Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Barcley Johnson

Second Advisor

Kirsten Settle


Tattooing is becoming a popular way for individuals, especially young adults, to express themselves. This causes a problem with the hiring process for many companies that have policies against tattoos. The following thesis is a creative representation of the stigma against tattoos in the workplace. This thesis looks at how tattoos change perceptions of employability in the Kalamazoo and San Francisco areas. This topic is portrayed by a 30-inch by 20-inch collage of photographs displaying a variety of different tattoos. There is a total of 55 photographs of tattoos in total, 25 taken in San Francisco and 30 taken in Kalamazoo. Two areas were chosen, Kalamazoo and San Francisco, due to their vastly different views on visible tattoos in the workplace. Each photograph of individuals’ tattoos in San Francisco was obtained while on a trip to the Lean Startup Conference conducted by Western Michigan University’s course, MGMT 4000. The tattoos were analyzed based on area, profession, type and visibility. It was found that the types of tattoos fit into three different categories: words/numbers, objects, and combination. Out of the 30 photographs of tattoos taken in Kalamazoo 9 out of 30 were words/numbers, 18 out of 30 were objects, and 3 out of 30 were a combination of both. Out of the 25 photographs of tattoos taken in San Francisco 5 out of 25 were words/numbers, 14 out of 25 were objects and 6 out of 25 were a combination of both. Visibility of the tattoos were then determined, and it was found that 37% of the tattoos photographed in Kalamazoo were visible compared to 56% in San Francisco. San Francisco has a creative atmosphere that encourages individuality which can be seen by the percentage of visible tattoos. The west coast focuses on what is in an employees’ mind rather than what is on their skin. This is an interesting concept to consider for when young adults decide to get a tattoo or are searching for a job.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

KalamazooTattoos.jpg (1892 kB)
Kalamazoo Tattoos

SanFranciscoTattoos.jpg (1952 kB)
San Francisco Tattoos