April 22, 2000 / Design / Spring 2000

Beyond the Basics

Written by Ann Horner

Exploration, planning key to enhancing yearbook design.

Yearbook staffs are always looking for ways to move beyond the rules of basic design in order to achieve a more fresh and dynamic yearbook. One of the first steps in that direction can be as simple as picking up one of today’s trendy magazines for inspiration and ideas. The hot designs found in magazines like Vogue and GQ can easily be adapted for yearbook. Staffs just need to know the best way to get from point A to point B. All it takes is the right approach and careful planning.

Ask the following questions and consider the answers to determine if your yearbook staff is ready to move beyond basic design:

Q: What do you want your yearbook to accomplish?

A: If your staff wants to create a yearbook they can be proud of in May and still be proud of at the 10-year reunion, it must reflect the year at your school in a positive way. The book must look different than any yearbook produced before. An innovative year-book must compete with everything teens look at daily; it has to break new ground.

Q: Where can innovative new design be found?

A: Observe everything that permeates society. The best ideas come from magazines, advertisements and the media in general.

Q: What are the elements of an effective, well-designed spread?

A: Some basic rules of design must be followed on every spread just t o make the overall yearbook more reader-friendly. Good, crisp, uncluttered design is always in vogue. Components that should be utilized on every spread include a dominant photo, consistent typefaces, a headline, body copy and some graphic element that ties it all together.

Q: What will separate your yearbook from the ones sitting on the shelves?

A: A superior yearbook should illustrate progress. It should be better than those that have come before it. The challenge is to produce a yearbook that looks professional and, above all, looks more like a magazine.

Q: When you are inspired by something in a magazine or other publication, how can it be adapted to make it your own in your yearbook?

A: When looking at a design, you must constantly think about the purpose of the section where you want to apply it. Think about the elements that have to be in that segment of the book, things like group shots, scoreboards or mug shots. With these in mind, adapt the ideas you see to your book. It is very much a trial-and-error process to creatively adapt the elements you like.

Q: How do you know when your design is right?

A: When you look at your mock layout and you can no longer complain about any element contained within, it is done. Graphically, it should grab your attention. The reader’s eye should move around the spread and be satisfied.

Flexibility is the key to innovative new yearbook design. Although the chief elements will change from spread to spread within a section, it is important to maintain the same overall look. When designing a yearbook package, each section of the book must work as a concept, and each section’s concept must fit into the unified whole of the yearbook.

From Inspiration to Implementation

The Talon staff at Highlands Ranch High School, Highlands Ranch, Colo., challenged themselves to elevate the design of their 2000 yearbook. In planning the design for book, the staff set specific goals for each section and then searched for inspiration to carry out those goals. For example, the staff came up with several specific guidelines and considerations when discussing the design of the clubs and academics section. They were as follows:

1. The section has to include group shots.
2. Multiple items will be covered on each spread.
3. Some clubs may not have initiated any events prior to the time the pages are submitted.
4. Sometimes it is difficult to capture really good action photos.
5. Traditionally, this has not been an exciting section of the yearbook.

Having agreed upon those guidelines and considerations, the staff then identified ways to enhance the clubs and academics section. To achieve variety, the staff determined:

1. The section needed a graphically strong and varied design.
2. Spreads within the section must contain up to three group shots.
3. Each spread may have from one to three different stories of varying lengths.
4. Some clubs or activities may have only one photo.

With all of this in place, the staff then went on a scavenger hunt for design examples that fit the above guidelines and considerations. They eventually found their inspiration in the November 1999 issue of Vogue magazine. Specific design ideas were drawn from the magazine’s “People Are Talking About” department.

Ultimately, the staff determined that the following design elements from the magazine could be adapted for use in their yearbook:

1. Graphic bar used as a separator.
2. Lowercase letter for story starter.
3. Headline type, size and treatment.
4. Topic label on dominant photos.
5. Captions reversed out of photos.

Shown along with examples from Vogue that served as an inspiration are the yearbook spread designs that emerged. By applying the right approach and with careful planning, the Talon staff was able to achieve a strong, unified design for the clubs and academics section.

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Ann Horner