September 27, 2008 / Coverage / Design / Fall 2008

What’s hot – What’s not

Written by Lisa Wingo

Start with magazines, clothing styles and colors to track trends.

Pressure drives staffs each year to find a theme that ties together visuals and words for consistency, yet punches through to create innovation. Moving beyond the theme to determine and embrace trends confounds not only the best of seasoned advisers but even professional designers.

Advisers can take heart. Yearbook staffs are full of teens creating a publication for teens. They usually will know what is trendy and cool and what is not. Trust them, but give them some direction. That is the recommendation of a few yearbook advisers whose yearbooks, or who themselves, have recently won national awards.

Jim Jordan, 27-year adviser of the Decamhian at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, Calif., said he sees a few basic yearbook approaches that are popular now.

“There seem to be three major camps of yearbook: no sections with every spread an individual creation; ones with tiny stories, scatter stories; and ones that are ultra-modular with tons of white space. Then some are hybrids of all of that.”

Jordan said also popular now are mini-mags (remember those?)and foldouts or booklets.

Jordan suggested one way to find trends is to have your staff look at fashion magazines, paying special attention to colors that will be popular during the next couple of seasons.

“What colors are hot? Get a sense of that. Is it electric blues and oranges, or subdued earth colors?” he said.

One of his favorite websites for trends is The site contains nearly 200 pages of JPG thumbnails from professional publications.

Becky Tate, adviser of the Indian at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kan., said she sees varied yearbook trends based on region, philosophies of advisers and need for book sales.

“Some follow a more free-form pattern, with coverage of not as many kids. Others include lots of modules, which will include a lot more people and might help sell more books,” Tate said.

This means a push-pull between “art versus information.” Tate suggested advisers and students find magazines that mirror which approach a school or staff plans to follow, though she leans toward information, as she believes a book should be accurate historically and include as much detail as possible.

Professional influence

For 38-year — now retired — yearbook veteran Sandy Jacoby, it was the movement of the people and bold colors in the designs of the first generation of iPod commercials that most caught her attention. Jacoby said she started to see how the professional design trend of “maximalism” began to seep into high school publications.

“Solid color with the silhouette backgrounds with black…3D, layering. When you see Coke (ads) or watch The Food Channel or Old Navy (ads) it’s maximalistic stuff. Maximalism is moving forward. Whether it speaks to teenagers (consciously), I’m not sure. But look at their T-shirts — that’s maximalism,” Jacoby said.

Jacoby now works as a mentor in a program sponsored by the Journalism Education Association that provides guidance for new publications advisers, and spends time teaching at workshops and national journalism conventions. There, she sees some maximalism, which has been popular in professional media design since around 2003, but most often she sees the more established trend of minimalism.

“You see typography bounce back to large fonts, edging in minimalism… space waiting to be filled,” she said. In contrast, maximalism is “heavy retro, scrapbooking” opulence and luxury.

Jacoby’s take on design, she said, largely is influenced by her oldest son, who was once editor-in-chief of her former yearbook Classic at G.N. Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis. Kregg Jacoby, 31, now works as an art director at Abelson-Taylor advertising agency in Chicago.

“Good design is always good design,” Kregg Jacoby said.”With maximalism, it tends to look interactive. It’s happening with (a look that’s) hand drawn, vintage, an explosion of shapes and colors, natural media” “To start that approach, he suggests looking for new patterns, but also finding “balance” and “knowing when to stop.”

“Sometimes it’s too much,” he said. “And it’s tipping past the point of ‘cool.’ (You must) convey information through art…something that’s cool should have a purpose, a core idea. What’s the purpose of cool? There should be an underlying message to how the page is structured, how it relates to each other.”

Kregg Jacoby occasionally travels with his mother to assist with workshops or convention sessions where he speaks with teen journalists. He encourages keeping a clips file or scrapbook so when it is time to design, you are not left staring at a blank screen. “(Looking for ideas) never stops; it’s part of everything I do. I use my phone to take a picture. I’m surfing the web, using screen captures, bookmarking sites. You never know where you’ll find a core idea or inspiration.”

Reader friendly

Message, typically conveyed through theme, and structure are important to consider when incorporating trendy ideas, said Patricia Monroe, 19-year adviser of Hoofbeats at W.H. Burges High School in El Paso, Texas.

She laments the decrease in traditions such as using sections, spin-offs of themes, consistent folio placement and other tools to guide readers in favor of trends that create too many inconsistencies.

“It needs to feel like it still makes sense,” Monroe said. “Within sections you have similarities, certain looks that are comfortable. It still needs to be reader-friendly and not all over the place.”

When her staffs look for trends, Monroe asks, “Are you doing this just to be different? If you don’t have a good reason, you probably shouldn’t do it.”

Essentials such as color and other visuals should be consistent, yet trends should weave into a cohesive message. This requires balance. Your staffs certainly do not want to be on the down-spiral of trends… or conversely be so immersed that traditional storytelling through words and images is lost in the specificity of the latest T-shirt slogan or CD cover, though these outlets may be great places for inspiration

Lisa Wingo