Typography Today: Are Tattoo Artists Typographers?

LIO FAAMASINO, 42 / A-TOWN TATTOO / GARDEN GROVE, CA

Growing up in Carson, CA, Lio Faamasino was introduced to graffiti when he was around 12 years old. He’s been into lettering ever since. And though Faamasino has done hundreds of graffiti-inspired pieces, his preferred tattoo style is script and incorporates elements of ambigrams, broad-nibbed tapers and inclines.

He’ll either hand-draw the letters and transfer the type onto a client, or freehand directly on the skin, depending on size and placement.

typography and tattoos“I feel like I have no rules,” Faamasino says, regarding his design techniques and routines. “However, the way I want to come up with [the tattoo] is the way it is and the way it’s going to be.”

Which isn’t to say Faamasino’s lettering lacks consistency. Instead of restricting himself to a style guide or particular family of font and characters, Faamasino lets the word itself dictate the flow of each letter. The results are incredibly legible and fluid—not dissimilar to the concave and Uncial typefaces of blackletter artists Georg Trump and Rudolf Koch.

typography and tattoos

“I think that they’re just haters,” Faamasino says of those who look down upon custom lettering as a typographic artform. “Because in the typography world, those people probably have to go uniform and it has to be a certain way. But in our world, we can design the letter any way we want.”


Have you gotten your copy of this year’s Print Magazine Typography Issue? With a cover by John Keatley and Louise Fili, we dive into the turning tides of typography. Join the discussion, question the standards and give things a fresh look. Grab your copy of the Print Summer 2017 Special Typography Issue today.  

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.

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