A guide to nailing your yearbooks from start to finish

It goes without saying that yearbooks are a big deal.  For school leavers, they're a time capsule containing what are hopefully some of the happiest memories of their life; for schools themselves, they act as an invaluable marketing tool that showcases, in detail, the offerings they have for prospective students.

With this in mind, there’s usually a fair bit of pressure from various bodies to get it right. This wouldn’t be a problem if yearbooks were all that you had to worry about, but that’s (usually) not the case. You’re an educator. You have students to worry about, assessments to mark, and report writing. That said, with a bit of foresight and pre-planning, your school’s yearbook can be a breeze.

Here are our top tips on how to enjoy building your school yearbook.

Assemble the team

Firstly, remember that yearbooks are a team effort. No one person should have all of the responsibility at their feet. Determine exactly who is in the team, and assign tasks according to suitability and availability of time. In any team, it’s necessary to assign a leader to whom all other participants will report. The leader should head up an introductory meeting to outline the goals, scope, and scale of the yearbook. This ensures that everyone is on the same page from the get-go, allowing them to adopt a collaborative and encouraging mindset.

Book your printer

It’s a good idea to work out who you’ll be printing your yearbook with early on in the planning process. Printers will often have different specifications for things such as margins and bleeds, and it’s better to know this stuff early on so that you can plan accordingly; rather than have a mad rush at the end, trying to rejig everything so that it’s fit for print. Your printer will likely also have some tips on how to get the most out of your yearbook, and this is also good to know early on.

A number of the top yearbook printers also offer design packages that may be of consideration to you.

Plan the page framework

Yearbooks follow a pretty traditional construction process; You start with the foundations, the skeleton if you will. This is what the yearbook will look like, how many pages you’re after, etc. After this, you can move on to the content. The flesh and blood.

In content, you can work out which sections will be so devoted to what, calculate approximate word counts, where images will be required, and who will be responsible for contributing what.

Planning it out this way ensures that only the work that needs to be done, gets done. This in turn helps to ensure that your team are able to stick to their specified deadlines and that they remain within the design parameters.

Set out the yearbook calendar

Often when you first start planning your yearbook the deadlines you and your team will face are still months away; making it easy for them to sneak up on you if you forget about them.

It’s important to set out milestones for design and content; staggering different elements of the yearbook at different times so that the content compiler receives a steady flow of information, rather than a tsunami. It’s in no one’s best interest for them to be drowning in content right before the publication is due, simply because of poor planning.

You should also note that as with the rest of the Production Timeline, these milestones don’t need to be set in you know, stone. Things can change, and there should always be sufficient wiggle room in the event that some sort of delay occurs.

Work out your key imagery early

You don’t buy an expensive suit only to wear it exclusively at McDonald’s. Such a sentiment should also apply to your yearbook. Feature images (Such as group photos) need to be scheduled early on in the planning process to ensure that everyone is available at the designated time. The earlier you schedule your photos, the surer you can bet that they’ll be delivered by the copy deadline.

Additionally, always make sure that names have been spelled correctly, captions have been created, and the final number of photos have been accommodated in the page layouts.

Provide tools to facilitate content creation

Depending on the scope of your yearbook, it’s likely that you’ll be drawing content from at least several sources, and this can fast turn into a logistical nightmare. Emails bounce, USBs and files are “Lost”, deadlines are missed, and will others may under or over-provide what you asked for.

To combat this, we recommend assembling a Google Kit, a cloud-based system that allows for real-time accessibility (Assuming there is an internet connection) to everyone granted access.  Consider including the following in your production package:

Your yearbook’s page framework;
Word count parameters (minimum and maximum);
How many images do you require per section;
A Google Docs template into which they can submit content;
Instructions regarding submitted images.

The great thing about Google Docs is that it’s generally not caught up in DEC/ other education institution based firewalls and filters, meaning contributors should be able to access their files wherever they are. Be it home, school, or otherwise.

Additionally, it’s best to try to avoid USBs where possible, due to risks associated with corrupted files, lost devices, etc. The last thing you want is to be given a USB full of documents and photos, only to misplace it and lose everything.

Keep your branding on point

Every bit of branding in existence tells a particular story. Your yearbook is quite literally telling that story right there on the covers and pages; materials that could well last at least a lifetime. Therefore, it’s pretty important to get it right. Make sure that your yearbook adheres to your school’s style guide (if you have one) and remains uniform and professional throughout.

As with most things, this is considerably easier to do if you start early, and such an approach also grants time for amendments.

Assign an Editor or Copy Manager

It’s important that your yearbook maintains a consistent ‘voice’  throughout the publication. That said, it would be unreasonable to expect every contributor to conform to a specific style when preparing their content. This is where a Copy Manager or Editor comes in. Your Copy Manager/ Editor should be someone who has writing experience and is adept at altering copy, as well as picking up on typos. (Maybe lean on the English or History faculty for some help here.)

Ultimately, the editor will be responsible for ensuring that there is a uniform ‘voice’ throughout the publication; one that is devoid of spelling and grammar mistakes. Every aspect of your yearbook is an exercise in branding, and should therefore receive the same level of attention as your school’s logo or uniform.

Meeting timeline goals

The yearbook calendar should be revisited at every meeting and revised accordingly. One team member must be responsible for administering deadlines and following up on outstanding materials. Consider posting a final deadline that’s about a month earlier than what you actually need. This should give you enough breathing space should anything go wrong in the interim.

The experts are here to help!

Alternatively, you can just have someone do a lot of this for you. Outsourcing the bulk of the work to people who do this for a living; copy managers, graphic designers, and project managers will allow you to get the results you want, without all of the headaches that come with juggling a mammoth project with the rest of your standard workload.