Guru Tattoo – Volume One

Every designer knows the drill: a friend has a design emergency and needs some quick visual wizardry. Usually it’s a flyer or t-shirt, maybe a logo. Very rarely is it a 140 page art book from a legendary tattoo shop that needs to go to press in three weeks.

Aaron and Holly Della Vedova, who own and run Guru Tattoo, are close friends of the Breedlove family, and when the book designer they had hired wasn’t delivering what they needed, they turned to Breedlove for help. I had just moved to New York and was working with Breedlove regularly, so when they couldn’t work the book into the schedule, they asked if I could help.

By the time I saw the book, there had been hundreds of hours put into photo selection, pagination and design. It was a pretty “finished” piece. The problem was that it just wasn’t working, and certainly wasn’t telling the Guru story. Regardless, hundreds of hours of labor costs money, so budget was limited and starting from scratch was not an option. So we gave it a face-lift… A massive face-lift.

Taking the structure that was in place, we developed systems that created a completely new feel, but allowed us to keep a lot of the photo work that had already been put in. We introduced consistency, organized the sections and brought some soul back into it, with a fully re-designed intro and section breaks that helped us tell the story. Then we really did it up on the cover, with edge-to-edge spot varnish graphics created from every artist’s flash drawings and a gold foil stamp of the logo and title. The signed limited-edition versions have a vellum jacket with the same drawings.

Helping that friend in need is always a good feeling, but delivering a book that was worthy of this shop of amazing artists and people was truly special. Guru Tattoo: Volume One is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve had as a designer, and I can’t wait for Volume Two.

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