paint in realism; it’s not how it works.”

typography and tattoos


One thought on “Typography Today: Are Tattoo Artists Typographers?

  1. kariemil

    The difference between typography and calligraphy/lettering lies not in expression vs. clarity but reproduction vs. custom-made. Typography is mechanically reproducible and looks the same every time. Calligraphy and lettering are done by hand. So unless tattoo artists are using some kind of printing technology to create tattoos, then what they are doing is not typography but calligraphy/lettering.