Steampunk Research Information/Article for Double-Page Spread

What had once been a sub-genre has become a style and culture unto itself. While steampunk had previously been just an idea of an alternate history it has evolved into its own fashion, art movement, and way of life. Spurned on by so much fantastical and inventive imagery born from authors such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Tim Powers, and K.W. Jeter, fans were inspired to bring life to the beauty and technology of the steampunk genre by way of art and fashion.

The subculture steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used, typically the Victorian Era and the Edwardian Era, that incorporates prominent elements of science fiction and fantasy. A modicum of fantasy is necessary because steam alone simply will not do enough to fulfil the visions of most authors and artists.

The basic premise of steampunk is that the Industrial Revolution either didn’t happen or happened differently, so instead of combustion engines and coal, clockwork and steam power the world. Time travel, steam power, clockwork, airships, goggles, mad science, and Victorian-inspired fashions are common tropes in steampunk, although there is a lot of flexibility there. Steampunk has been described by others as, what the past would look like if the future had happened sooner. An alternate timeline in history if the industrial revolution had not happened.

Many of the visualisations of steampunk have their origins with, among others, Walt Disney’s film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), including the design of the story’s submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew’s underwater gear; and George Pal’s film The Time Machine (1960), with the design of the time machine itself. This theme is also carried over to Disney’s theme parks in the designs of The Mysterious Island.

The word steampunk itself comes from science fiction novels. It was allegedly coined by author Kevin Jeter as a way of distinguishing him and fellow tetro-tech sci-fi writers from future-loving “cyberpunks” like William Gibson. But it’s grown into a whole visual style, and even a philosophy. It’s all about mixing old and new: fusing the usability of modern technology with the design aesthetic and philosophy of the Victorian age. Or as US young fiction author Caitlin Kittredge put it: “It’s sort of Victorian-industrial, but with more whimsy and fewer orphans…”

The popularity of the subculture lead onto many modern-day influences such as TV series like the BBC’s latest Sherlock Holmes adaptation and US thriller Warehouse 13 owe a debt to steampunk style in their mixing of the 19th and 21st Centuries, as do the later Harry Potter films. There are video games, like the highly acclaimed Bioshock, featuring an undersea world of diving bells and orphan girls.

Steampunk has created a massive impact in product design. It has reignited a love of “old fashioned” materials: brass and copper, wood, glass, mechanical workings, ornate engraving. It has also co-opted the re/upcycling aesthetic in its love of the old, the repaired, the reworked and the imperfect. This refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures, that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style.

Steampunk music is very broadly defined. Abney Park’s lead singer Robert Brown defined it as “mixing Victorian elements and modern elements.” There is a broad range of musical influences that make up the Steampunk sound, from industrial dance and world music to folk rock, Punk cabaret to straightforward punk, Carnatic to industrial, hip-hop to opera (and even industrial hip-hop opera), darkwave to progressive rock, barbershop to big band.

Fashion styled with steampunk has no set guidelines but tends to synthesize modern styles with influences from the Victorian era. This may include bustles, corsets, gowns, and petticoats; suits with waistcoats, coats, top hats, tailcoats and spats; or military-inspired garments. Steampunk-influenced outfits are usually accented with several technological and “period” accessories: timepieces, parasols, flying/driving goggles, cogs wheels and even ray guns.

Modern accessories like cell phones or music players can be found in steampunk outfits, after being modified to give them the appearance of Victorian-made objects. Post-apocalyptic elements, such as gas masks, ragged clothing and tribal motifs, can also be included. Aspects of steampunk fashion have been anticipated by mainstream high fashion, the Lolita fashion and aristocrat styles, neo-Victorianism, and the romantic goth subculture.

The culture of steampunks fashion has created a massive cosplay background this has been blowing up recently. There are events for this such as the well-known San Diego Comic-Con International with the Saturday of the four-day event being generally known among steampunks as “Steampunk Day” and culminating with a photo-shoot for the local press. Steampunk is growing day-by-day will this become more than just a subculture? Only time will tell.

Cosplay Examples

Steampunk Styled Locations

Truth Coffee, a steampunk café in Cape Town

Paris metro station “Arts et Métiers”

Paul St George’s Telectroscopeinstallation at London City Hall


Icon – Cosplay photoshoot images, gears and cogs

Symbol – Gears and cogs, top hat, welding goggles, pocket watch

Index – Steam out of machinery like steam train, sound of machines, Insides of a pocket watch movement of gears along each other

Signifying Practises

The people who follow the subculture steampunk are characterised by what they wear like most subcultures this consist between things such as petticoats, suits with waistcoats, top hats, tailcoats, welding goggles and pocket watches. The steampunk subculture is considered more of an art style or fashion sense which mostly appears at cosplay events due to the subculture being more of a modern-day thing which you may know means you won’t really see this in public in this generation as world-wide subcultures such as punk, rockers and mods aren’t really around anymore.

General Ideas

Title ‘Steampunk’ may have some steam effects on the word ‘steam’.

Main illustration idea is cogs and gears system centered on the cover page.

Sub illustration idea is a steampunk styled globe representing the love of the subculture around the world.

Featured page quotes for example “History of Steampunk – pg 89”

Uses of 19th century styled metals to work as a thin strip border such as Copper, Nickel and Brass.

Background to be a soft looking leather material dark blue to work along with the border as a colour theme.

Title to be same colour/metal look as the border.

Drop Cap with clipping mask of Steampunk styled cogs and gears.

Quotes that work along with the paragraphs so they’ll be embedded.

Diagonal cut to right hand page for the featured image which will be something to show off the subculture such as modern-day cosplay.

Layout Idea Sketches

Front Cover:

Double-Page Spread:

Creative Review Research

Old creative review style:


New Creative review style:



Front cover

Height – 247mm

Width – 249mm

Double-Page Spread

Height – 247mm

Width – 498mm