This publication was born out of a project for ENGR 117: Expanding Engineering Limits — a course examining the impacts of culture, diversity, and gender within the field of engineering.
The project guidelines were broad and allowed students to tackle problems they resonated with via any project medium of their choice: the only outstanding requirement was to "analyze and design opportunities and strategies for cultural change in engineering."
Zine Layout & Design
Other non-design aspects of the project (project ideation, research, submission selections, etc.) were developed collaboratively with the rest of the team.
Uplifting Marginalized Voices
Our project focus was inspired by an academic article exploring the feelings of inadequacy that plague many college engineering students from first-generation, low-income, or immigrant backgrounds. The reading offers a hopeful perspective, proposing that their unique upbringings actually equip them with funds of knowledge (eg. distinct perspectives, lingual flexibility, empathy) that help them succeed in this field where factors like user-obsession and diversity allow for more innovative solutions to today's increasingly complex problems.
We wanted to communicate this message to other engineering students like ourselves and pass on the same sense of comfort and empowerment that we received while reading the article. To accomplish this, we decided to create a Zine (a compilation of original artwork or written pieces compiled for small-scale distribution) centered around the narratives of marginalized identities within the Stanford School of Engineering. We wanted to celebrate their upbringings and perspectives to (1) uplift the voices of our fellow classmates, (2) educate ourselves and the larger engineering community around us, and
(3) disrupt existing mindsets of "belonging uncertainty" within the field.
Throughout this process, some of my key design considerations were:
#1: THE ZINE'S TITLE
(be)longing (u)ncertainty was the creative title we used to convey a dual message: we wanted readers to confront the uncomfortable concept of belonging uncertainty as soon as they engaged with our Zine, but we also wanted our title to invoke a positive sense of empowerment — one which encourages readers to embrace their individuality and "be you." Although we had parenthetical isolations in place to highlight this duality, I mirrored the front and back covers to ensure that our message was apparent. Even if a reader missed the double-meaning in our title, a flip-through to the end would clarify our intent and reiterate our call-to-action.
#2: VISUAL THEMES & SYMBOLISM
While brainstorming the overall aesthetic for our project, the first image that came to mind was a dandelion — I envisioned the narratives within our Zine acting as individual dandelion seeds, blowing through our community to plant new mindsets affirming the experiences of our underrepresented peers. This image later blossomed into our floral visual theme: I used the dandelion for our cover design and paired a flower with each anonymous author. Each flower was distinct in design and color, representing the individuality and unbiased beauty of each author's unique perspective.
#3: PROJECT FOCUS
The point of our project was to highlight and amplify marginalized voices, so I implemented simple design elements to limit visual distractions and focus more attention on the content. For example, only two fonts are used throughout the Zine, and the more decorative style appears only within the cover and opening pages. Color is also used minimally to enliven the floral details, which were intentionally embellished with calm and muted hues.