Alex Vissaridis is a busy guy – designer for Deliveroo by day, member of ShellsuitZombie and founder of Castle magazine by night. He also recently founded Studio Pizza, a collaboration with Sam Ailey through which to produce ‘tasty work’ they feel passionate about (amazing URL too). Their first project is WITH YOU, a zine made in response to the death (and life) of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington, aiming to raise money for the Samaritans. We caught up with Alex & Sam to find out more…
It’s a very natural urge to do something practical and creative when some trauma or the death of an important figure in our life occurs – is it something you’ve ever thought about before or acted on?
We’ve never undertaken a project in response to an event like this. Chester’s passing was the first time the death of a public figure felt so personal for both of us, and we naturally gravitated toward each other in the aftermath of it. We both remembered scribbling Linkin Park logos into our sketchbooks, scouring the web for demo tapes (before they were all on YouTube), and forming friendships off the back of a love for their music.
When Chester passed away, we felt a real connection with everyone writing about their own teenage experiences online. It felt like a generational thing. It might be a bit of a cliché, but we didn’t want these thoughts to remain online, and putting it all in a zine seemed like a natural way to preserve and share them in a creatively expressive format.
There’s been a bit of criticism of designers jumping on high profile deaths as an excuse to push their own portfolio – this very definitely does not feel like the case, but were you aware of that sentiment/potential for criticism and if so, did you do anything to avoid it?
It was absolutely on our minds, but the idea behind the zine was always to make it a platform for other people’s creativity, so we made the design deliberately simple and unobtrusive to allow the work of our contributors to stand out. It was never meant to be about us, and we certainly don’t expect to personally benefit from it. With You was conceived as a charity project by and for Linkin Park fans past and present, and hopefully that comes across in how we’ve presented it.
Another thing we had to be careful about was the fact we’d be dealing with the subjects of depression and suicide, and we wanted to make sure the project carried a positive and supportive message, without skirting around these issues. It was super important that the mental health charity involved would not only benefit financially from it, but also be fully aware of the idea and have final sign-off on its content, so we ran the finished zine past Samaritans before going to print and asked them to write the words for the final page. Their involvement has been key throughout and they were supportive of the project from the very start; before we even put the call out for submissions.
What was the response like when you put out the call for submissions? And how did you go about compiling and editing what was I imagine could have been quite a mixed bag of responses?
To make sure we had an element of control over the submissions, we asked people to send in written proposals first, along with examples of their previous work, which we sorted through before confirming people’s inclusion. There were a couple of submissions that we felt focused too heavily on his death, and a few others that felt a little closer to what you might consider fan art, but we were careful about the channels we used to spread the word, so in general, most of the proposals we received nailed the tone and style we were after.
We went into the project not wanting to have too much of an editing or art direction process, so once drafts started coming in, the only changes we requested were tonal, to make sure the zine felt like more of a nostalgic look back at growing up with Chester’s music than a eulogy.The colour palette is very limited – can you explain a bit about the aesthetic choices you made?
We’re both big fans of the unique aesthetic of risograph printing, and as we knew it would only be a short run, we were keen to make something that felt personal for the reader. The combination of red and black ink on grey stock was intended to mimic the cover art for Hybrid Theory, and by sticking to a limited colour palette we were also able to keep our production costs down.
We’d been introduced to Matthew at Friends in the Dungeon via an illustrator we’d worked with on another editorial project. He was really enthusiastic about what we were planning and the look we wanted to achieve. Plus he was just welcoming a new two-colour machine into his studio at the time, so it all just fell into place quite nicely.
The format is intentionally simple (and presumably affordable to produce) – was this to maximise profit for the charity? Did you always have a zine of this nature in mind?
Yeah, it was a fine balance between making sure the zine was affordable and accessible for everyone, whilst leaving a good margin to maximise our donation to Samaritans. We always had an A5 zine with a £5 cover price in mind, so the challenge was to try and keep our initial costs down. By making the final zine size a little smaller than A5, we were able to save a lot of money on paper costs, and opting for staple binding allowed us to save a little more. In the end each zine cost us only £2 to produce, which means at least £3 per sale goes to Samaritans.
We did however add a few “additional donation” tiers on the site for those who want to donate more. So you can add an extra £1, £3, £5, £10, £15 or £20 to the cover price, with 100% of these extra payments going to charity.