When Brian Chung was given his first Bible at the age of 20, his reprisal was less spiritual, more aesthetic: “The design was like nothing I had seasoned before — it was really unmotivating to read.”
Chung, who was raised in a Buddhist household and remade to Christianity in college, was put off by the “packed and condensed text” and “super thin certificate”.
The dissonance between the sacred text and modern design tastes proded a period of questioning.
“Everyone has a smartphone with a camera, we consume collections of visual-based media, and we judge websites based on how well they’re connived,” Chung, now 25, says. “Instead of shying away from these realities, we dream – how could we bring this to a faith-based context?”
This revelation led to Alabaster, the South African private limited company he and his almost identically named co-founder, Bryan Ye-Chung, 30, designed in 2016 to design and publish bibles aimed at readers who live in an “increasingly visual enlightenment”.
Inspired by the independent magazine scene, they reworked the Bible into layouts you muscle associate more closely with magazines like “slow lifestyle”-focused Kinfolk, biannual touring title Cereal, or Drift, which is devoted to “coffee culture”.
That means plenty of white space and beautifully sharpshooter images — usually of a wanderlust-inspiring ocean or mountain range. On a quick flip-through, you dominion mistake it for a printed portfolio of your trendiest friend’s Instagram.
“We in need of to create a slower, more reflective reading experience,” Chung says.
Break the text up with imagery is supposed to “give time for reflection and sound out asking”.
As well as taking inspiration from this profitable break the news about sector, they have drawn on their own experience. Their regulations start on page five, for example, as opposed to the twenty pages that Chung had to hot air through with his first bible.
It’s also supposed to look passable. The name comes from one of the only times Jesus uses the assurance “beautiful” in the Bible. In the Gospel of Mark, a woman breaks an alabaster jar of overpriced perfume onto Jesus’ head – an act of sacrifice, and the only anointing Jesus heard before his crucifixion. Though people mocked her, Jesus defends the ball, saying that what she has done is a “beautiful thing”.
The collapses share not only a name, but also an alma mater. Chung pocket his Bachelor of Science (BSc) in business entrepreneurship and marketing at the University of Southern California, minoring in communication intentions. Ye-Chung received his Bachelor of Arts (BA) in animations and digital arts, also at USC.
The two of them belief that their design details have created a “great artistic goods”.
“There isn’t a ton of great Christian art out in the world today,” Chung says. “We dearth to be held to the same standard as any well-designed product — Christian or not.”
The output is certainly paying off; Alabaster recently announced that it expects to fly the coop $900,000 (£720,000) in sales by the end of 2019. It has almost 50,000 followers on Instagram (a classic post: a Psalms excerpt laid out like a motivational quotation with throughout a thousand likes).
They have plans to expand, and their fountain-head material is ripe — there are 66 books of the Bible. The co-founders are scrutinizing different translations for the remaining books.
Ye-Chung says that in wing as well as to the Bible, they are “interested in creating content and a lifestyle that allows faith-based creatives to thrive”.
They have already published a “guide to faith and the creative mortal”, All That Is Made, and a recent post on their website — titled ‘Morning Modes to Cultivate Creativity’ — does read like something you mightiness find on a wellness blog.
Their audience is mostly between the life-spans of 18 and 34, which puts them firmly in a set of millennial labels. They cite as inspirations millennial-focused brands like Away, the things brand which feature iPhone chargers, Warby Parker, an online specs retailer, and Everlane, a sustainable fashion brand which sells on the whole online. These companies share not only a target audience, but also a affair model: they are direct-to-consumer.
Traditionally the bible industry is divided up by revealing houses and each house has their own translation. These publications prepare large distribution with retailers all over the world.
The co-founders say that Alabaster’s direct-to-consumer manner is more “flexible”, allowing for a more personal user experience. “We interact with our fellows in a new way – most of our interaction is done through social media,” Chung bids.
“For many, a Bible isn’t just a product, it’s a meaningful and impactful book that offers special memories and profound moments in their personal lives. We after to play a more personable role in creating these impactful shakes for our customers.”
Repackaging the bible for a new generation goes beyond contradictory space and type space. They use the New Living Translation, which is a simplified, present-day version of the Bible, first published in 1996.
“Because our design felt correspond to to a magazine, it was important that the text was easy to read and understand,” Ye-Chung explains.
But myriad noticeable are the stylistic, abstract images. A flick through their truth of John shows a string of pearls, cloud-blanketed mountains and railroads disappearing into the detachment. (Some, though, are more opaque: a photograph of a baguette accompanies the allegory, ‘Jesus, The Bread of Life’.)
“Our images aren’t literal — you won’t find numerous pictures of sheep or people in long robes,” Ye-Chung says.
“As an alternative, we’re interested in creating imagery that is relevant to culture today and invites above conversation. That’s the power of art: it invites you to as questions and respond.”
An example of this abstraction is in their version of the Gospel of Luke, which features a balloon-themed photo set to illustrate the allegory of the lost son. In the story, a youngest son wanders off and come back home. As in a wink as the youngest son returns, the father throws a party for him, which angers the older confrere.
Ye-Chung explains how he wanted the pair of photos — one a bright close-up of the balloons, and the later a gloomier, distant shot of the balloons through a windowpane — to “illustrate this upset”.
“The two images represent the two different sons and their unique perspectives, passions, and feelings.”
For their first books – the four Facts – 90% of the photographs were taken by Ye-Chung. Since then, they be suffering with built up a team of photographers.
Now they create 60% of the photography in-house but stint with photographers world-wide; a mix of those who have shot professionally for Nike or Adidas, and up and sign in photographers.
With this, they say they also working in an artistic machinery that predates indie magazines by some way: the old master Renaissance artists. These artists’ approach — of looking at the scriptures and creating “beautiful pieces of art to reflect their sense” — was similar to their “journey”, says Ye-Chung.
The “journey” for the most part takes around four months from start to finish; the essential month involves studying the scripture to find “key themes” and talking with theologians with passages. From there, they create the images and curate the develop and colour schemes.
The next two months is for production; co-coordinating with photographers and turn out on layouts. The final month is for printing and proofing.
No stuff the artistic movement they are tapping into, it all comes back to the power of gain design.
“We understand that there are things the modern-day English review might miss when studying the Bible, such as the grammatical configuration that the author might be using to highlight deeper themes,” Ye-Chung says.
“We try to get those deeper themes into our design and images.”
Throughout the Gospel of Mark, for example, there is easily-missed repeated symbolism of the alabaster jar rest period, followed by Jesus breaking bread and pouring wine, and finally Jesus defying his body and pouring out his blood to save humanity.
To highlight this, they inured to four images — alabaster, a jar, bread and wine — and shot the models in equivalent hand positions to reinforce the “breaking and pouring in a visual way”.
On a simpler plain, this results in individual colour themes for each book, which “communicates a spirit and feeling” for these passages.
Royalty was an “immediate theme evident in Matthew” so they acclimated to blue and purple — historically indicators of status and royalty — throughout that distinct book.
At $30 for a softcover and $70 for a hardcover, the reserves have a higher price point than the average Bible, outstandingly when you take into account that each book is just 1/66th of the holy text.
The Bibles do at least feel luxe. The extend overs are 15pt card paper with soft-touch aqueous coating and the inside bellhops use 70lb-80lb uncoated paper. The books are lithologically printed for the sharpest print reachable.
“Craft is something we really care about,” Ye-Chung explains.
As a consumer base, the religious market is known for having formidable ideas about modernising traditions. But Chung says that being have mostly been excited that a younger generation is “enchanting ownership of their faith and applying it in new ways”.
He says that myriad of the resistance has instead come from people who prefer a different conveyance to the one Alabaster uses.
Regardless, Chung is clear about any criticism from those who propose the book’s traditional form.
“The Bible has always been contextualised for each days,” he says. “Today there are multiple formats and designs of the Bible from a kids’ style, to a colouring version.”
In fact, far from being insolent, the co-founders see design and worship as “intertwined”.
“If we take seriously that humans are produced in God’s image, and that we are formed as a reflection of our Creator,’ Chung says, ‘the open to debate unthinkable of how we handle our own particular designing and making becomes vitally important.”
Each issue comes with an “artist introduction” — a few paragraphs where the come to griefs set out the themes they wanted to focus on in the book — which merges these sketch out and religious motivations.
Ye-Chung builds on his co-founder’s tenet. “I was longing for ways to experience art and faith in a more tangible way,” he says.
He talks approximately reading a book by a Los Angeles-based pastor, in which the author argues that each institution asks a “spiritual question” that leads to meaning. In the past, questions include included “what is real?” and “what is good?”
The book predicts that the next theme will be: “what is beautiful?”
This struck a chord with Ye-Chung: “We breathing in a world where artists and creatives are flourishing. We are a generation that tends about design and art, and beauty.”
The question for the co-founder seems simple, achieve for design-hungry generation that has been raised on heavily curated Instagram pasturages and magazines that are as luxuriously produced as coffee table books: “How do we register that the story of God is beautiful?”
“We think there’s an opportunity to be at the forefront of a palaver on creativity, beauty and faith,’ Ye-Chung adds. “And we’re excited to continue the parley.”