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Let's Talk About Tattoos, Baby

From Pinterest to Interest: How empathy and experimentation created a movement and helped breast cancer survivors make friends with the mirror again

It’s not uncommon for designers to be dealing with uncharted territory. And then there were two: tattoos and breast cancer.

Together, they form (Personal Ink) — a global organization that helps mastectomy patients heal through tattoos. Once an untapped opportunity, is now an actionable platform and its own 501c3 organization—the first of its kind—that is bridging the gap between cancer patients, tattoo artists and health professionals, destigmatizing tattoos and helping survivors reclaim control.

This talk is about making something out of nothing, and the strategies for going about it. started as a blank slate inspired by a thought in passing from a breast cancer survivor, who wanted more options. We tapped into that thought, identified an unmet need, and took action. I’ll dive into how a small team of designers with no healthcare experience turned a blank slate into a powerful global movement.

Bringing to where it is today involved a series of experimentation, observation and responsive decision-making. I’ll discuss the process we went through with plenty of examples, twists and turns along the way. was constantly evolving, and we had to sprint to keep up. What was once a Pinterest page is now a full-on international movement complete with a dedicated site, app, physical events and most importantly, a credible resource for awareness, inspiration and healing. has been featured on HuffPost Live, FastCoCreate, Creativity & PSFK, among others, and its Pinterest strategy has made top lists. While this is great, it was also unexpected. I’ll share our learnings and how we had to adapt to evolving needs.

At we have been fortunate to witness first-hand how breast cancer survivors have been making friends with the mirror again. It has been an incredible journey with a team that moved quickly from inspiration to execution, and I’m excited to share it with the IxDA community!

Azmina Karimi

I am a Service and Experience Designer driven by improving the quality of life. With a background at technology companies, creative agencies and design consultancies, I have spent the last several years fueling valuable product and service innovations in the worlds of healthcare, dentistry, food, eCommerce, self-help and non-profit, among others.

I am part of the founding team of Pink (Personal Ink), a 501c3 organization that helps breast cancer survivors reclaim control after a mastectomy through tattoos. I have been involved with the organization for the past seven years, and work very closely with breast cancer survivors and tattoo artists.

I also come with client experience in the healthcare space, where I researched the needs of patients with a variety of health conditions and helped develop customer support programs.

Currently, I am developing service experiences at Audible, and leading exhibit design efforts with the Aga Khan Development Network.

Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, I am currently dodging umbrellas on the streets of New York, usually with a cone of ice cream.

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