What is a science zine?

Zines are a flexible genre characterized by small-scale distribution, handmade design, and a close relationship between the creator and reader. There aren’t too many published zines about scientific topics, but the Small Science Collective has an online science zine collection, which I used for the bulk of my genre research. I also looked at the artwork and writing of Christine Liu, a neuroscientist who communicates her research through drawings and zines, for inspiration. I think zines are a great vehicle for breaking down scientific topics in an appealing, accessible way. Scroll down to check out my attempt at making a zine about the science behind ECT!

First, here are a few suggestions for creating a successful science zine:

  1. Break up your text. The majority of science zines include explanatory text, but in order to keep your zine easy to read, divide up text spatially on the page. Many creators choose to model their zines after comic books, dividing images into panels and speech bubbles. It’s really helpful to vary text size and font to keep the reader engaged and highlight the most important words.
  2. Keep drawings simple and cartoon-y. Illustrations of molecules, organisms, body systems, etc. can get complicated. To make the zine more aesthetically appealing to a wide audience, lean towards simpler drawings. Many science zine illustrators, like Christine Liu, use a drawing style that could almost be characterized as cutesy. The illustrations need to be approachable and attractive in order for people to pick up your zine.
  3. Humanize. If you’re trying to create interest in a scientific topic, it can be helpful to personify your subject (for instance, if you’re writing about a type of animal, you could have the animal narrate your zine). Otherwise, adding some human interest — adding emotion to your scientific topic in whatever way makes sense — is key to keeping readers interested. The Small Science Collection has some strong examples of humanization (check out I Have No Mouth and I Must Breed).
  4. Write enthusiastically. Most science zine creators take on a chipper, explanatory tone. This keeps readers engaged and sets a mood for the zine.
One illustration from my zine draft. Full document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14bIf4-KRARRHRK8oCLxcTz6y8GdePyPh4opyg8gwewc/edit?usp=sharing

2 thoughts to “What is a science zine?”

  1. Hi Alice!

    Great introductory definition of a zine! Super clear and straightforward for an audience who may not be familiar with what zines are. Your tips for a successful science zine are really helpful and pertinent. I especially love the tip on humanizing, because I think that would really capitalize on the strength of the zine (the handmade quality) for the purposes of your topic. Breaking up of text is also such a good idea for making things easier to read, and i am curious as to how you would pick what to keep and what to leave out? Good luck, excited to read your zine!

    Jamie

  2. I think that the idea of a science zine is SO cool – I’m so glad that you decided to tackle it because it’s such a perfect fit for your original piece! I agree with what Jamie said about humanizing the subject of the zine, especially for something like science that might be more difficult to conceptualize. I love that this is something that you think is important because I never would have thought of that – or maybe even noticed it – just by looking at zines on my own. I think that there is so much potential with the science zine, and I look forward to seeing how/if you continue to use it in your full experiment!

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