What is a Zine?
Zines are an under-appreciated but powerful tool in self-expression via design. They come in all shapes and sizes, binds and creases, and formats and structures. A Zine can be designed and produced however the artist desires to express their ideas and feelings. Due to this, it can sometimes be challenging to give Zines an exact definition and category, which is also the beauty of Zines and the creative freedom which comes with them. In short, Zines can be specified as a type of magazine, separated by the defining factors of self-publishing methods and small quantities produced. Typically Zines are also produced without the need to be profitable.
They typically contain but are not restrained to, topics such as art, music and politics - usually looking into more controversial areas. Zines, however, can be produced about more or less anything and in any kind of structure and are an extremely free form of expression.
Zines first originated in the 1930s with Science Fiction fandoms.
“Long before the advent of the Internet, zines allowed fans to create networks, share ideas and analyses, and collaborate on writing and artwork” (Leuven, L 2017).
In the 1950s and 60s however, the popularity of Zines in society skyrocketed alongside the rise of the underground press. This explosive rise in popularity wasn’t just exclusive to politics, however, and in the 1980s zines became largely popular within Punk culture and various other subcultures. These gradual but each impactful developments allowed Zines to become the influential art form they are today.
Zines are a fun design form due to the wide variety of content. The design freedom allows artists to adapt each design element to present their ideas and emotions. Artists can use traditional forms of binding to represent a specific culture, or more abstract approaches to bookbinding to represent a rebellious sense. Some designers even avoid binding entirely, instead using various folding styles to structure their art. The shape of the Zine itself could also be used to present a message. These forms of expression and many more in combination are rather unique to Zines, as other formats such as magazines or books tend to limit how far design can be pushed by definition.
Why should you care?
In society today, Zines continue to grow in popularity and be a strong form of representation for the underground and underrepresented.
“Zines provide a safe, independent platform of expression for underrepresented and marginalised voices: Black, Indigenous & People of Colour, young people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ(+) community, persecuted religious groups, and people with limited economic resources”. (binderymke.com 2020).
The importance of a tool like this in society is essential as it allows commonly unheard voices to become heard by many.
Anybody can make a Zine, whether you're an established designer, or haven't drawn since school. There is no good or bad when it comes to Zines, the goal is to just express yourself with design however you wish and let your voice be heard. This is what makes Zines such a significant tool in our society; Everyone should be encouraged to get involved.
Some values which come with zines are rather in line with some of our paired values here at KI. Firstly the idea of Learning and growing is very important at KI. This aligns with zines as they act as a platform for people to express their feelings and opinions, as a way to learn and grow as well as allowing others to learn and grow from them. Zines being such a free chance at self-expression also allows for the opportunity for artists to be brave and bold with their work, which is another key value here at KI.
Leuven, L. (2017). A Brief History of Zines. [Online]. blogs.lib.unc.edu. Last Updated: 2017. Available at: https://blogs.lib.unc.edu/rbc/2017/10/25/a-brief-history-of-zines/ [Accessed 2 August 2022].
BinderyMke. (2020). What is a zine? [Online]. BinderyMke.com. Last Updated: 2020. Available at: https://www.binderymke.com/what-is-a-zine [Accessed 2 August 2022].