It’s a Small World

The magic of yearbook lives on.

We all know the traditional functions of a yearbook. Of course, it’s a memory book, a history book and the year’s consummate photo album. Without a doubt, it serves as a record and a reference tool, too.

We’ve asked, “If it’s not in the book, did it even really happen?” so often that students begin to echo as soon as we begin speaking.

But one of the lesser-discussed YBK impacts is perhaps the most amazing. It’s not uncommon to hear an adviser say a yearbook is magic.

A long-time guru said it best with this:

“If you’re covering the year right,” Col. Charles Savedge would say, “the yearbook is as magical as Mickey’s kingdom. There — no matter whether you’re 4 or 24 or 64 — you’re always a child. Yearbook is just the same,” he’d continue. “When you open that book, you’re right back on campus in the coverage year… if you’re doing it right.”

So true. But there’s another aspect of the magic that’s less obvious and so much more mind-boggling.

Yearbook — not the book itself but the culture — actually makes the world smaller every day.

I recently experienced this (again!) myself. In a completely non-work situation, I mentioned my work with Herff Jones and yearbook staffs from coast to coast. “No way,” gushed the woman across the table. “I am the original yearbook girl.”

And while the others looked on, puzzled, she launched into her YBK history. Suddenly, we were connected and had lots to discuss. You can find Patricia’s story on page 23, alongside stories of other former editors.

It’s common at college media conventions to meet former high school staffers who fondly recall their experiences. Many times, the conversations begin when our booth swag causes flashbacks to previous events or workshops. Often, those visits end with a text to a former adviser or rep with greetings and “thanks for all you taught me.”

A few weeks back, a friend called with another world-shrinking-via-yearbook story. While at a wedding in Tampa, he’d been introduced to the groom’s cousin, a high school volleyball coach from North Carolina. His litany of questions about her school made her ask how he knew about so many schools in so many places. He explained he’d worked with yearbook staffs for years. Guess what? Jill was on yearbook in high school. Where, he asked? Colorado. What school? Overland. Imagine her surprise when he said, “I know Kathy Daly, too.”

The fact that another wedding guest knew Daly, a long-time HJ adviser and special consultant, was surprising to the former yearbook editor’s mother.

No surprise: Yearbook constantly removes degrees of separation.

And I love that. It makes me smile that yearbook and yearbookers matter — even years later.

Ann Akers, MJE

A yearbook marketing, sales and people-person, Akers believes that yearbookers everywhere can eliminate degrees of separation if they ask the right questions.

New Adviser?

You’re not alone

All across the country, there are teachers in their first and second — and third — years as advisers who get to the end of the day and think, how in the world? It gets easier, but until then, here’s some advice.


Conquer the workload by planning and charting out mini-deadlines for your students. Whether you decide to team them up or assign work individually, make sure they know that deadlines are safety nets. Without deadlines, the work keeps piling up.


Chances are, you’re the only yearbook adviser in your school and no one else quite “gets you.” Look for another adviser in your district or area. Perhaps your rep can help you find others who would be willing to take a text or phone call when you need a lifeline.


Reward staffers for all the little (thankless) jobs with weekly grades. Updating scoreboards with Friday night’s game, checking in with the Spanish Club sponsor, recording the marching band’s latest awards — it’s easy to gather incrementally, but tough to hunt down later. And, pics or it didn’t happen.


There are lots of ways to yearbook, and we have loads of resources to help you find the way that works for you. Look for our weekly emails or go to to see them all.


We’ve All Said it Before

…and the truth of the mantra still holds

If you’ve been a yearbooker very long, you’ve probably been in a conversation — or 15 —about how yearbook is forever.

You’ve likely preached it as you work with newbies — and when you’re reminding experienced staffers they can do better. Your mantra about creating the only permanent record of the school year probably echoes in the heads of staffers every time they recall their yearbook experiences.

And that’s a good thing. It’s what brings former editors back to visit when they return to town for homecoming or holiday breaks. Their presence is more than a chance for them to encourage your current staff to build on the foundation you’ve established on campus. It’s likely they’ll also share some tips for deadline success, choosing classes, navigating the college application process and life after high school.

But their return also represents a greater understanding of what they achieved during their years with you. While they may occasionally converse with other teachers during their visits or when they see them at school events, it’s less likely they’re texting those former teachers when a college professor mentions a phrase from the yearbook world or when they find an ad that would make a great theme.

Most yearbookers come to understand the importance of the volume they are creating. Hopefully, they’ve embraced the importance of including everyone on campus as many times as possible, rather than over-covering a select few. They find the balance of covering major events and everyday occurrences to capture the year accurately.

As for the other readers, the reality of a yearbook’s value may not sink in for many years. Sure, distribution day is often a campus event. It’s always fun to see yourself and your friends in the book and, in many schools, the tradition of signing yearbooks is alive and well. But greater appreciation is more likely years — or decades — into the future, when a class reunion looms or curiosity sends someone back to those pages to find a specific answer or connect a name to a face.

But at some point, they’ll embrace those volumes that captured these years and be able to remember the people and events that made this year what it was. Add this to your list of goals: Producing a book that both delights readers when it arrives and provides details necessary for the year to live on indefinitely.

Yearbook is both a privilege and a responsibility. Now. And forever.

Ann Akers, MJE

 Speaking of forever, she started yearbooking when they counted headlines to fit, printed photos to size and paid extra for cross-gutter bleeds!

Yearbook is for Life

Hear it from Ann

While the language varies, it’s no surprise so many people in the yearbook world share common sentiments. There’s a nearly universal dread as deadlines somehow become more difficult at the end. Everyone is busy and tired — maybe overwhelmed.

Complicated by unpredictable weather and sources who don’t share our sense of urgency, there are days when the end cannot come soon enough.

Even once the book is completed, there are few days off to celebrate, recoup and regroup before the staff is ready to go again — working to sell out before books arrive, planning for supplement coverage, scheming a distribution event, taking care of contest/critique and end-of-year details, and thinking ahead to the next volume.

There’s always a sense of anticipation in the air.
Once the books arrive, celebrations take on a new feel and another reality sets in — some staffers will move on as others prepare to take the reins and begin the process anew. But the joy of holding a new yearbook — of the first sniff, the first view, the first read — is a memory etched into the minds of all who made it happen.

It doesn’t end there. In the decades that follow, there will be times when a lesson learned, a memory from a workshop, convention or deadline creeps back in.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I first read one of my favorite descriptions of how yearbook grows on you. It’s what Invictus adviser Cortney Weisman’s first co-editors, Samantha Baer and Jana Hirsch, said in 2006. It became the opening to Weisman’s start-of-year speech at Ward Melville High.


“First, you become a part of yearbook. Then, it becomes a part of you.”


Both Baer, now an attorney, and Hirsch, a research professor, stay in contact with their former adviser. Simply more proof they were correct.

For years, Chantilly adviser Mary Kay Downes has signed off “YB4L.” Guess who taught the editors’ section at Gettysburg Yearbook Experience (GYE) when both Baer and Hirsch attended to prepare to be leaders?

MKD. That’s who inspired them to raise the bar.
Some conventions bring out “once a yearbooker, always a yearbooker” T-shirts and a new flock of creatives clamoring for flair with messages proclaiming their passion. When it’s workshop time, some brag they can wear different yearbook garb each day for weeks. Traditions stick with those who know special yearbook birthday songs and chants they’ll never forget.

Through the years, the phrase “Yearbook is my life” has adorned merch. For the Yearbook Tech workshoppers in San Diego, it was also the official camp cheer. Workshop director Steve Bailey and his assistants began “YEARBOOK is my life” and followed it with “Yearbook IS my life” to emphasize a commitment to the whole project. With each ensuing repetition, the volume increased. Most recently, the chant was the perfect finale to a presentation honoring the life of the late Bailey, long-time rep and former adviser who inspired thousands in his decades with Herff Jones.

Advisers remember these times when former staffers return to campus.

There’s nothing like hearing how yearbook continues to influence students. Whether it’s an annual event, a random trip home or a note, professional and personal achievements are often presented with connections to lessons learned in the yearbook room.

Others might not understand how it could have such impact on so many lives. But it tends to work its way into conversations for years to come.

More proof, I guess, that yearbook is for life.


Mind the GutterHear her journey
It’s her yearbook world. We’re just living in it.
Hear more from Ann Akers on our Mind the Gutter podcast.


Love Letter

FloridaChristianHS Spread

Anniversary years are often yearbook traps. Administrators want a history book, but that could lead staffers to overlook students and faculty members currently walking their halls.

In the case from a Square OneTM pilot staff in Florida, leaders not only decided to celebrate the bond students share, but to do so in a format they had never tried.

They embraced a blended approach to content, meaning modules with clear separation space fill spreads as they fit together physically, but without unifying topics. Coverage and topics blend together to mirror the lives and schedules of students.


“I wanted to do blended coverage because I am always open to change. Why not be different?” Editor Taylor San Miguel said.


“In the past, we didn’t get to cover certain programs as much as we’d like. Using modular design with Square OneTM and following a blended approach opened up so much in the book. We were able to cover everything.

Like everything, everything.

When you’re a new staffer, doing full spreads on a single topic is just so much. How are you going to fill the spread and put something new and interesting there when sometimes there isn’t something new and interesting?

This way, we develop a mod around a dominant story to give it more space of its own. The reader goes there first, then naturally it goes along eyelines and separators to see the other packages or mods. If the coverage you have planned doesn’t work out — you don’t get great photos or the story doesn’t turn out to be interesting — you can just change that coverage out with another mod about another topic.

A group of seniors sat in the hall crying when they saw the book for the first time. Those seniors cried enough for the whole school. Seeing the book — it was so different than before — people liked that this way of doing the spreads gave more attention to more people. And, it looks more modern.



Everyone should be equally represented because the first thing everyone does is look for their names, and when they are featured on more than two pages, it’s a great gift.

Even the teachers loved the coverage. A coach originally said her team wasn’t covered enough because she was expecting to see a spread devoted to the team, like our old yearbooks. But I showed her all the mods scattered throughout. She was impressed!

That’s the goal of blended coverage. You have to look through the whole book to find yourself and, in the process, appreciate the whole school. It takes some getting used to. But, you notice kids are paying attention to coverage they never noticed before. Because chemistry may be on the same spread as soccer.

Blended coverage makes the process so much easier. You can make spreads multiply.

Just flip one in each direction. Then, you have many different looks to start with. Readers won’t notice the templates are flipped because you won’t put those spreads next to each other on the ladder. They notice the pretty pictures and clever headlines, and that’s it. And, of course, they notice all the coverage.


“Yearbook is an art.
It’s journalistic in style, writing, photography, design. You’re not going to please everybody. That’s just how life is.”


Dream Big

Dream Big Hear it from Ann

It’s always fun to study the new releases, noting what staffs are doing well and how trends are shifting. Whatever time I allot to reviewing books, I always wish I had more.

During summer planning, it’s easy to imagine ambitious additions.

Gatefolds galore? That’d be cool.

Theme-related coverage strategies you know would be a lot of extra work?  Might be a challenge you could accept.

Personalizing each book? Wow! They’d love that.

But then, as production begins, reality sets in and those workshop dreams can get hazy. If you plan from the start to make those special extras happen — and commit to making them important — the impact can be as significant as imagined. If your kids are excited and willing, you have the power to make those dreams come true.

If the plan involves adding pages, foldouts, special-order papers or inks, cover and endsheet upgrades, work with your rep to manage your budget. Then, your business team can determine how to offset those expenses.

Set reasonable dates for progressive goals to ensure you’re working to stay on budget. Not meeting those sales goals may mean you won’t be able to afford the extras.

If your ambitious idea does not become someone’s assigned responsibility, there’s a greater chance it will fade into the hustle of production.

Make the project a priority, and watch it flourish.

I know you face the challenge of serving many audiences. You want the students to love your book when it arrives and to cherish it more as the years pass. It’s also important for parents and the greater school community to see you’ve created a comprehensive and accurate record of the year.

You can make sure that happens by dreaming big as you plan for your next masterpiece, putting plans in place to ensure success and following through to delight your readers.

Your efforts will be remembered every time those readers grab their yearbooks — whether it’s over the summer, in five years or 50. And your staff will be remembered, not just for preserving the memories of the year, but for the extra efforts you made to create a book that stands out.


Texas High School


Texas High School Tiger

Texarkana, Texas

Even though its first century as a school was ending, staffers focused on the future with the theme “To be continued.” Each of the 10 sections open with a fold-out divider introducing a student profile on the following spread. In the middle of the book, a short-trimmed magazine of school history shows all 100 book covers and provides news from each year. Coverage of this book continues in Take Note.


Toby Johnson Middle School


Toby Johnson Middle School Jamboree

 Elk Grove, California

The coverage spanning the bottom margin was perfect for the theme “Eventually everything connects.” Staff members linked students to one another with attributes like “who lives on the same block as,” “whose favorite place in the world is Italy like” or “who has braces like” until the final entry, that linked back to the first name in the opening. With six students per spread, nearly 400 became part of the theme development.


Westfield Middle School


Westfield Middle SchoolThe Scrapbook

Westfield, Indiana

Themed “It’s ours and it’s everything,” this book included a personalized tri-fold tipped onto a theme-driven spread inside. Completing almost 750 individualized tip-ins meant every early buyer had a one-of-a-kind book. With several full-color images, a quote from a friend, a six-word memoir the students shared (not knowing how it would be used), the special feature pleased students and parents alike. Those who were waitlisted received a similar tip-in with spaces and instructions on how to personalize so their books had extra coverage as well.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

Advisers Jim Govreau and Morgan Miltner both submitted their final yearbooks March 9. But, they still have a book to complete.

Govreau, of Newsome High School, and Miltner, Strawberry Crest High School, both in Hillsborough County, Florida, and their staffs teamed up to do the impossible — create an entire book in two weeks for a neighboring school in need.

With no cover, no pages submitted and an adviser who started in the second semester with no yearbook experience, the Tampa area staff was about to finish the year without a yearbook.

“Morris Pate, my rep, talked to me about the situation early in the school year, and I visited the school in December,” Govreau said. “The computers weren’t great, there were about four or five students on staff, and nothing was completed.”

By mid-March, the staff had some photos from the school photographer on CDs, but that was it. Pate brought the story back to Miltner’s and Govreau’s attention.

They knew they needed to stage a rescue.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

“My first thought was to throw my students at it,” Miltner said. “I have 66 on staff, why not send them to help. That was late Tuesday night. I talked to everyone and asked what they thought. At first the kids thought I was crazy, but then they said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”

Ten of Miltner’s staffers and four of Govreau’s took a field trip on March 29 to remedy the situation. The advisers worked on eDesign from their respective schools while staffers traveled to the school to gather content and put the book together.

“I was watching eDesign and I texted them at one point and I said, ‘Stop writing.’ We can’t spend any more time writing. We need to get photos in there now,” Miltner said. “We have so many rules and requirements for every spread, every caption, everything has to be done journalistically. It was hard for them to stop doing what they are used to so the work would be done quickly. It was amazing to see them making game-time decisions on how things would be covered and how the spreads would take shape.”

Both Govreau and Miltner teach journalism curricula and produce what we know as data-driven yearbooks. Staffs monitor and measure coverage by comparing student rosters to sources included. They also determine topics and structure using real-time student preferences. So, there’s a process.

“This is much more than a basic ‘picture book,’” Herff Jones Hall of Fame member Pate said. “These kids’ pride wouldn’t allow them to do that.”

Pate said his advisers also know students today demand new plot lines. They and their students follow Herff Jones’ “Zero/Zeros” practice and Square One™ design approach, ensuring as many students as possible are included. They believe every student has a story and both say they feel the responsibility to tell those stories.

Because of this training, photographer and first-year Newsome staffer Elliot Morgan volunteered right away.

“I said I wouldn’t mind going and helping these people out,” the senior said. “I know our staff is capable, great writers and overall great people. And I know from going to events with Strawberry Crest, they are the same. I knew we could put this together and make something lasting for the school.”

On March 27, the now-combined yearbook staffs uploaded portrait pages. By lunchtime, two days later, they had submitted 72 pages. Give them a couple more days, and the book will be completely done.

Staging a Yearbook Rescue

“When we saw all of the spreads were empty, we were shocked something like that could even happen,” Newsome editor Ashley Arndt said. “Mr. Govreau asked if we were willing to help, if there was anything we thought we could do. At first, I thought one day wouldn’t be enough. Once we started breaking it down though, it became a lot more manageable.”

Miltner said the students were nervous to go into a school where they did not know anyone and roam the halls, pulling students out of class for interviews and photos. But as they got to work, they started having fun.

“Students would come in the classroom throughout the day and look at the computer, and I would ask if they were affiliated with the sport I was working on,” Arndt said. “Even if they weren’t, they would give me the phone number of someone who was. So, I have random people’s phone numbers from the school now from asking for interviews.”

The community took note.

“They arranged the yearbook dream team,” Pate said. “They fought through nightmarish, rush hour Tampa traffic, organized themselves, took photos, conducted interviews, wrote stories, headlines and captions, assembled pages, dazzled the administration, faculty and students, and by about 4:00 p.m. had pretty much completed a yearbook.”

It sounds like a lot to ask from high schoolers, but these aren’t just high schoolers. They are yearbookers.

“We have a culture in the program,” Miltner said. “You are part of something bigger.”

Countdown Craftiness

Countdown Craftiness

‘Tis the season to take a step back from the computer.

That’s right. Put down the spreads. Take one step back. Now another. Now a deep breath.

You can keep editing until every word loses meaning, or you can take Alicia Luttrell’s advice.

The yearbook adviser and librarian from Maryville Junior High in Maryville, TN, knows we all get antsy before the big holiday break.

“There’s a time when we all have to buckle down and work on yearbooks,” she said, “but there’s a time to have fun and get creative.”

Last year, Luttrell put her creativity to work.

“I had an old tabletop tree and decided to give it a new home in the yearbook room. I also had four small Herff Jones ornaments to display and wanted to create more to take home.”

Luttrell’s staff was thrilled, she said, to see art supplies.

“My students were excited when they walked in and saw glue, tinsel, clear ornaments, yearbook pages and paint brushes on the table. I love to get them working on something different. To get them away from the everyday activities of looking at spreads. Things get a little messy, and that’s okay with me.”

They made mini paper chains and decoupage ornaments from old yearbook spreads as well as “swirly” and tinsel ornaments to add color and sparkle to the tree.

She suggests, “When ornaments are ready, tie a piece of jute or other string on the cap loop and include a cute tag with students’ names. This is a way to remember students who created these ornaments.”

Take on the Christmas ornaments or make an activity of your own. It might just spark the creativity you’ve been hoping to find in the void of the computer screen.

Yearbook Has Its Own Special Language

Yearbook Has Its Own Special Language

Many of us have attempted to learn a foreign language at some time or another and if you’re like me, you’ve done absolutely nothing with it so you’ve lost most if not all of what you knew.

Students who join the yearbook staff are often surprised that they need to learn so many alternative meanings for such common words. For example, in yearbook terminology, a  “ghost” isn’t really scary and a “ladder” isn’t used to reach tall places. A “widow” isn’t a woman who lost her husband, a “slug” isn’t a slimy creature and a “signature” isn’t your name written in pretty cursive.

All of the terms mentioned above and a whole bunch more are actually very important to understanding everything involved in putting a yearbook together so you should plan to spend some time at the beginning of the year reviewing the terms and their meanings. You could even make it a game.

How do you go about teaching yearbook terminology to your staff? Tell us in the comments below.

Creating Order from Chaos

Creating order from chaos

Anyone who has ever visited a publications staff room knows that there is a lot of activity happening all at once; the fact that the chaos doesn’t seem to affect anyone present is the sign of a well organized staff and classroom.

Two of your highest priorities when you begin the year will be assigning staff positions and providing job descriptions to everyone on staff and organizing the room so that tools are easily found and put away after use.

Let’s start with the room itself. A quick trip to Pinterest and searching “organizing the yearbook room” or “organizing the classroom” will yield some very creative and affordable ideas like this and this just to get you started. If you’re like me and you want some additional more costly items like comfortable seating or a mini fridge to store drinks for late nights, you may want to make a big WISH LIST and post it prominently in your room for parents to see on back-to-school night. You never know when someone has an extra something that they’d be willing to donate or when someone who is really handy would be willing to build you something. My portable mail center was awesome thanks to one of my staff member’s fathers who was a carpenter.

Your staff room will become a home away from home for you and your staff so you’ll want it to be an inviting, comfortable space that functions like a productive office. Brainstorm with your staff during the first few days about things they would like to have in the room to make it just perfect.

Once you’ve got your room in order, you’ll want to provide your staff with an easy-to-use but comprehensive manual that they can reference BEFORE they come to you with a question about fonts, photography check-out instructions, design or type styles, etc. Having a good staff manual will keep you from having to answer the same question 36 times and allow the staff to be more self sufficient.

Providing direction to your staff and in your room will help control the inevitable chaos that makes a yearbook staff room come alive and allow you to maintain control over the process.