An outgrowth of ongoing research into visual identity and branding, the U2 Tattoo Project is an initiative to document and curate tattoos related to the rock group U2. It studies U2 fan tattoos (emblems, icons, type treatments, lyrics, or other graphic representations, as well as related personal narratives) in terms of popular U2 iconography and lyrics, examines the connections between favorite albums and tattoos, and explores what happens to U2’s visual identity as it passes into the hands and onto the bodies of fans.
The project website at U2TattooProject.com, as well as social media outlets, provides an ongoing curation of the more than 300 tattoos documented to date.
The project has documented more than 300 fan tattoos—approximately half via online submissions from fans in 20 different countries, and the other half via in-person interviews and photo shoots at 19 events in three different countries, including the following:
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Los Angeles, California
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
New York City, New York
Documentation includes pictures of fans and their tattoos, the genesis of the tattoos and their relationship to the U2 body of work (concerts, albums, songs, etc.), and the stories behind the selection and personal symbolism of the various icons, lyrics, and marks.
Interviews have included the two lead members of U2’s longtime creative team: Steve Averill, U2’s graphic designer since 1978 (he even named the band!), and Shaughn McGrath, U2’s graphic designer since 1990. These interviews, conducted in Dublin in 2015, have provided the opportunities for additional insights into U2’s visual history of marketing materials and the designers’ reactions to their work as tattooed on fans.
The Crystal Ballroom
The U2 Tattoo Project co-creators were interviewed by Tim Neufeld, Associate Professor of Ministry at Fresno Pacific University and host of The Crystal Ballroom, a Periscope-based, live-stream chat show for the international U2 fan community.
August 17, 2015
The U2 Tattoo Project co-creators were guests on an episode of the @U2 podcast with Matt McGee, founder of atU2.com, an award-winning U2 fan site with more than 15,000 followers that has been honored by Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Hot Press, NME, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and more.
April 7, 2016
“U2 Gets Onto People’s Skin” by Helen Fields
The U2 Tattoo Project was written about on the Last Word On Nothing blog, a collection of articles by an international community of science writers.
August 19, 2015
Major Research Outcome
Ink, Icons, Identity: Exploring U2’s Brand Through Fan Tattoos
August 15–26, 2016
One of the first major outputs of this research initiative is an upcoming multimedia exhibition of photos, research, and artifacts related to U2 tattoos, as well as the compelling personal stories behind the permanent bodily markings of these logos, symbols and designs. The exhibit will also be the basis for proposed articles and a book.