Creating annual zines has been a pleasurable and unique experience whilst attending the University of Reading. It has been an appreciated and respected project due to collaborating with a range of creatives (within the department and on a wider scope) improving our editorial skills and most importantly, building essential skills for the world of design.
The ‘I am, we are…different by design’ Diversity Project is a student and staff partnership within the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. The team launched in October 2017 and has flourished with different members since. The 2019 Issue team included: Camara, Charlotte, Labiba, Liselot, Malaika, Martha and Seniz. We all had a view to engage with new ways to embed diversity in the BA Graphic Communication curriculum and evolve a stronger sense of community in the Department. As our team has only been running for three years, we are still in the early stages of developing and achieving all our aims to create change. However, this has not limited us in our accomplishments as we have successfully achieved a lot in these three years of collaborating as a team. One achievement included creating annual zines. The team has printed and distributed two issues so far with our third issue in the making.
The zine has been the most fulfilling part of our initiative so far. This is because we have had the honour to collaborate with several creatives from all departments in the School of Arts and Communication Design, as well as on a wider scope. As a team, we are all very dedicated in creating something that would inspire others. We were passionate about wanting to counterbalance the dominant western canon and encourage students to move beyond our ‘cultural comfort zones’. Therefore, we agreed that making a zine was the most effective way to start because it would enable us to share a range of perspectives and take advantage of our Graphic Communication skills.
Seniz and I took on the responsibility of co-leading the team in 2018-2019. We both had the intentions to make the second issue bigger and better, as we had taken on board the familiarity of the process involved from the previous leaders. The objectives of the ‘IAWADBD’ zine was to create awareness and celebrate diversity in our discipline.
The first issue was praised across the university and by broader individuals. However, we had received some feedback regarding the design of the zine. The content was ‘incredible’, but the design was very ‘text heavy’. Therefore, our intentions for the second issue was to include more visuals and a versatile grid for the layout. With Seniz and I co-leading the team, it was our responsibility to assign tasks to members of the team in order to successfully meet our print deadline.
Searching for content
The team had received more funding for our second zine compared to our first. Therefore, we all agreed that the best way to use the fund was towards the print budget in order to have extra pages. This was beneficial as we could explore more creatives to collaborate with, thus sharing more diverse and inclusive artwork to help build further awareness across our discipline. The development of making the zine started with our team discussing and brainstorming who and what we wanted to feature in the zine and why. We wanted to include work by people who were engaging with diversity in their practice or research. In particular, we wanted to showcase projects from across the School of Arts and Communication Design. I had expressed that it was: ‘difficult to search people that were creating something with the idea of diversity/culture behind it’. This was because from creating our first zine, we had recognized that diverse and inclusive artwork does not receive as much recognition compared to our ‘cultural comfort zones’.
However, we were determined to improve the second issue by discovering amazing content to share with everyone. Therefore, Seniz and I had advised each team member to find between 2-4 features for the zine, as well as constructing semi-structured interview questions for our features. While we were all searching for content across the university and social media, Seniz and I were responsible on the behalf of applying for ethical approval. This was essential to complete before we went onto conducting interviews. Searching for content demonstrated to be quite a lengthy process, as a few tasks had to be carried out together to ensure the process was being done correctly. However, it was all worthwhile as Seniz and I had gained further experience on the initial process to creating our second zine. Particularly, understanding the ethical approval stage was helpful for us as second years going into our final year of our studies.
Once our ethical request was approved, we progressed onto interviewing current students from all three departments in the School (Art, Film, Theatre & Television and Typography & Graphic Communication), researchers and graduates, as well as other practitioners with links to the University. This entailed us having to conduct interviews and communicate in a professional and respectful way, as we were interacting with professionals outside of the university community.
I had taken on the responsibility for designing the cover as this task was of significance to me. The team agreed that the second issues’ cover had to be bright and bold compared to the first issue. Therefore, I explored with a range of initial styles and colour palettes that I had shared with the team for feedback. One of the featured articles in our zine contained our department’s exhibition of Persian type. We thought it would be perfect to feature these illustrations on the cover as this would not only represent our department, but diversity as well.
Seniz was assigned to design our new, more versatile template on InDesign. It was important that styles and files were appropriately named to avoid confusion when sharing and working on each other’s files. This was challenging at times as broken elements within styles had to be altered from time to time. However, we all adapted our ways of working. When the template was created, we started editing the interview answers, creating a consistent and coherent tone of voice across the zine. As we agreed a less text-heavy zine will be more effective, a word count was introduced to help manage the space available per spread.
We wanted to include a range of colours to reflect inclusion but also give a vibrant feel to the zine. Different heading styles were designed appropriately to each article, giving each feature a unique feel for the reader, as well as improving the design compared to the first zine. Within the zine we also included photos of our team as we felt that this was a good way to showcase what we were doing to inspire other students to follow our footsteps.
Our team production days were to ensure the typesetting and design of the zine was consistent throughout. They also helped us to communicate through the final design stages, as well as dealing with any challenges that arose.
Co-leading the team had consisted of a lot of responsibility, such as keeping in regular contact with our supervisor, ensuring the team were attending our weekly meetings, briefing our team regularly, overlooking the completion of tasks by individuals and setting deadlines. This was good experience for both Seniz and I as we were out of our comfort zones and gained confidence in project management.
Our biggest success was managing to keep everything under control and achieving a remarkable final product. However, it was challenging to manage the team in getting tasks completed in time as everyone had different time schedules. Another challenge was ensuring the team had all produced consistent and well-organized work, this was time consuming.
We overcame our different time schedules by communicating regularly within our group chat to discuss with each other on appropriate and convenient times for meetings. To ensure we all produced consistent and well-organized work, a member of the team proofread the files and made corrections where necessary.
Overall, we are very proud of our outcome and of the ability to share it not just in the University but on a wider scale. Malaika shares that ‘considering the time we had it was amazing to see the outcome and how well it was received’. We were very pleased with all the positive feedback we received about the zine, such as one of the School’s diversity leads Lisa saying:
‘we are very inspired by the whole project and how we can expand it to other departments. The zine turned out so well!’.
We had also received wonderful feedback from Fricanduo co-founders and T&GC alumni, Ryzard and Mariam saying:
‘So happy we’ve got students leading projects like this. This is such a cool way to allow the diversity and individuality of students to shine through.’
This encouraged our team to continue the project and since 2019 we have been planning our third issue. We achieved getting funding from the University to assist us in resourcing materials, thus allowing us to print more copies to reach a wider audience. Furthermore, we are also planning on creating a digital web version of our third zine, which could be promoted on a range of different sites across the internet. With the leadership skills Seniz and I developed, we have been helping and guiding the new part 2 team leaders with our knowledge and skillsets when they’re in need of help or clarity. This has also assisted Seniz and I in advising the new team leaders what was previously successful and what we should do differently this year to make the third issue a success too. For example, we specified that organizing explicit roles to individuals and liaising frequently will help the team to keep on track with workload and successful completion for the deadline.
The zine represents students recognizing that the creative design field is lacking equality and inclusion and is our way of coming together to start a snowball effect of change. We understand that there is still so much work to be done for our industry to be where we think it should be, however this motivates us to carry on spreading awareness. We’re hopeful that when people from all spectrums come across our zine that our message is relayed and inspires others.