The Alabaster Co. has been integrating visual imagery and thoughtful design into different books of the Bible for the past eight years. By complementing each verse with a corresponding photo or visual design, the aim is to be visually elegant as well as thought-provoking. Photo courtesy Alabaster Co.

The Bible done differently

  • April 19, 2024

In a world where having access to a Bible is as easy as opening up your phone, I figured I would never again need to dust off the physical copy stored away and collecting dust on a shelf somewhere in my house. Nonetheless, I fondly remember my trek to the bookstore the week before I moved out to attend college to pick up a pocket copy to take with me. 

While it did get the occasional flip-through while I was at school, the majority of its time was spent in a similar spot in my new new digs as that of the one from my house: stored away, out of view and, in a sense, out of mind as well. 

The habit of using a digital Bible continued through my first year of studies, and I assumed once again that this would forever be the case — until I moved back home for Christmas break in December of 2021. It was there on Christmas morning that I was presented with a gift from my father that would change the way I understood Scripture entirely.

Just under the cover of the wrapping paper hid a beautiful 7.5 in x 9.5 in, softcover book in bright matte white that read “Book of Isaiah, Alabaster Co.” atop a photo of the skyline sitting above a group of clouds. Upon further inspection, it was indeed a book containing all 66 chapters of Isaiah, complete with stunning visual imagery on every page. My first thought, apart from, “Did my Dad just buy me a Bible picture book?” was, “Who could have thought of such a thing?” 

“Our co-founder Brian Chung, who studied marketing and business, had this dream over a decade ago where after he had just become Christian, he was reading a traditional, leather-bound, thin-paper Bible. His thought at the time was, ‘How could the Bible be designed differently?’ ” said Samuel Han, head of brand and creative director at Alabaster Co. 

After reflecting alongside his friend Bryan Ye-Chung years later, the two co-founded Alabaster Co., a company that has been integrating visual imagery and thoughtful design into different books of the Bible since 2016. They had toyed with the idea of combining faith and beauty through different mediums such as websites or magazines but decided that an artistic representation of books of the Bible was something that had never been done before. 

Aesthetically, each book is something to behold. Printed by Hemlock Printers in British Columbia, each book is lithographically printed on a 15-point cover that gives each book a smooth feel in your hands as you read. On the inside, each verse is met with a corresponding photograph or visual design that is equally elegant as well as thought-provoking. 

“It challenges our viewers to try to think a little deeper about maybe why this image is placed as opposed to it just being a beautiful image,” Han said.

“For each Bible book that we explore, we consult a few different Bible scholars that we have been connected to through ministry, seminaries and organizations,” Han said. “We look at key moments, narrative themes that are happening in each book and build it out from there. Once we start to build out on that, we look at what type of imagery motifs we could use and what colours we can highlight from a design standpoint.” 

For example, he recalls his time working on the design for their rendition of the Book of Exodus. After toying with the idea of using warmer tones to convey the sense of fear and uncertainty, it was pointed out to him that many key narrative moments in the book happen around bodies of water, which led to the use of cooler tones. 

That creative process, combined with the entirety of the photography and page layout takes close to half a year for each book, and the purposeful intent shines through while you flip from page to page. The Alabaster Co. team, stationed across North America in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto, has completed 24 books of the Bible so far, from both the Old and New Testaments. The books can be purchased individually or in specific sets, such as the Gospels set, which I received as a gift the following Christmas. The team is also beginning to branch out and create self-written subject-based books such as Bible studies.

The praise expressed for Alabaster’s thoughtfully crafted spin on Scripture has been shared by a variety of media, with the company being featured in The Washington Post, Vox, Fox News and countless others. 

“While the press stuff was exciting, we get a lot of feedback from our customers with people telling us that they haven't explored reading the Bible since they were a kid, but because of this they have again. We’ve even had non-Christians say that they never thought the Bible could look like this, and because of that, they choose to read it,” Han said. “I think that there's a whole spectrum of people who are exploring the Bible and experiencing God in a new way and that's been the most exciting part for me.” 

With the inclusion of Alabaster Co.’s books in my life, I have found myself as one of the people Han refers to who is experiencing God’s word in a new way. While I still find the time to crack open the old-school hardcover Bible, there’s no denying that the combination of stunning imagery and premium craftsmanship makes Alabaster’s Bible collection a unique and beautiful experience. 

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