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Moodboard Series: The Zine Aesthetic

By on Apr 8, 2021 in Inspiration
Moodboard Series: The Zine Aesthetic

Zines have been an important part of our culture since the 1930s, and even in a world of Tweets, TikTok’s, and blog posts, there is still a big desire for many to create, distribute and consume zines. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of zines, you can think of a zine as a self-published handmade magazine.

Even if you haven’t picked up and read a zine before, you have probably still felt the influence of zine culture and the zine aesthetic on some level through other mediums — so let's explore what makes the zine aesthetic unique and how it has influenced other parts of our culture. Then we’ll even take a look at how you can re-create this style yourself.

Examples of The Zine Aesthetic

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What is a ‘Zine’?

A zine is typically a small-scale, independent self-publication that is often handmade and then re-produced via a photocopier or printer in booklet form. Zines range massively on their topic and contents, but they are usually used as a means to creatively serve content to smaller niche, specialty, or minority communities.

Traditionally zines are not-for-profit and created mostly as a means of expression.

Some common zine themes include art, feminism, politics, DIY, crafts, fanzines, mini-comics, motherhood, poetry, sci-fi, music, collages, fashion, activism, essays, and points of view pieces. Still, essentially they can be written around any topic, and the self-made or self-published nature is the key common trait that makes zines unique to other platforms.

Zines became very popular in the punk scene back in the 1970s and '80s. Discovering new punk music and exposing yourself to punk culture wasn’t something that you could do easily through standard mediums, so people literally took things into their own hands and began to use zines to self-publish and distribute their own news, opinions, reviews, and so on amongst likeminded fans of the scene. The rough and ready nature of zines helped form a certain style that has remained popular in zines to this day — and much of the visuals we associate with the punk era were established as part of these self-published punk zines.

Digital zines, webzines/e-zines, and even professional zines (prozines) can be found too, but the amateur physical self-produced zines make up the vast majority of the zine scene, and this is our primary focus in this post.

What is the ‘Zine’ Aesthetic

Given their grassroots nature, most zines have a deliberately scrappy handmade or ‘cut and paste’ style, with zines usually being put together in an almost scrapbook or collage style. This scrappy approach gives zines their distinctive charm and allows them to be produced quickly and independently on little to no budget.

Zines often use a combination of handwritten text, drawings, paintings and illustrations, photography, scrapbooking, and crafts to creatively convey their message, making them a unique canvas for creativity and a true place for freedom of expression of all types — as a result, you can find some incredibly beautiful and expressive zines out there, and even those zine makers (zinesters) without a background in design are not limited at all when it comes to producing fun, useful and creative zines.

The popularity of zines took off in the 1970s and 80’s, this boost in popularity came as a result of the rapid availability and ease-of-use of the copy machine. This allowed zines to be created on as little as one sheet of paper, then re-produced a number of times at minimal cost, and then folded up by hand to create a mini booklet. The reliance on copy machines meant that the recognizable style of photo-copied text and images became a distinctive style of most zines. The visual distortion and loss of image quality associated with that were celebrated.

As mentioned, zines come in all shapes and sizes, covering a wide variety of topics and their very nature encourages free expression without having to worry about labels, but there are a few common types of zines that we can explore to take inspiration and to see what common patterns or identifiers we can find in the zine aesthetic. Here’s a selection of some common zine types…

Fanzines

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A fanzine is a non-official, fan-made publication around a particular cultural interest. For example, a fanzine could focus around a particular movie, TV show, band, video game or sports team, or even broader genres of movies, shows, music, etc. Fanzines can be about anything in truth; if you’re a fan of it, there’s probably a zine for it. These fanzines allow direct expression and continued conversation or community to exist around a cultural phenomenon that might not get a lot of traditional media attention — this becomes more important for fans of more niche cultural content. Fanzines commonly feature hand drawings, handwritten type, photocopied graphics, and a cut and paste collage or scrapbook style composition.

Hex Color Palette: #ecece9, #9564bc, #e16cb9, #333333, #ebab76

Art Zines

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Art Zines are usually a collection of an individual artist's own artwork expressed in a zine format. Of course, artists can collaborate on zines, but more often than not, art zines feature self-made artwork, drawings, photos, or collages created by the zine author. All kinds of artistic styles make their way into zines, but commonly you see a lot of hand drawings, paintings, illustrations, and collage-style artworks in these types of zines.

Hex Color Palette: #282928, #f0cf11, #2e55bc, #ddc7e7, #2e3394

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Comic Zines

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Comics make perfect content for zines, and it is understood that Superman was originally created in a much smaller, zine-style format. Although the character evolved away from what it was in its earliest iteration, the zine format essentially gave the world one of its most recognizable superheroes. This self-published form of creating comics remains popular to this day. You can commonly find hand-drawn pencil and pen comics that remain popular in this category and, more recently, colorful digitally illustrated comics.

Hex Color Palette: #2e2f38, #e09dc0, #c4c9f2, #d4e3e1, #19209f

Photo Zines

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Similar to photo books, photo zines usually contain work from a single photographer. Usually created around a certain theme or topic, the zine format for photography often allows room for a little more storytelling and creative expression than a traditional portfolio or publication does. Even with modern printing options available, some photo zines still embrace that old-school photocopier aesthetic, which pairs especially well with gritty, black-and-white photography.

Hex Color Palette: #8f949e, #e3e4e9, #335264, #080907, #494a48

Personal Zines

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Personal zines are probably more like a personal blog than any of the other zine types, a place for personal expression of opinion and reflection through stories and tales. Personal zines often contain more written pieces with a focus on the text itself, but there is always space for creative embellishment. From a visual point of view, we tend to see doodles and scribbles, handwritten text, and the use of typewriters more commonly in this sub-category.

Hex Color Palette: #dee0ec, #d1b283, #d2b3b8, #252425, #485d7f

Making a zine is a very simple process due to its ease of entry. You don’t need expensive tools or equipment to get into it. We’ve previously featured a post on making a zine here on the Creative Market blog that explains more about the steps involved and the history you should explore if you would like a detailed walkthrough.

Zine Aesthetic — Design Resources

In putting together this post, I’ve been able to collect an incredible number of resources available here on Creative Market that would be able to help anyone achieve a similar ‘zine’ vibe in any project; there are currently over 90 products on the list. It will be updated with new products all the time, so if you enjoy this style, be sure to explore the Zine Aesthetic Collection.

If you enjoyed this roundup of the zine aesthetic and want to explore similar inspirational posts just like this, please check out more content from our Moodboard Series.

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