Finding Your Theme

By Crystal Kazmierski

Discovering the right yearbook theme for your school in your year can be difficult. This unit will help you develop and mold new, creative theme ideas while still maintaining your sanity.


It’s August already, and the pressure is on to find a theme – an all-encompassing thread, a concept for a book that won’t even come out for several months. This is the burden of many a yearbook staff forced to settle on a theme just to have one in place. And often those themes have little to do with the school itself, much less the year.

Maybe it’s because we put too much emphasis on being cute and clever and not enough on simply telling the story of the year – with a style and personality that makes the book special and different from last year’s.

Look at any official “list of themes” and you’ll find a lot of expressions that many schools have used. But where can you go to find something original? Something that unifies the story not just of the year, but YOUR year. Something that is specific enough to be definitive, yet open enough to allow the book’s production to evolve as the year happens, not as it “needs” to happen to fit into a mold designed before school even started.

Finding a theme that is simple, communicative, flexible and fun should be the goal of every yearbook staff. With careful planning, a little inspiration, and a lot of imagination, you can learn to:

  • Pull new ideas out of thin air
  • Develop those ideas into a moldable personality
  • Carry out that personality in every area of a book
  • Keep all of your hair on your head

Crystal Kazmierski

With a background in commercial art, Crystal Kazmierski advises the Wings yearbook at Arrowhead Christian Academy in Redlands, Calif., and teaches design and photography at journalism workshops and conventions across the country. In 2000, Crystal was selected the National Yearbook Adviser of the Year by the Journalism Education Association (JEA). She was also awarded a Gold Key award in 2002 by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) and a Pioneer Award in 2007 by the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA). Under Crystal’s guidance, Wings has received multiple CSPA Gold Crown and NSPA Pacemaker awards; including winning a Yearbook Pacemaker 19 times in the last 20 years.