High school students eagerly anticipate their yearbooks before they're published, and scrutinise them for years afterward. According to Eddie Medina, a yearbook adviser with more than 10 years' experience, creating a memorable yearbook requires the talents of an entire staff, all working towards the same goal.
Choose a Yearbook Theme
Choosing the right theme for a yearbook constitutes the most important decision a staff can make. "Choose a theme that is fun and will be memorable to students years down the line," says Medina. "You do not want to pick a theme that is too trendy. By the end of the school year, it may already be old."
Medina suggests taking on a broad, timeless subject theme that is familiar to young and old and can be incorporated into individual pages.
Create a Stunning Cover
A great cover makes for a great yearbook, and helps set the right tone. Yearbook publishing companies offer in-house cover design services. But don't pass up the opportunity to bring in an outside artist, who can bring a fresh perspective and design a truly original cover.
A yearbook staff should solicit ideas for covers from local graphic design artists or even comic book artists. These artists can be found often by working students' contacts. Chances are, you'll find an artist among the parents and families of the students.
A memorable cover should not only be visually attractive, but also incorporate the school, or something related to it, into the design. Medina has worked this idea into several of his staff's yearbooks. For a Hollywood/movie-themed yearbook, Medina (himself an artist) created a cover that turned the school's mascot, a cougar, into an Oscar statue.
Maintain Your Theme
Your staff can maintain a great yearbook theme throughout the pages. Once your and your yearbook staff choose a theme, Medina advises that the staff spend time to come up with a colour scheme, phrases or sub-themes and even shapes associated with the theme that can be used in the yearbook. For example, a circus-themed yearbook had a cover designed to resemble a circus program using primary colours. Whenever possible, those primary colours were used in the pages. Each page number appeared inside circus-themed artwork, including a big-top tent and animals like an elephant. For a superhero-themed yearbook, Medina designed a cover resembling a comic book, and used phrases like "The Fresh-X-Men" (for the ninth grade class pages) and "Up, up and away" throughout the yearbook.
The yearbook theme should inform page layouts. In Medina's superhero-themed yearbook, pages of candid photos were formatted to resemble a comic book, complete with word balloons. Each page included sound-effect "blasts," as used in the 1960s TV show "Batman."
For the movie-themed yearbook, each class had a movie reference theme, including "Ocean's 11th" for the junior class pages. For individual student pictures, the staff put a "nomination" under each student's name, like "Best Actor for Star Wars" or "Best Makeup for The Princess Diaries." Class portraits were laid out on pages inside film strips. Each page had a different movie quote at the bottom, and each section title page looked like a movie poster and featured the school's mascot in the artwork.
For the circus yearbook, student pictures on the class pages were arranged in the shape of a big-top tent, within the outlines of a tent drawing.
Club and Candid Page Ideas
Pages featuring school clubs can also maintain the yearbook theme. When your yearbook staff takes pictures for various clubs, pick locations that fit the theme. Ask the members of each club to wear something or pose in a way that fits the theme.
For the superhero/comic book themed yearbook, pages featuring candid shots of students also featured "word balloons" added by the staff that gave each photo a personal touch and made each page fun to read. Such "touches" take a lot of extra time, but the time and attention pays off when students see the final product.
Staff Feedback and Input
Medina says the key to a successful, original and innovative yearbook is to allow every member of the staff the freedom to provide feedback and ideas during meetings. This makes the work atmosphere much more creative. The adviser should make the extra effort to give younger staff members smaller projects for the yearbook, which builds their responsibility and experience for future years.
When Medina's team has a yearbook finished and ready to distribute, he sometimes holds a special school assembly during which staff members perform a skit to introduce the yearbook before passing out copies. For the superhero yearbook, the staff dressed in superhero costumes. The event made for a nice "wrap party" while giving the staff some recognition for their efforts all year.