Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook cover

Theme: Organized Chaos

Adviser: Katie Zawacki

Editor: Lauren Comitor, Sofia Hossain and Allison Mariotti

Walsworth representative: Jennifer Curts

After construction, a new bell schedule and other changes, the Ambassador staff wanted to make sense of the lives of students at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. The theme “Organized Chaos” provided a structure for the staff to do just that. Using clean, simple design with graphic details and seemingly random type treatments, the staff created a clear visual plan for its book. Working together, the visual and verbal messages in the yearbook leave readers agreeing with the staff: high school life is crazy, but there is always underlying organization. A blueprint of the campus on the cover, in white on a blue background, provides a hint at the changes going on at the school. The cover invites readers into the book with a fun, clearly presented theme concept that is obviously relevant to this school year at this school.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook endsheet


The negative image of the blueprint on the cover appears on the endsheet. The fonts used on the cover are used to list the sections of the book. In keeping with the structure of the theme, “Organized Chaos,” each section has a two-word title with the adjective, noun construction. These spin-off titles highlight a contrast inherent in the section’s content. For example, “Simple complication” is the section spin-off title for the student life section and “Voluntary obligation” is the title of the clubs and organizations section.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook title page

The graphics used on the cover are repeated here, but with the blueprint image in blue on white instead of white on blue. Essential title page information is printed running along the ruler at the top of the page. This presentation clearly brings the visual and verbal elements of the theme into the book.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 2-3


The copy on the two-spread opening details the beginning of the school day: the ringing of bells, the rush to class, the ways students spend the time they have before class. The Ambassador staff used this portion of the day — organized down to the second by bells, but as chaotic as a school day can get — to illustrate its theme: “Organized Chaos.”

The design plan introduced on this spread is continued throughout the theme development pages in the book. The first word of each paragraph of theme copy has been set in the decorative font used on the cover and endsheets. These paragraphs were carefully worded so the words in display type would add to the mood and tone of the spread.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 4-5


The second spread of the opening continues the copy that was begun on the first. The staff introduces the theme “Organized chaos” by taking the narrative of the first few minutes of a school day beyond the literal.

The three spreads that follow the opening theme spreads present full stories about three major changes at Adlai E. Stevenson High School for the 2008-2009 school year. A shortened passing period, a new email system and seating changes set the stage for a school year full of adjustments that often walked the line between organization and chaos.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 50-51


Time is a major underlying concept in the theme, “Organized Chaos.” This spread uses the number of seconds in a day — 864,000 — to frame the “Simple complication” of life. This divider follows the same design plan as the rest of the dividers in the book. The blueprint in the background signals to readers that this spread is a divider and the design plan adds to the consistency of the Ambassador’s theme development.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 88-89


The clubs and organizations divider carries the idea of “Organized Chaos” into the hours students spend at school after the last bell. “They engage in discussions outside the realm of an everyday curriculum. They interact with people beyond their day-to-day traveling and they volunteer for the opportunity to explore new paths,” the copy says. The contradiction of the section’s title — “Voluntary obligation” — is wrapped up in the last sentence of the copy: “The obligations after school organize the chaos of life during school.”

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 124-125


As on the other dividers, the staff has chosen one photo to fill the left-hand page of this sports divider. The photo, of a football player on the bench, illustrates the section’s title — “Painful bliss.” Three other photos, all squares, generalize this spread to encompass the entire sports section. Notice how the fonts, background and coffee stain graphic make it clear to readers that this is a theme page and that it is from the 2009 Ambassador.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 164-165


Details on spreads that are not traditionally “theme development spreads” add to the theme throughout the 2009 Ambassador. “Organized Chaos” is shown through the pairing of clean, simple design with more random type treatment and graphics. The sidebar on this spread takes readers step-by-step though a volleyball serve. This highlights the theme by giving readers (and volleyball spectators) organization to the chaos of a volleyball game.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 246-247


The 2009 Ambassador addresses the organization underlying the chaos of high school life. For example, this spread focuses on organizing what it is to be a junior at this school. Information from the favorite required reading books of juniors to the things students are looking forward to during senior year is presented in an organized fashion. These graphs and lists of information taken from a survey present an organized view of the chaos that is junior year. Similar spreads appear with the mug shots of each grade in the people section.

Adlai E. Stevenson High School yearbook pages 365

In this one-page closing, the Ambassador staff stayed true to the plan set up on the theme pages throughout the book. The same fonts used on the cover, endsheets, dividers and story headlines are repeated, colors are consistent and, more subtly, the photo chosen for the background fits the mood and style of the dominant photos used on divider spreads.

Notice the use of the section titles in the closing copy. It is clear because of the type treatment that these words should be recognized from earlier in the book. This use of the section titles in the closing works because the copy does not seem forced. Instead, the titles fit seamlessly into what the staff set out to tell readers.