Updated: Apr 2
Way before UnderBelly was a creative agency or an app, or really anything beyond a poorly strategized social media account, we published a 4-month run of weekly zines. The idea was simple: we wanted to start connecting with our target audience and have the opportunity to experiment with our brand. To say that launching the zine run was the best business move we ever made would not be an exaggeration. But I digress. The main point of this post is to persuade you that you should be making zines.
A zine ( pronounced ZEEN), in basic terms, is a DIY publication that originally became popular in the 1970s with the punk scene. But zines can be traced back all the way to the 1930s (here is an article with a brief history of zines). The punk roots of zines is part of the reason I love them so much. There are no rules to zines. No designated printing method, no size limitations, no criteria whatsoever. Today you'll find zines don't even need to be printed; electronic zines make it easier than ever to share your work. The second reason I love them? You can make them on the cheap.
As a creative agency, this flexibility, creative liberty, and financial feasibility is the dream trifecta. It means I can pitch a rad zine to clients with print budgets of $100 to $10,000 (for $10,000 you are going to get one WILD zine). Having something that is as bold and fun as a zine that I can pitch to all clients is a dream because, at the end of the day, no two zines are remotely alike.
When it comes to zines, the limit really comes down to your imagination. You can experiment with paper type, formats, binding, print method, folding styles, paper size, and more. Additionally, zines historically are meant to make a splash. This means that when we pitch zines to clients, we are able to start pushing on their comfort zones. The low-cost component of zines means that there is little risk of investment which allows you to experiment more. You can create a zine about a niche issue or idea or historical figure. Just take a peek at #zine on Instagram and you'll see what I am talking about.
Finally, it is easy to add a zine into almost anything and you will immediately improve your customer experience. I know that's bold but think about it. Imagine opening the box of the new yoga pants you ordered and inside is a little booklet about yoga poses to do while on your back-to-back zoom calls. Or attending a gallery opening (post-covid) and instead of a simple brochure, you get a zine that includes images from the gallery and an artist Q&A, and for whatever reason, a recipe for their grandma's bundt cake.
The key component when making a zine is to lean into the DIY side of it all. DIY can still be polished and clean, but it inherently feels human. It feels like someone made the zine and touched it. At the end of the day, our goal is to help remind our customers that there are very real people behind the curtain. And maybe make them laugh or feel something along the way.