Typography Today: Are Tattoo Artists Typographers?


“Growing up I was always intrigued with lettering and graffiti, but I never got out and bombed walls,” says Edwin “Eds” Durrani. “I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t prepared to catch a vandalism charge.”

Instead of tagging the streets of Toronto, Durrani broke the law in other ways—for example, getting his first tattoo at 14 years old. Three years later, Durrani studied graphic design at George Brown College for a year before dropping out. “Maybe I should’ve waited a bit longer,” he laughs. “But that’s kind of how I live; if something feels right, it feels right.”typography and tattoos

So he started tattooing. Now, 10 years later, Durrani’s days are booked solid with clients requesting his custom-lettered freehand work.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Like Joseph, “When I first started, people wanted Edwardian Script and other Microsoft Word fonts,” Durrani says. “It’d be too small, the loops would bleed together over time, and some people had a hard time understanding that. So I would write it out in my own style and see if they liked it. Nine times out of 10, they did.”

typography and tattoosCasting any references or rules aside, Durrani considers his style to be as versatile as any font found on- (or off -!) line. After a moment of hesitation, he says he does consider himself a typographer, despite the sometimes sour attitude of professionals.

“Instagram is huge in my industry, and I connect with a lot of typographers and people who don’t tattoo but are involved in the art of lettering, so I guess I am one of those type guys.” He pauses—“but I don’t mind.”


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.