DIY Design: get into zine culture with this in-depth guide

To mark a solo exhibition at a London gallery, Chrissie Abbott made a zine, named In My Mind I’m Clapping, featuring the works she had shown, in black-and-white prints on brightly coloured paper. The zine, she says, was meant to “act as a sort of low-grade catalogue” for the exhibition, which was all about “a positive outlook during shitty times”.

Chrissie says: “Obviously black-and-white printing changed what my work looked like, because all the images were made in full colour, but I quite liked how it changed it. I picked fluoro paper because those colours have always been a weakness of mine – probably as I am a product of the early 1980s.”

The result has a grungy, photocopied DIY feel that’s perfectly in keeping with the project’s status as a zine.

We think of zines as a quintessentially printed type of project, but that’s not to say they’ll stay that way forever: as tablet devices such as the iPad muscle in on publishing, they offer some exciting opportunities to illustrators.

Switzerland-based publisher Nieves ( which specialises in art books and zines, has launched an app that will work on the iPhone, but which is clearly aimed at the rich, immersive graphic experience of the iPad. The app, Nieves, allows fans to buy and read digital versions of zines by a highly respectable roster of artists, including Jody Barton and Gareth Bayliss.

Nieves’ editor in chief Benjamin Sommerhalder says the iPad offers “a radically different way to look at zines”, with a customised way of flipping the pages.

Blurb enables artists to publish their work with minimal initial outlay. Some examples include (above) Obsolete by Nick Gentry, (below) Nate van Dyke’s ( comic book-inspired eponymous chimp and (bottom) Intimo: Selected Works by Paul W Ruiz featuring photographs of paintings by the Melbourne-based artist

Even Benjamin believes the iPad will never replace the pleasure of a real zine; “For us, the photocopied zine is still the real thing,” he says.

He continues: “Some people might say it’s not compatible with the independent publishing, handmade zines culture at all.” But, he adds: “The iPhone or iPad gives fans of our zines the possibility to own and experience out-of-print titles again.”

As tablet devices grow in popularity, it’s easy to imagine that more publishers will explore their potential as a way of creating and distributing zines – although, as Benjamin points out, the traditional zine, in all its tactile, hand-produced glory, will be with us for a while yet.

The Nieves’ app allows fans to download zines directly to their iPads, in a 21st century twist on
the genre

ThemLot and the art of the group zine

Birmingham-based collective ThemLot was one of the groups selected to create a themed space at the Pick Me Up exhibition. They responded with a miniature city, named There (above), that served as the jumping-off point and inspiration for participatory events and workshops.

ThemLot created an accompanying zine, also titled There, which was “loosely a guide to the city”.

ThemLot’s James Bourne ( says the zine was a great way to show elements of the project that wouldn’t otherwise be seen by visitors: “There were stories we had written that explained why the buildings looked the way they did. Creating the zine was the ideal way to share the tales.”

ThemLot found that the zine has served as an unofficial programme of the project. Bourne explains: “It helped create a legacy for the project. The city was taken down and the buildings scattered in different places. The zine keeps it all together.”

Each double-page spread of the zine was created by a different artist. “We decided to give each artist creative freedom. The only restriction was that the work had to link into the There city,” says Bourne. “Some of us chose to create stories, while others went for a more visual impact. The balance seems to work.”

With eight artists contributing work, the result could have been a disparate mish-mash, but the fact that they could only afford to print in one colour helped prevent this: the 16-page zine has a striking red and cream cover, but only uses blue ink on interior spreads. “This gave it a coherent identity. We chose the colour so that it had the feel of architectural blueprints,” adds fellow ThemLot artist Mark Long.

“This ‘togetherness’ is hard to achieve in group zines,” says James, “but it’s essential if the project is to really chime.”

Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn't affect our editorial independence. Learn more.

Elsewhere on IDG sites

Read Next...