On Thursdays, we read reviews or news stories about art or design and study the language used in them. This week’s article is about the typeface tattoos of graphic designer and Adobe Type senior manager Dan Rhatigan.


Here are the first three paragraphs from Adobe Create Magazine, in italics.

Dan Rhatigan’s heart isn’t on his sleeve—it is his sleeve. The former graphic designer, now Adobe Type senior manager, turned his love of type into an ongoing art project with his first tattoo twenty years ago. That tattoo, which Rhatigan designed in Adobe Illustrator, is a unique family crest with an “R” at its center. It’s a “big, swashy letter ‘R’ I found in a book of old woodtype,” he says.

Once the design was inked on him forever, Rhatigan realized a couple things. “I wanted more tattoos,” Rhatigan says, “and what I loved the most about the one I had was the expressive letter ‘R.’ I had this epiphany that I love type in this very pure and abstract way; I should just keep getting beautiful letterforms that I love.” Since then, he’s acquired different letters and numbers in carefully selected typefaces from artists all over the world, including a lowercase “e” from Sodachrome, a chromatic face he designed with Ian Moore. “I love the way it came out, and it had a graphic quality that lent itself to tattooing, because it’s meant to be a multi-colored design,” Rhatigan explains.

Preparing for a new tattoo is an exacting process for Rhatigan, who keeps a master Illustrator file with designs that interest him. “I just look at designs I’m fond of and try to find letters that particularly capture what I like about the design of that typeface,” Rhatigan says. “I try not to repeat letters, but I’ve started to have a couple of repeats because I’ve been doing this for a long time now.” Upper and lowercase letters count as separate forms, as do letters with accents.

My comments:

In the first paragraph, we start with a reference to an idiom, to wear your heart on your sleeve. This means to let your true feelings show. The writer of this article is changing the idiom a little to make a joke. When you have a tattoo that covers your arm, it’s called a sleeve, like the sleeve of a shirt. So the writer is saying that Dan Rhatigan is showing us his true feelings about type with his sleeve of tattoos. Next, we learn about the first tattoo Rhatigan got, which was a unique family crest. A family crest is like a design that shows your family identity. In the past, noble European families (families high up in society) had family crests. Often the design includes the family name, a shield, and symbolic images. Here is an example, along with a photo of his crest.

In the second paragraph, he talks about how his tattoo helped him discover his love of beautiful letterforms. A letterform means a letter of the alphabet that is designed with a style. He talks about how he has acquired (to acquire means to get) different letters and numbers in carefully selected typefaces from artists all over the world. A typeface is a style of type, like Helvetica or Times. Sometimes people call this a font, although actually a font is part of a typeface. He also talks about a typeface he designed, called Sodachrome, and how he got a lowercase “e” from that typeface as one of his tattoos. Lowercase means small letters (abc) – not uppercase or capital letters (ABC). A chromatic face means a typeface with colors designed into it. He also uses the phrase lent itself, which is another idiom that means it made it easy to do something. In this situation, it was easy to make a cool tattoo of this typeface because it was designed to be colorful.

In the third paragraph, we see the phrase an exacting process, which means a difficult process or one that takes a lot of time. He says that he looks at designs he is fond of, which means the designs that he likes best. He also says that he tries to find letters that particularly capture what I like. Particularly means more than usual, and capture means to catch or show something. So he’s saying that he tries to choose the letters that show what he likes about the style of a typeface more than the other letters. Finally, he says that he tries not to repeat letters, but that he counts uppercase (ABC) and lowercase (abc) letters and letters with accents (é) as separate or different forms.

Idioms are a common form of expression in English, and using them makes writing more interesting. However, learning idioms can be difficult for non-native speakers, and it’s important to use them correctly. A good language coach can help you to learn and use new idioms that help you to describe your work more effectively.

At Artglish, we help artists and designers to describe their work with the best vocabulary and language possible. Every Thursday we study reviews and articles to share useful words and phrases to help you improve your reading and writing skills. If you want to learn more, click here to join The Studio and try some free ways to improve your English, or check out our Lessons page to learn how Artglish can help you succeed.

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To read the original article, written by Jenni Miller on April 5, 2018, click the link below: