Balance tattoo?
May 17, 2007 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a symbol/representation for possible use as a tattoo.

I've always wanted a tattoo that represents balance or harmony. I can't seem to find anything that isn't seriously lame or overused. It doesn't have to be an actual symbol (as in icon), just some kind of interesting representation.

These are my ideal criteria:
-No asian or arabic language/celtic/etc symbols.
-No libra, yin yang, scales of justice symbols.
-Something that would translate well to a small tattoo (no bigger than two inches across).
-Pretty minimalist (one or two colors [ideally just black], not a lot of heavy detail)
-Ideally something that has a source that I can learn about (done by a specific artist or from the cover of a specific book/album, etc). I don't want just some stock picture found on google image.

I am open to look at creative interpretations of the 'balance/harmony" theme.

Does anyone have any ideas?
posted by greta simone to Grab Bag (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite - really an amazing compendium on symbols from many sources. Maybe you'll find some inspiration there?

Here's one result for harmony.
posted by nelleish at 1:22 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps some bars of musical notation denoting harmony?

Otherwise, how about hexagram 11 of the I Ching?
"T'AI : spread and reach everywhere, permeate, diffuse; communicate; great, extensive, abundant, prosperous; smooth, slippery; extreme, extravagant, prodigal. Mount T'AI in eastern China was a sacred mountain connecting heaven and earth. The emperor made offerings there to establish harmony between humans and the great spirits. The ideogram: person in water, connected to the universal medium."
posted by nasreddin at 1:23 PM on May 17, 2007

posted by ND¢ at 1:23 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by ND¢ at 1:26 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

My idea would be to approach a tattoo artist or other artist whose stuff you like, present them this exact question, and ask them to design something original for you. Maybe show them some tattoos you like that fit your definition of "classy" but don't quite fit your concept, and even talk a bit about what specifically inspires you to use balance/harmony as a starting point. Together you might be able to come up with something totally original and suited to you that we, not knowing you, wouldn't.

However, I must say that I like the hexachord idea and also the seesaw one (though that might be a little too tongue-in-cheek for your tastes).
posted by lampoil at 1:31 PM on May 17, 2007

What the Wingdings font, and then just mashing the keyboard until you see something you like? :)
posted by dendrite at 1:33 PM on May 17, 2007

What about ^
posted by dendrite at 1:34 PM on May 17, 2007

How about a balanced equation? I hated chemistry class, but I always had such a deep sense of satisfaction after balancing an equation. You could pick numbers that were important to you.
posted by Biblio at 1:36 PM on May 17, 2007

I have a tattoo on the inside of my wrist that I designed for a similar meaning. There's a discussion of it here. (Of course, I deleted the image. Curses!) I still have the image of what I went with, if you'd like to see it - my email's in my profile.
posted by ferociouskitty at 1:44 PM on May 17, 2007

If you choose to use a foreign word as a symbol, ask a native speaker of the language if it really means what you think it means. And make sure you don't have the symbol upside down!

BMEZine - Does your kanji tattoo mean what you think it does?
posted by IndigoRain at 1:49 PM on May 17, 2007

A circle?
posted by pica at 1:49 PM on May 17, 2007

ΣFi x Ri = 0
posted by SBMike at 1:54 PM on May 17, 2007

Maybe a quatrefoil?
posted by Alt F4 at 1:55 PM on May 17, 2007

this is an odd idea but what feet on a tight rope or if you were going bigger the whole tight rope walker with a stick for balance or I've heard of people using fans for balance in asian countries, in my head I'm thinking sort of like an old fashioned newspaper style illustration with the walker in period appropriate attire (to match the illustration style)

not really a symbol but an idea
posted by estronaut at 2:03 PM on May 17, 2007

a = a
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:05 PM on May 17, 2007

You could look into the teachings of Pythagoras. He had a lot of goofy mystical views, which might not please you, but he believed the fundamental principle of the universe was harmony (literally musical harmony; all things in the universe resonating together) and had various symbols associated with his group. Eg the tetrad or the tetractys. That page has links to pictures of other Pythagorean symbols. He was also famously a vegetarian; I don't know if that's a positive or negative for you, but there it is.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:14 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

A related philosophical concept from ancient Greece: the golden mean.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:24 PM on May 17, 2007

How about a patch of unadorned skin, devoid of any distracting marks?

Of course, you might have to tattoo the rest of your body to make it stand out.
posted by hexatron at 2:25 PM on May 17, 2007

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:30 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Look through the elements.

Euler's identity is beautiful aesthetically, and if you understand it, has quite a bit to do with balance.
posted by phrontist at 2:45 PM on May 17, 2007

As Biblio suggests above, you might consider inking an equation such as in this discussion on historic carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere:
[In the phrase "carbon neutral," t]he term neutral has no chronicity. It refers to the net of an equation, and that equation ... dictates that there is no net gain or loss of carbon in the system (mother earth) in the given reaction.
The equation: CH₄ + 2O₂ → CO₂ + 2H₂O
posted by rob511 at 2:55 PM on May 17, 2007

Fun fact, directed at Lobster Mitten:
Vegetarians, up until the Mid-1800's when the first vegetarian society was founded, and the term was coined, were called "Pythagoreans," because of the meatless reputation of Pythagoras and his followers.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 3:05 PM on May 17, 2007

Seconding phronist, this was one of the first things I thought of when I saw this question.
posted by spark at 3:25 PM on May 17, 2007

What about an ambigram if the word "balance"? Here's one and here's another. Or perhaps you could commission an original for yourself?
posted by platinum at 3:28 PM on May 17, 2007

How about a tree?

I can't point you to an image, but I'm thinking of a slightly abstracted depiction, no bark or any other detail, done in black and white. You can put in a horizon line, or not, but I would avoid adding anything else, no background figures or birds etc. Instead of any kind of naturalistic version of a root ball it could subtly mirror the shape of the branches. Have the roots drawn so they take up close to the same space as the branches spread, maybe a bit less. It would probably work better if you show the branches without leaves.
posted by BigSky at 3:32 PM on May 17, 2007

Along the lines LobsterMitten is suggesting, how about a golden spiral in the form of a Chambered Nautilus?
posted by jamjam at 3:39 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Whatever you choose, people will ask you what it means. Even if it is an obvious symbol for harmony and balance, you will probably have to explain it to people. Therefore, the symbol does not have to actually, literally, mean either of those things. Pick a design that speaks "harmony" to you and just tell people that that is what it means.
posted by bobobox at 3:48 PM on May 17, 2007

I think the infinity symbol is very harmonious and calming. It is balanced.

I can't post the HTML entity, unfortunately. But you probably know the one.
posted by loiseau at 3:49 PM on May 17, 2007

Not about balance, but I wanted a reminder to not try and figure everything out in life, because some things make no sense. So I got this.
posted by The Deej at 3:56 PM on May 17, 2007

posted by BrotherCaine at 4:44 PM on May 17, 2007


That looks very much like the elaborate middle school naughty story drawing about the pool and the robbers. You may wish to avoid this.
posted by klangklangston at 4:45 PM on May 17, 2007

∑ or Ω are pretty cool too. Although omega probably is going to be assumed to have Christian religious significance. Anything with hexagons, triangles or circles could be good, but I'd strongly consider jamjam's suggestion of a golden spiral, or a Fibonacci spiral, see this divine proportion wikipedia entry.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:01 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

How about a benzene ring representation? Something like this without the text? Very stable, at the least.

Or a chair conformation of a cyclohexane ring... also stable, & possibly more opportunities to make it look cool. Example.

Chem on the mind... agh.
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:24 PM on May 17, 2007

I don't know from no middle school story. My symbol embodies a certain type of balance and harmony colored by constipoperation, commonality and commitment, and comes from a fine and timeless film. It it therefore, per the requirements of the question, rich in history and class.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:31 PM on May 17, 2007

What about a Fleur de lis
posted by JujuB at 5:58 PM on May 17, 2007

naughty story drawing about the pool and the robbers. You may wish to avoid this.
posted by klangklangston

Heyyyy, I knew that looked familiar. Is that the one where they hide by the pool and shoot out the lights?

Yeah, I'd avoid that as well.
posted by The Deej at 5:58 PM on May 17, 2007

devilsbrigade, benzene is cool, but that symbol looks like a nut or bolt.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:36 PM on May 17, 2007

Not sure about the US but in Canada the fleur de lis has a pretty specific political connotation.

BrotherCaine: ""

Weird -- it didn't work in preview for me.
posted by loiseau at 7:17 PM on May 17, 2007

loiseau, there is a delay before it works in preview, also you have to use the &infin; code, not the hexvalue; code.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:26 PM on May 17, 2007

oops, *&hexvalue;*
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:27 PM on May 17, 2007

How about the word "Harmony"? Or, the word "Balance"?
posted by nicwolff at 12:40 AM on May 18, 2007


That looks very much like the elaborate middle school naughty story drawing about the pool and the robbers. You may wish to avoid this.
Oh, it's even better than you think.
posted by churl at 1:09 AM on May 18, 2007

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