June 22, 2009 / Theme

Theme planning starts with brainstorming

Written by Jim Jordan

Developing the concept often seems easier than the process of coming up with good theme ideas.

If a theme is going to have a wide range of appeal, it should evolve from brainstorming by the entire yearbook staff. Follow these guidelines:

Session One

  1. Hold the brainstorming sessions away from the chaos and interruptions of the yearbook room.
  2. Sit in a large circle, appoint a recorder.
  3. Record all ideas, without comments.
  4. Each group member should have at least half a dozen magazines to flip through for ideas if necessary.
  5. After listing several ideas from about a half-hour intense session, consider the following differences between this school year and the last one:
  • What is the mood of the students this year?
  • What changes have occurred since the previous year?
  • What outside influences have affected the students or school?

Session Two

  1. Eliminate, by general consensus, those brainstorming ideas that most likely will not work.
  2. Narrow the choices down to two or three concepts that seem to have the greatest appeal.
  3. Work each concept into a slogan that is current.
  4. Again, using the brainstorming technique, come up with ideas to relate the general theme idea to each section of the book, as well as to the school year and year in general.

Session Three

  • Don’t copy a theme from another yearbook because if it is really good, others have already seen it.
  • Don’t use slang, movie, magazine or television titles. They might be outdated by publication time or seem too “forced” to make them tie in with your book/school.
  • Don’t use copyrighted materials. The legal concerns usually aren’t worth the trouble.
  • Don’t overdo mascot and school-spirit themes which may develop into “preaching” to readers.
  • Don’t rehash trite phrases that can’t be related to readers and the specific year and school.

One of the major purposes of having a theme is to attempt to capture the essence of the year through some phrase or concept. The greatest difficulty is that you must project this summer before the book actually comes out. To help pinpoint a focus a focus it is helpful to analyze facts about your audience, the school and the time period. List as many ideas as you can in each category.

Facts about your school/school profile
(location, demographics, size)
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Recent changes at your school
(Schedule, curriculum, size)
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Changes in your school’s environment
(construction/reconstruction, if no changes, are there andy unique physical characteristics of your school?)
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Current trends that are affecting students
(political involvement, environmental awareness, etc.)
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Causes students are supporting
(political involvement, environmental awareness, etc.)
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Common phrases students are using
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Clothing styles and trends
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

School anniversaries, honors, awards, etc
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Hot movies, music, phrases, etc
_______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________

Jim Jordan
Jim Jordan

Jim Jordan is a Special Consultant for Walsworth Yearbooks and the host of the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast. He is former yearbook adviser at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, California. Jim was the 1996 JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year, and shares his expertise with students and advisers at workshops and conventions across the country. Jim is the lead mentor for Walsworth's Adviser Mentor Program.