Zine making and learning

Zines are many things to many people. In our case we are using them to think about ways to learn and teach as well as record and document events and exhibitions in a creative way. While not all zines are regarded as unstructured and ephemeral, for us their spontaneous, open and DIY nature is an important characteristic: they provide great opportunities to communicate ideas with immediacy, express personal opinions and capture authentic responses.

Our approach builds on research around experiential learning and reflective learning, as well as drawing on themes of creativity, connection and participation that are recognised as important for new generation learners. We use them to create a learning environment that is creative, collaborative and fun.

For learning, we see zine making as allowing participants to:

  • Spend some time reflecting on something specific and responding to it
  • Assimilate, synthesise and present information
  • Consider ways to communicate via a flexible and tangible media
  • Focus on something with a purposeful outcome – eg to interview people or to think about an exhibition and select what resonates with them most
  • Learning about what they are listening to by selecting, writing up and creating
  • But all the while doing so on their own terms, through their own decisions when expressing their learning; in that sense it is student-centred

Participants also develop:

  • A sense of the publishing process by doing it – content collection, layout, printing and binding etc.
  • Concepts of content – what content can be – how it can illustrate stories, events and identities in different ways/what publishing is
  • A feel of InDesign – they do not need to be experts. (If they are they can move off the template.) All levels of users get the feel of thinking about layout and presentation of content
  • A feel of the act of publishing, which helps the learning process

We use zine making workshops in various ways:

  • Designing industry events around zine making so that panel discussions are distilled into a zine
  • Engaging sixth formers and local community with exhibitions and public programmes
  • Reporting on a week-long programme of events
  • Working with grief charity, grief encounters, for children
  • Workshop with students from diverse and minority backgrounds to examine their view of studenthood and their experience at university
  • Making a lasting record of University trips
  • Documenting a hack event at Makerversity from ideation day to 2 days of actual hack

See our recent zines section for an idea of our projects.

Content Briefing for participants

We provide a brief for participants. This includes information on:

  • How much content to gather, including guideline word counts
  • What form of content to gather (photos, illustrations, text, stories, Q&As, diary, journalistic pieces)
  • Where to store it for easy transfer
  • Being open to experimentation with content types
  • Aspects of headlines, etc.
  • Collecting comments from others; for example we brief on using tweets and getting participant quotes

We also include discussion on varieties of papers and ways to print and bind. For the sake of speed we generally keep this based on a printed item rather than hand crafting very much.


Our workshops tend to be about 2-3 hours for the making of the zine, or a day if we include content gathering and discussion. For other workshops we are gathering content and producing layouts on the go.

At times we run a briefing session with other zine makers or bring in a selection of zines to get people thinking about ways to express themselves in a few pages, and to learn about other approaches. We then allow them time to discuss ideas, gather content and return for the zine making workshop.

Planning and Editing

We use an outline flatplan, usually 16 pages as a basic size (for the A5 page size that is 4 sheets of A4 folded). Zine makers may be working on their own complete zine or working collaboratively with responsibility for a spread. If the latter, they are given specific tasks. For example at a week-long event, they may cover a day of events, or have specific people to interview.

Some editing goes on, but the concept is not about spending a lot of time polishing the text. Important though it is for publishing (and of course to some approaches to zinemaking), this sort of zine making is about immediacy of the response to what is happening. Editorial consistency is encouraged by the use of the Make a Mag templates, but this is often less important than letting participants bring their own approach to capture a session/event/moment or to mix and match a variety of ways of expressing their feelings and identities. Where we run zines for events, the aim is to give participants something to take away immediately as a more interesting and tangible reminder of or prompt for what went on during the event, so we do the complete process during the event to have final printed zines ready by the end.