zinelab is a place for independent publishing. we research handmade techniques for print publishing and graphic design by collecting and creating small magazines – zines.
we focus on graphic design, illustration and photography and we are always interested in any kind of creative exchange. our aim is to get in touch with artists and designers from all over the world, to collect and create inspiring works on printed pages.
we are always open minded for creative submissions, open projects or collaborations, so if you like just get in touch.
the term zine [zi:n] – or fanzine – was emerged as an abbreviated version of the word magazine. a zine is an independently or self produced booklet or brochure – created, written and shaped by a community of interests or even a single person. the definition zine for independent publications as has been increasingly used from the 1970s on, was first mentioned in 1946 in startling stories, a magazine for science fiction stories.
originally a zine was arranged and produced analogue and manually. without the usage of a computer and corresponding image editing or layout software the text parts and images had to be manually arranged and composed to a first so-called master version by the usage of a copier. afterwards this master version could be replicated as often as needed. the resulting booklet was typically folded and creased, then bound by staples – various other forms of book binding and folding techniques can be found too. the rise of the personal computer in everyday life boosted the possibilities through new tools like layout/publishing or image editing software and enabled independent publishers to create more complex works.
as independently produced medium with mostly specific content zines often are strictly produced in very small editions – often numbered or signed – in practice mostly under 1,000 copies. because of the relatively high costs of small editions independent publications are often non-commercial or not profit-orientated projects. sometimes production and distribution costs can exceed the proceeds of a sale, and even the earnings will often be used for follow-ups.
the invention of book pressing techniques resulted in an increasing amount of independent publications such as small brochures, pamphlets or handbills. independent self publishing has often been the only way for opposition members or revolutionaries to publish their own opinion outside of the established print media, newspapers and books.
one of the earliest and most important self publishers, thomas paine, published pamphlets like the extraordinary common sense with massive influence on american history. he criticized social grievances like slavery and expressed thoughts on american independence in different publications before he proclaimed the american independence as a democratic nation and introduced the term united states of america in common sense. the publication was sold over 500,000 times – to nearly a fourth of the american population at that time.
another early example of self publishing is a paper by benjamin franklin who created a literary magazine for mentally disabled people in a hospital in pennsylvania for both the patients and the employees – this can be understood as a first real ancestor of today’s zines. franklin’s publication is already very close to the philosophy of independently providing material in the form of images and/or texts to a small, specific audience.
the concept of zines is rooted in the amateur press movement, arising in the subculture of science-fiction fans in the 1930s. the first fanzine publishers were searching for a space for their own short stories and so started printing their own magazines.
in the 1970s zines became part of the punk movement – starting in the u.k. and u.s.a. they soon spread into other countries. thanks to lower copier costs it was a small step from creating gig flyers to exploring fanzines. the visual aesthetic of the punk zines characterized the whole subculture: several album covers, band logos and tour posters were created on xerox machines and have even influenced today’s graphic design and typography. in the 1980s the magazine factsheet five grew to an important network of zine publishers and readers – zinesters. the medium zine became the main way for exchange inside subcultures. the riot-grrrl-movement of the early 1990s resulted in a massive amount of various new zines with rougher, partly explicit content focusing on feminism and women’s sexual identity – as a result the conventional media paid more attention to zines than before, and some zine collections were published as books.
zines today offer a broad spectrum of topics to their readers – music/band/tour-zines, science-fiction, fan-fiction, short stories, comics, lyrics, field reports or photography, illustration, art and graphic design. most zines are niched far away from mainstream and so rely on independent publication.
with the end of the 1990s the internet became part of daily life and zines slowly disappeared from public awareness. the unrestricted growth of the world wide web came along with the chance for everybody to reach a bigger audience with personal websites instead of printed media – and so also lots of established zines disappeared. self-expression and personal fulfilment became more varied by using the internet’s new potentialities – in fact lots of zines transformed into websites.
over the years the internet has developed from a mainly passive used medium to a more and more active usable one – especially for the young generation that natively grow up with the web. more and more content in different forms began to be produced by former consumers – the so-called prosumer was born, the producing consumer. in times of social networks the self-perception and the yearning for self-actualization and self-expression is growing rapidly accompanied with an observable increase in user-generated content. by the same token the rising multiplicity of weblogs (blogs) – small websites that focus on various, specific topics – has created a more multifarious media environment than printed media and t.v. themselves would be able to. over the years a unique web culture has originated and causes a more transparent, critical questioning journalism – and gives insights into formerly buried sectors.
several similarities can be found between the younger blogs and zines – both media are mainly produced by single persons or communities of interests, the majority of the blogs do work which is non-profit-orientated, ad-free and independent, blogs are also often dedicated to subcultures, specific topics outside the mainstream or actual trends in different cultural sectors – and a blog or small website can be set up even quicker than a zine is printed.
today the fields art, illustration, photography and graphic design are experiencing a higher influx than ever – in an era of an internet full of transparent manufacturing processes and free accessible information creative work is possible under the best of conditions. in spite of – or as a result of the large multimedia-based possibilities of the internet a returning interest in self publishing in printed media and the medium zine is identifiable. due to the fact that today’s technological progress results in an easier access to production facilities like computers, digital cameras or printers people grow up with an increased awareness for relating with media.
even today printed media still can achieve things the internet can’t – a book, magazine or zine and its visual appearance remains tangible, a haptic experience. the usage of different materials, paper grades, formats – the feeling of turning a page – all those things – even in times of ipads and smartphones – remain not irreplacable.
an increasing number of zine and independent publishing events is recognizable and in the last years several graphic design and art related zines were published worldwide. for designers zines are a welcome change in personal portfolios and in addition a medium to establish contacts, show work samples or create a place for free projects – in a way that’s a bit more permanent, personal and experienceable than a website.
precisely in times where print media have to prove their right to exist in view of their digital competitors, an increase of creative usage of material, eagerness to experiment and a high level of design quality can be found. as well manually processing is an additional way to use the limitation of the printed medium to create higher significance – the zine becomes a unique piece. an easy, informal way of creation, numerous capabilities and the diversity of material usage, the possibility to produce your own independent publication with relatively little expense – in order to create your own channel for your projects and ideas – are just a few reasons why zines are attractive for designers and artists.
in order to create an as versatile as possible medial experience in combination with digital media, print media will continue to play an important role not only for applied arts and design in the next decades – so independent publications in the form of topic based or experimental zines could fulfill an important function in the workflow of process-driven designers in the future as well.
one of our main objectives is understanding production processes as learning processes, so aside from researching independent publishing culture as well as collecting and creating zines, we’re always interested in further insights into your work. if you’d like to promote your publication, we’ll surely take some time for an interview or review. you may also contact us if you’re running a zine event or workshop, we’re a growing network with various channels. we’re always looking for fresh ideas, forgotten techniques and creative concepts – so feel free to contact our accessible team for any reason!
if you’re planning to run a workshop, feel free to contact us. we’re well experienced in design, creation and production and are always open minded for any of your suggestions. you may hire us as a full skilled team or individual competencies for your specific plans. we’re also well equipped for documentation and production processes.
zinelab is a collaborative project — we’d like to thank the parts of the team by introducing their projects.
nonstopnerds is an art/design network founded in 2008 as a small circle of design students from the university of applied sciences in dortmund, germany. it was imagined as a playground, a common space to exchange knowledge, ask for feedback and hone graphic design skills. within the first few months, the project grew quickly, enhanced by international members – the basis for an appealing exchange of ideas and inspiration. from the beginning the project focused on a shared blog, to provide genuine insight into the creativity of the different members. between illustration, photography, 3d/motion graphics and all varieties of graphic design our projects offer a wide range of experiments, ideas and creative approaches. found pieces from the web, actual events, competitions and other design related content are blended into the additional social channels.
trineo is an independent art project from madrid, spain, focusing on art publishing, from drawings to small press, since 2010. their goal is collaboration with artists around the world. they’re often looking for new artists to work with.