The One-Page Zine As Brainstorming Tool

Earlier this year, I went to a Zine Fest Houston workshop where we learned to make a one-page zine out of a single sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Since then, I’ve incorporated these tiny zines into my development process for all animation projects.

Zine-making requires more attention and organized thought than drawing in a sketchbook, but it’s still looser and more exploratory than storyboarding. You have a limited drawing (or collaging) space, which forces you to choose mood over detail. And you only have 8 pages total to fill with artwork — a bitesize task. Even if you’re not sure where you’re headed, the sequential nature of a one-page zine — stemming from the physical need to turn a page to reveal more information — will encourage you to begin organizing your idea into some sort of visual progression, or narrative.

The folding works like so: [jpg / pdf]. Once you’ve folded it together, flip through the pages and number them in pencil. Then, unfold the sheet and flatten it out to make your artwork. You can make 8 individual drawings or collages, or you may choose to make 2-page spreads across facing pages. You may even decide to do a single 8.5″ x 11″ drawing (or “poster”) on the back of the unfolded sheet.

When I make a one-page zine with a specific animation project in mind, I set a timer for 30 minutes to add an additional layer of creative limitations; the artificial pressure encourages intensity. You may choose to spend more or less time on yours, but either way, make sure you give yourself a hard deadline for finishing. Doing this exercise as a timed challenge will short-circuit your usual thinking process, and may lead you to interesting visual ideas, solutions, or gags you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.

Dave Merson Hess

Dave Merson Hess

Dave has worked in independent animation as a director and composer. He's taught workshops and/or developed curriculum for film-arts non-profit Aurora Picture Show, Rush Process Fest, DIY Animation Club, Zine Fest Houston, comedy incubator BETA Theater, Houston Independent School District, and the arts-in-medicine programs at Texas Children’s Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Dave Merson Hess

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