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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Write enthusiastically. Most science zine creators take on a chipper, explanatory tone. This keeps readers engaged and sets a mood for the zine.