September 2, 2003 / Design / Fall 2003

Guidelines for Clean Design

Written by Jo Hamm

You may be new to yearbook design or have students who are. Or, designing may be your favorite part of production and you have been doing it for years. Either way, a good grounding in basics is essential. Like those mazes with the start and finish points, fundamentals get you where you need to go — in this case, the creation of an appealing page that makes the reader want to linger over it.

These 10 guidelines for yearbook design are a good review for beginning and advanced designers. Beginners need to learn the basics and understand design concepts, while advanced designers need to remember what the rules are before they can bend or break them to develop fresh layouts.

10. Design in double-page spreads, not in single pages.
Have a picture, tool line or eyeline cross the center section, known as the gutter, to unite the pages.

9. Follow the column guides.
Choose a three-, four- or 10-column format to get started. Once you learn these basic layouts, you can branch out.

8. Use a dominant photo.
One picture on the spread should be two to two-and-a-half times larger than the others. Do not worry about not having enough pictures on a page if you do this. A bigger photo is much more eye appealing and will give the page a bolder look that most readers like. As a basic guide, five to seven pictures on a spread look nice. You could incorporate more photos with a quote sidebar if you must have more pictures.

7. Use consistent internal margins.
As a rule, you should have one-pica margins between all elements such as photos, copy blocks and graphics on a page. Sticking to the column guides will help you with this.

6. Each photo should have a caption, and that caption should touch the picture it describes.
Remember, the yearbook is a history book. Years from now those captions will be vital to regain fading memories. If there are more than five people in a photo, you do not need to identify each person except for team/group photos.

5. Do not stack more than two captions.
If the captions start piling on top of each other as you design, try putting a caption above a picture or to the side.

4. Do not put copy across the gutter.
Some of the letters or words could get lost in the fold.

3. The headline should connect to the story as a package for the spread.

Headlines should not be labels, such as Tennis or Prom. They should use journalistic format with a subject and verb. They should entice the reader, not merely label the page. Save labels for the tab folios — the page identification and page numbers at the bottom of the page.

2. Keep your heavy elements, such as pictures, to the inside and lighter elements, such as copy and graphics, to the outside.
Keep white space to the outside; do not trap it in the middle. Do not feel like you have to fill everything with pictures or copy. White space is good!

And, the number one thing to remember about yearbook design:
1. HAVE FUN! Once you learn all these basics, you can break the rules and go wild!

Good luck making your book a quality product for all readers!

Jo Hamm