SOLE DESIGNER - Concept Creation, Research, Photography, Poster Design

Sep 2022-May 2023 (9 months)

✽ Miro
✽ Adobe Photoshop
✽ Adobe Illustrator
✽ Nikon DSLR Camera
✽ Large Format Epson Printer

✽ Poster Installation (physical and VR)
✽ Thesis Show Setup

Every tattoo has a story, and for some they can hold a tremendous amount of meaning while others carry little to no significance. For my senior thesis project, I decided to learn about the stories and meanings behind the tattoos of the students at New Paltz, celebrating the artistry and experiences of the participants. As someone who does not have any tattoos, I wanted to learn more about the reasons why people choose their permanent markings, and build community through shared artistry. Posters displaying a QR code linking to a Google Form questionnaire were posted around campus, where students could submit a photo of their tattoo and answer a few questions related to its story. Ten of these participants were chosen to be photographed and displayed in the poster installation, located in the Sojourner Truth Library. These posters were on display along with some extras at the thesis show
← Click the image to read about the entire process, or keep scrolling to learn about how this project came to be 
THESIS Overview 
Every year the New Paltz graphic design program conducts the thesis project for graduating seniors. It's an open-ended project individual to each student's personal interests and desire to explore any subject of their choosing. Before even deciding on a concept for my project, I had some personal goals I knew I wanted to try to incorporate: 
✽ student participation 
✽ focus on community 
✽ create something I never have before
✽ push past my comfort zone
You only get to do one thesis in college, better make it count right?​​​​​​​ 
I've always had a fascination for tattoos despite not having any myself. In my time at New Paltz, I saw more people with tattoos than I had in my entire lifetime on Long Island. I’ve found that tattoos can be a great conversation starter; I love meeting a new person or talking with a friend about their tattoos and learning something new about them. I'm incredibly intrigued by the perceptions of tattoos for both the bearer and the viewer.​​​​​​​
Tattoos have a very rich, loaded history and current prevalent culture; with that comes many different opportunities to explore. Focusing on the subject of tattoos for my thesis seemed to hit the nail on the head for this sort of project; it would work perfectly with the goals I had already created for myself. After much deliberation over what this project could be (as seen in the image below), I decided the focus of this project would be the stories/meanings behind the tattoos of the students at SUNY New Paltz
Every tattoo is a testament to the individual who wears it, representing their experiences, values, and identity
Students at SUNY New Paltz (tattooed & not)
✽ Gather tattoo stories from many students
Publicly display tattoo submissions
✽ Capture interest of any students & faculty
✽ Provoke conversations between peers​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
I knew that I wanted the branding to feel friendly and inviting to encourage participation. However, the inevitably poor-quality photos I was anticipating to receive from participants would require a sleek and simple look to avoid chaos. I also wanted to include a blackletter display font sparingly to keep this project tied to tattoo culture.
I created a google form questionnaire for students to submit a photo of their tattoo and answer 8 questions surrounding the general story behind their tattoo. Participants had the opportunity to provide as much or as little information as they prefer.
This small poster was designed and hung up all over campus to target students with tattoos. I tried to keep the design simple so it was clear and easily readable. The QR code links to the questionnaire.

✽ At this point in the process I was trying out a different color palette, consisting of a bright blue, hot pink, and neon green, which I used as background colors for this same style poster. Although I think this did contribute to the success in capturing the attention of students, I received feedback that it may have been too colorful and disconnected from the project. I decided to only move forward with the black and white limited color palette after this point.

79 Total Submissions
I started the poster process with a rough sketch to get a general idea of what poster ideas would make sense to fill 12 display cases. I decided on one introduction poster, one poster displaying all of the submissions, and 10 posters highlighting specific individuals with tattoos.
I wanted to design posters that prominently emphasized the tattoo photography. I mostly drew inspiration from fashion advertisements I found online. To keep with the more sleek, refined look I established with the branding, I was looking for clean typography and simple ways to create visual interest.
Models & Photoshoots
I conducted photoshoots with 10 different models and asked that each person wear either white or black to keep some consistency between photos. My goal was to broadcast a wide range visually with varying tattoo styles and locations on the body, as well as varying stories to keep it interesting. I tried to shoot some interesting poses (shown below) to give myself various options to work with for the posters, and I asked for each model's information and signature.
✽ Conducting these photoshoots definitely took me way out of my comfort zone, accomplishing one of my overall thesis goals! I didn't know how to use the photography equipment and I hadn't used a DSLR camera in a while so I really had to push myself to get the photos that I needed.
I was really hoping to create an experience that students have never witnessed before in the library's display cases. I experimented with large typography, overlapping, shape & line, positioning, and framing heavily to create posters that felt cohesive yet individual to each tattoo model. I received a lot of peer feedback on each round of drafts which helped a lot to try to understand an outsider's perspective. I moved forward with the blackletter typeface for the typography, one rounded poster corner, and having the model's body interrupt the linear/blurred outer frame.
PRINTING/Library Setup
I used a large format Epson printer to print each poster, photo, and quote. Each large size poster is 24” x 36”, and I manually cut each rounded edge with scissors and an X-Acto knife. The installation was displayed from March 5th to March 26th, 2023 (3 weeks).
Feedback and TAKEAWAYS
While the installation was displayed, I spent a lot of time in the library trying to listen to what spectators were saying about the project. I received a lot of positive feedback from peers, heard lots of "oh this is so cool" between friends, got some more tattoo submissions for the website, and even gained some attention from the school. The overall design of the exhibit seemed to be very eye-catching; I noticed a lot of people pulling over to get a better look at the posters and read through the quotes. I got a lot of compliments on the visual aspects of the posters such as the rounded edges and linear frames.
The thesis show is an opportunity for each student in the graphic design program to show off their differing projects. I chose to set up in two corner display cases so that viewers could step inside the exhibit and feel like part of it. To make the experience interactive I provided temporary tattoos, stickers, and a doodle/note wall
PHASE VI: Reflections
Community impact
The goal of this project was to build community within SUNY New Paltz through shared experiences and tattoo artistry, as well as showing off the vastly different significances they hold. With the library installation, anyone on campus was able to view the posters, admiring the different types of tattoo art that the students around them carry. Viewers could also appreciate some of the shared experiences of their peers and possibly gain inspiration for a future tattoo. 
personal impact
I currently do not have any tattoos but I’m extremely fascinated by them. I’ve found that tattoos can be a great conversation starter, and many people with tattoos are more than happy to talk about them. I love meeting a new person or talking with a friend about their tattoos and learning something new about them, just from a symbol on their body. This project was a great way for me to talk to people that I might have never had the opportunity to, and learn a little bit more about my fellow SUNY New Paltz students. Seeing the wide range of reasons why people choose to get tattoos and the endless possibilities of symbolism they hold up close was a
very inspirational experience.
With a long term project like this, not everything is always going to go smoothly. The first mistake I made was with an instagram account that I attempted to post each tattoo photo and story. As I kept receiving more and more submissions, the Instagram page became very congested
and the process of posting was very inefficient. I also struggled with time management, so I was unable to create an accompanying website for all of the tattoo submissions to be displayed. 
Moving FOrward
As much as this project worked very well with the population of students at SUNY New Paltz, I think this project would also thrive at a much larger scale with the creation of a website.