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With life on pause and jobs at a standstill, people everywhere turned their frustration and confusion into something more creative. Individuals used their newly found free time as the perfect excuse to pick up their old hobbies and turn them into small businesses. With content-sharing apps like TikTok and Instagram inspiring people all across the world, the Gen-Z audience sparked a revolution and cultivated zine culture once again.
So... what is a zine?
Zines can be classified as independently self-published booklets. They mainly entail the “Do It Yourself” method of physically cutting and gluing text and images together and photocopying to make the final piece. The DIY ethic encourages anyone to create, no matter their race, gender, or sexuality, and do not have to rely on big corporations. Unlike magazines, they are less mainstream, nonconformist, and usually circulate on an irregular basis. They make it easy for writers, poets, and artists to produce work for the masses and showcase their portfolio.
This isn’t the first-time zine culture has been infused with generational youth. Even though zines were first created as fan magazines in the science fiction realms, the punk scene reimagined the zine as a way to promote underground artists and the creative energy surrounding the community. Most notably was the Riot Grrrl movement ( what ultimately inspired RUiN Mag), the underground feminist punk movement in the early 1990s that combined feminism, punk music, and politics.
While many women were unsure about what they stood for, bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile inspired these DIY zines to allow women to create their own space. They encouraged political statements about the issues women in the scene were experiencing first hand-- patriarchy, double standards, rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, and, of course, female empowerment.
Fast forward to today, the surge in social media use by Gen-Z, in particular, finds itself more focused on individual expression and creative environments. Just by taking a dip on TikTok, you can find users showcasing their journals, sketchbooks, and other artistic endeavors with upwards of a couple hundred thousand likes and views on each video. When the worldwide shutdown occurred in March and it was illegal to see friends who did not live in your immediate household, Gen-Zers took this opportunity to open the dialogue and use the Internet as a forum for open, genuine expression.
Many people were inspired by this, including 21-year old Neha Alety from Arizona and Reagan Thornley from Alabama, who started Juiced Magazine (@juicedzine).
“I was scrolling through TikTok ages ago and never really thought anything about it. However, during quarantine I was going through this life crisis thinking ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ I’ve always been into art and writing my whole life, but I never really pursued it. I contacted my friend Brooklyn and she connected me to Reagan, and we got a team together,” Neha said.
“Brooklyn and I actually met through Tumblr. She mentioned she was writing a playlist for this magazine and I privately messaged her letting her know I write and would be interested if the magazine was looking for more writers,” Reagan recounted. “It was just this off-chance meeting and taking a chance on a stranger on Tumblr.”
Although starting a zine can be intimidating at first, conceptualizing your zine and choosing the message and goal surrounding it can be the most rewarding part. Neha originally wanted to foster a super-inclusive community for artists to showcase their work and have a platform to talk about issues that were important to them, a core belief in the DIY scene.
“What’s great is that there are so many different zines that are doing the exact same thing, but they are all different in their own way with their own aesthetic,” Neha said.
Neha describes Juiced as fun, brightly colored couture, and eclectic. The team of eight love the effortless, ‘mod-podge’ style, but also bounce ideas off of other zines found through social media and ideas found through the zine origins. The main channels that they use are TikTok, Instagram, their website, and print, all of which help distribute their message and share their zine with the world.
Another individual inspired by the creative slump caused by COVID was 19-year-old Mina Johnson from Philadelphia who created the magazine, Pinnacle of Adolescence (@pinnacleofadolescence). In quarantine, Mina described herself referencing her teenage years and college experience, referring to them as the best times of her life now with the world on pause. This ultimately became the core of her magazine and the inspiration behind the name.
She said. “The whole goal of PoA is to highlight young creators who are in the best times of their lives. It was really important to me to have a team of creators from around the world that are in completely different places in life, but still feel like they’re at the pinnacle.”
Unlike Juiced and RUiN who have a small team of under ten, PoA has about 35 people in their creative team and is constantly growing.
Sticking to the roots of the music countercultures that inspired zines in the early 1990s, their most notable project is their “Bedroom to Billboard” series.
Mina said, “This project is super special because it highlights musicians who are going to school to pursue higher education and uses our platform to promote these students who are actively releasing music while simultaneously working towards a degree.”
As far as design aesthetic goes, Mina finds her own style going into each design.
She said, “my personal taste is kind of whacky and all over the place so I kind of wanted to reflect that in PoA.”
Even though zine culture started as a copy and paste aesthetic, Mina took a different approach and cultivated growing up in such a digital-focused age. Their magazine is completely digital and their graphics and posts reflect that as well.
Whether you’re in a creative rut and looking for a new outlet or just looking to spread bold, strong, and revolutionary ideas to the masses, consider joining the zine culture comeback. Now more than ever there are numerous design teams online that you can submit to with just a click of a button.