Brian Chung was working as a campus minister with the national Intervarsity Christian Fellowship a few years ago at the University of Southern California when he decided something was wrong with the Bible. (Don’t worry. It’s not what you think.)
Chung, now 30, would stand at the back of the room during Intervarsity events and hand out New Testaments. The reaction from college kids was always the same; they’d take the book and flip through the pages. Faced with small fonts and outdated language, they’d snap it shut, hand it back, or toss it, disinterestedly, in their backpack.
“That experience reminded me of getting my first Bible and finding the book to be really intimidating,” Chung says. “Even the first few pages are usually just descriptors or maps, and don’t draw you in with any stories. I thought there must be a better way.”
Chung, who studied graphic design in college, grew up in a Buddhist household but converted to Christianity in college. He met another Christian USC student at Intervarsity, also named Bryan Chung, who was studying animation and digital arts. The duo became friends, and eventually business partners. In 2016, they debuted their company Alabaster, a brand that has redesigned the Bible for the Instagram generation and expects to sell $900,000 worth of Bibles by the end of this year.
These are no ordinary religious books. They have that Kinfolk-inspired, vaguely Scandinavian vibe that has taken over coffee shops, fashion boutiques, and interior design Instagram. Their pages are clean and spacious, and the religious texts are placed next to photos that are solemn, yet alluring: forests of trees, mysterious caves, a de-petaled rose, mist above the ocean, a woman holding a candle.