Beantown symbol for the ages...?
February 5, 2006 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me find an abstract symbol evocative of the Boston area that would make a good tattoo.

I like the idea of inscribing myself with a visual record of the places I've lived and the experiences I've had. I've already done this twice before, to reflect other places where I have lived for a significant period.

Said symbol should be relatively high-concept, look good small and absolutely, positively not be sports-related.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could have some fun with the tea party ship.
posted by allen.spaulding at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2006

a pot of beans?
samples here
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:33 AM on February 5, 2006

Is that bronze statue of the duck still by the river? I believe it's from an illustration of McCloskey's Make Way for the Ducklings. For whatever reason, that's always been closely linked with Boston for me.
posted by kalimac at 11:33 AM on February 5, 2006

What about the subway map?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:41 AM on February 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Or a subway car.

What are the other tattoos you have? Wondering if there's a theme so far (other than places you've been)?
posted by blue mustard at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2006

posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2006

It's too bad you're anonymous (for what reason, I have no idea), because I have a followup question:

Do you want this to be a tattoo of a generally recognizable Boston symbol, or one that only Boston peeps would understand?

What about the T logo?
posted by elisabeth r at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2006

Or some abstraction of

posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:45 AM on February 5, 2006

Yes, the duck and ducklings going around an arm or ankle would definitely be different.

How about Click and Clack?
posted by TedW at 12:01 PM on February 5, 2006

boston beans. or boston terriers. or maybe an image of lobster, clam, or cod. or the betsy ross flag (I prefer just the stars, no stripes). or a musket.

(But what I think of foremost when I abstract Boston in my mind are that accent and the red sox. You've thankfully precluded the latter, and I don't think you can tattoo the former, unless you want "WARSH THE CAAH" tatted around your wrist.)
posted by neda at 12:02 PM on February 5, 2006

The Zakim Bridge is purty.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:12 PM on February 5, 2006

But yeah, the T logo would make the best tat, since it's unlikely to be mistaken for anything else.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:14 PM on February 5, 2006

Another vote for the T logo. The Hancock building light would work, too, but choosing blue or red would be tough.
posted by sachinag at 12:27 PM on February 5, 2006

The CITGO sign.
"London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Boston has the CITGO sign."

"'I saw it in my 20th mile, looming like a pyramid above Kenmore Square. It gave me strength, and I knew the race's end was near,' Boston Marathon runner."
posted by ericb at 12:28 PM on February 5, 2006

The Pru.
posted by autojack at 12:33 PM on February 5, 2006

I second the Zakim Bridge.
posted by charmston at 12:40 PM on February 5, 2006

posted by cribcage at 12:50 PM on February 5, 2006

I like the T logo idea, but if that doesn't do it for you, maybe the Mass Pike's pilgrim hat logo, seen at the top of the Pike's site.
posted by letourneau at 1:00 PM on February 5, 2006

I'm with ericb- the Citgo sign perfect abstract symbol for anyone who's been to Boston. There's a stained glass maker who uses the image for a panel and it looks great. If that's not that I would go with a simplified Hancock tower with blue rings- clear skies ahead.
posted by rodz at 1:18 PM on February 5, 2006

The MBTA 'T' and the Metro Transit (Minneapolis / St. Paul) 'T' are basically identical. Might be a concern but, hey, you're set if you ever move to Minneapolis.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:30 PM on February 5, 2006

I've seen T-shirts that display an overhead representation of the Davis Square road intersection. It's very recognizable because it's so weirdly shaped. If you are OK with emblematizing Somerville instead of Boston proper, then that could be a neat abstract figure.
posted by painquale at 1:39 PM on February 5, 2006

if you're up for something a little bigger, why not a Freedom Trail winding around your arm or leg or something?
posted by pdb at 1:41 PM on February 5, 2006

Or if not an actual trail, the Freedom Trail's logo (see their site) is pretty distinctive too.
posted by letourneau at 1:45 PM on February 5, 2006

If I were going to get a tattoo (and I'm so not) I would get the T logo. That's awesome.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:47 PM on February 5, 2006

Hub of the universe. (Outside of the former Filene's on Washington Street. What's with the anonymous? Planning to give this tattoo to a Yankee's fan when s/he's passed out? If so, why not Red Sox?
posted by Dick Paris at 2:51 PM on February 5, 2006

Teehee Dunkin' Donuts. I've lived in NYC for the past 11 years or so, but I'm originally from Boston. I love me some Dunkin' Donuts. Wicked awesome coffee.
posted by discokitty at 3:08 PM on February 5, 2006

I like the T idea. Also a bean and/or a cod ("Here's to good old Boston, the land of the bean and the cod").
The cod is the state fish and a sculpture of a cod hangs in the House of Representatives.
Oh and I like the Citgo idea, as well. Jeez and the top of the Pru is excellent, too.
posted by jdl at 3:23 PM on February 5, 2006

The T Logo is probably the best. And you can say that it ties into the Boston Tea Party.

The Citgo Sign is recognizably Boston, but I think that is very much to do with being able to see it during baseball games in Fenway (thus it is sports-related). Also, I think it's silly to represent some non-Bostonian corporation on your body.

So, as someone born close enough to Boston (Cambridge), if I were to meet you and saw your tattoo, the T Logo would trigger a reaction and a conversation topic. If I saw the Newbury Comics one I'd think, "Weird, I guess he/she likes Newbury Comics a lot". The Citgo one I might be able to deduce. If the duck tattoo was an exact copy of the illustration style I might recognize that, but if it's just some random duck and you explained it, I'd feel a bit underwhelmed.

Since you're asking for something that is not sports-related and is abstract, definitely go with the T Logo. Others might be cool with some more detail, but at a certain level of abstraction even people from Boston won't recognize those other symbols.
posted by Gnatcho at 3:31 PM on February 5, 2006

Another vote for the Citgo sign.
posted by briank at 3:49 PM on February 5, 2006

As a Canadian, the only suggestion here I would immediately understand to represent Boston would be the Boston Bruins logo or some sort of "Boston Tea Party" logo. With some prompting, I might get lobster, clam and cod. I have never associated Boston with beans and would never understand your transit system logo.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 4:37 PM on February 5, 2006

Actually, I would understand this building

to mean Boston too. Not sure what it is called.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 4:39 PM on February 5, 2006

Old North Church
posted by vacapinta at 5:32 PM on February 5, 2006

Sorry. I meant to suggest Old North Church not identify the previous photo - which is Faneuil Hall.
posted by vacapinta at 5:34 PM on February 5, 2006

which is Faneuil Hall

Ah -- the famous "Golden Grasshopper" weathervane which has sat atop Faneuil Hall since 1742 is also another contender!

posted by ericb at 5:48 PM on February 5, 2006

Old North Church

The steeple with two lanterns!
"The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns."
posted by ericb at 5:54 PM on February 5, 2006

Forget the grasshopper - go with the Sacred Cod.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:13 PM on February 5, 2006

Boston has few skyscrapers, and the two largest are away from the downtown core -- that makes the skyline distinctive. My company used to use a "chalk" outline of this view in our logo.

The Zakim bridge is distinctive, but probably too new to be recognizable. I agree that the T logo is probably the most iconic.
posted by nev at 6:44 PM on February 5, 2006

How about the swan image from the back of the swan boats?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:58 PM on February 5, 2006

The T logo, for sure.
posted by bshort at 7:26 PM on February 5, 2006

Boston Bruins logo. Besides being from Boston, it's like, the letter B, which after all is more Boston'y than the letter T.
posted by frogan at 8:12 PM on February 5, 2006

I know I brought the Bruins logo up myself, but Anonymous says it should absolutely, positively not be sports-related.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:23 PM on February 5, 2006

(Perhaps some kind of play on the "massacre"?)
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:26 PM on February 5, 2006

My first thought was a single bean, large or small. It's minimalist, clean, and worthy of conversation. It's not something as passing or temporary as a hockey logo or a transportation network. The world will always have beans, and if history is any indication, Boston will always be Beantown.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:21 PM on February 5, 2006

Another vote for the T logo, but I'd be curious to see what other pieces you had done.
posted by sixacross at 5:12 AM on February 6, 2006

Please note that this is Faneuil Hall. The photo Count Ziggurat posted is of the Old State House across the street from Faneuil Hall.

I think a lot of people posting in this thread are not Bostonians. I am, and if I were to get a Boston tattoo, it would be one of the historical symbols or images - no logos. I like the grasshopper, ducks, or cod - but cod is sort of outdated. I guess it depends on what your goal is. Do you want something that's personally meaningful to you, or something that non-Bostonians will instantly recognize as a symbol of Boston? Answer that question first.
posted by acridrabbit at 10:07 AM on February 6, 2006

You know, on second look, Count Ziggaraut's photo is Faneuil Hall. Sorry, the angle threw me off! The building looks quite small in that photo, but it's pretty big for a historic building.
posted by acridrabbit at 10:09 AM on February 6, 2006

acidrabbit's momentary confusion illustrates the problem with using Fanuel Hall. I suggest something even more unique: the Customs House.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:17 AM on February 6, 2006

OK, I'm not from Boston, nor have I lived there, so you can obviously disregard this if you want, but I just had to pipe in: do NOT get a Citgo tattoo. I had no idea there was any kind of connection between the Citgo logo and Boston - and I imagine very few people outside the Boston area would, either. So getting this tattoo could make you ubercool to Bostonians - but you'd look like an idiot to everyone else, who'd assume you felt some strong affection for a major gasoline company (with all the political baggage that contains).

I like the grasshopper, personally - easy to explain but still looks pretty cool to people who don't know/don't ask.
posted by widdershins at 10:31 AM on February 6, 2006

John Hancock signature?

I kinda like the idea of abstracted arial maps -- perhaps Boston Common?

Of course there's always this...

posted by VulcanMike at 12:21 PM on February 6, 2006

My vote (FWIW) is the T logo - instantly recognizeable to anyone who's ever lived in Boston.
posted by LilBucner at 1:33 PM on February 6, 2006

Or several other places, apparently.
bill buckner would be instantly recognizable, with the ball rolling between his feet. Sporty, though.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:45 PM on February 6, 2006

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