Modern design trends: Yearbook edition

The energetic and caffeinated Dan Mueller jumps right in with countless examples of graphic design inspiration. It all comes back to story and how you convey that visually.

Depth in design is Mueller’s favorite thing. He repeats it early and often that it’s all about depth — or layers. And don’t get him started on pull quotes…

Four ways to step up your type game

Vary these elements within your theme look to create contrast in typography.

  1. Size
  2. Color
  3. Font
  4. Case

He has some great tips about cutouts and the amazing background remover tool now available in Canva via eDesign.

After showing off tons of great yearbook work from the past year, Mueller does a PSA for Flipster and reveals some professional work. Magazines are great sources of inspo for yearbook. It could be as big as a feature or as small as a mod.

Be inspired by yearbook spread designs from across the country — and learn what makes them fresh. Watch the video.

How To Sell More Yearbooks

Tiered pricing, discount codes, payment plans and more can help your staff sell more right now

Discounts can be a helpful tool for offering a sale to a specific group and for a short period of time. Be careful about spreading codes far and wide and keep sales windows tight. Check out this great resource about selling your book.

Here are five ways to put discount codes into action today.

    Provide codes to parents who attend a grade-level meeting or back-to-school night. Keep the window short: Give them 48 hours to purchase a discounted book using the code specific to their child’s grade. Ex. “MustangsYBK2025”
    Create a promo code for “free personalizations.” Set up a package that includes a name plate or other personalization and provide a discount code for buyers to take that amount off of their purchase.
    Start an early-bird senior ad special. Offer a promo code for submitting those ads by a specific date. For seniors who purchase a yearbook ad, give them a discount on buying their book — and earlier is always better.
    If your book is $70, which sounds better 10% off or $7 off? Consider the difference between using a percentage discount or a dollar amount. Our new discount codes feature in eBusiness can handle either version.
    Provide discount codes to businesses that would like to donate a book to an anonymous student. Reward their generosity with a discount.

Like these? Here’s a great handout with even more ideas.


Typography in yearbook design

Tell your school’s story with type 

Self-appointed font queen and all-around outstanding yearbook adviser Carrie Faust gets pumped for letter forms. After starting with “wooooh” she defines the terms surrounding typography.

Make sure to stay tuned until the very end of the video for some very cool inspo spreads.

Typography is by definition artistic. Faust says type should be designed just as much as other elements of the theme.

Spend time with it. Convey the message. Speak to the content.

Parts of type

Faust says to find the font poster in your kit and teach it to your staff.

  • Ascender
  • Baseline
  • Cap height
  • Counter
  • Descender
  • Set width
  • X-height

Types of type

It’s all about that serif. Carrie really breaks these down in the video.

  • Oldstyle
  • Sans serif
  • Modern
  • Slab serif
  • Script/Handwritten
  • Decorative/Novelty

She recommends locking down the “punk freshman” with only a couple font families. And, Faust talks about choosing contrasting type for display and mod headlines.

Fonts can make or break your book. You’ll be able to distinguish the different types of fonts, learn theories about how many fonts should appear in your book, and see how typography can drive your design. Watch the video. (Don’t miss out: Link expires on Oct. 15.)

Making It Your Own

Putting inspiration pieces to work in your yearbook

Decorated and dedicated yearbook adviser and advocate Mike Simons takes viewers on an impressively deep dive in his “Making It Your Own” session.

With numerous examples of professional work and how to use the “yearbook blender” effectively, he breaks down theme inspiration — both visual and verbal. Simons asks attendees to describe your theme like it’s a person. Those details should feed into your “pretty hunt.”

Steps for inspo success

Remember your final product should be an evolution — not a duplication.

  • Find inspiration everywhere. He lists several sites/sources in the video.
  • Copy the piece exactly. Seriously, like the whole thing.
  • Start tweaking. Keep going. Incorporate other theme elements. Change something else.
  • Make your final touches. And, don’t forget to print it out.

Six ways to make the design your own

  1. Color
  2. Typography
  3. Photo treatments
  4. Shape and design elements
  5. Type and photo packaging
  6. Coverage and mod ideas

Learn more about how to turn examples you like into designs (and components) that work for your book, your school, this year. Watch the video. (Don’t miss out: Link expires on Oct. 15.)

22 YBK coverage tips for 2022

What a great way to break down tricks for better storytelling. And, how to create a yearbook people will actually want to read.

Mike Simons helps you discover new and creative ways to get unique stories and coverage in your book. He is a decorated and dedicated yearbook adviser and advocate from Upstate New York — and he has some stories to tell.

From where you’ve been, to where you’re going, he steps through the process with intention. Simons recommends getting to know your “two most important people in the school” — front office person and head custodian. And, that’s just a taste.

Spoiler alert: He does make it through all 22 (even though it’s close).

Here are the first five

Don’t worry, you can view the rest in the full video.

  1. Take a look back: Check the last three years and look to avoid repetitive feature coverage.
  2. Get organized: Are traditional sections for you? What makes sense for the year?
  3. Host a roundtable: Gather. Talk. Record.
  4. Look and listen: You should have the pulse of the school community. Be a creep — appropriately.
  5. Take a hike: What do you hear, see, smell?

Learn more about these great tips for better story leads and angles in your book. Watch the video. (Don’t miss out: Link expires on Oct. 15.)

Designing your yearbook ladder

Your coverage style should inform your structure

Whether you’re new to yearbook, or a new editor, Carrie Faust has some ladder pro tips to share. She’s been doing this YBK thing for a while and has lots of accolades to prove it.

First things first: What’s your coverage plan?

Types of coverage plans

Your content should lead your ladder.

  • Traditional: Topic-based ladder designed at the beginning of the year and doesn’t change.
  • Chronological: Time-based ladder is based on the calendar and allows for evolving school year.
  • Umbrella/Concept: Theme-based ladder is based on exploration and allows for complete customization throughout the year.

Faust’s staff has been using Chrono for years and stands behind it as a coverage technique. She’s also quick to praise Umbrella for being smart — but acknowledges it can be daunting for new advisers and staffs.

She says the planning should start on paper, then move to the computer whether it’s Google Drive or eDesign to put the pieces into place.

Finding coverage balance

Once you remove the ads, index and theme pages, break up the following pages like Faust recommends.

  • Student Life (25 percent)
  • Academics (15 percent)
  • Clubs/Activities (10 percent)
  • Sports (15 percent)
  • People (25 percent)

Get a plan in place for what will go on each page. Learn about different coverage options so you can plan your book. Watch the video. (Don’t miss out: Link expires on Oct. 15.)

Advance Your Yearbook Theme

Find your story and tell it — with both your visual and verbal.

Rockstar yearbook advisers from perennial award-winning programs, Carrie Faust and Mike Simons take some time to talk pandemic probs before diving into what makes a theme tick. Covid shaped 2020-21, and yearbook themes reflected that fact.

Parts of a solid theme

Don’t forget to use various techniques to drive home your theme visually and verbally.

  • Voice
  • Perspective
  • Look
  • Tone
  • Feel
  • Coverage
  • Vibe
  • Features

The order of theme

Seriously, start with the voice then move to the vision.

  1. Story: What are you going to say?
  2. Words: How will you say it?
  3. Pretty: How will you show it?

After touching on finding a theme, the duo shows off a college look book for inspiration. They can’t stress enough how good these pieces are because they target the same readers you do with your yearbook.

Later, they break down a few different examples, including Del Norte High School’s 2021 book because of how well the staff handled their theme.

See what makes a concept strong and take a deep dive into more themes to understand what makes them such powerful unifiers. Watch the video. (Don’t miss out: Link expires on Oct. 15.)

Drive-Thru Distribution Success Stories

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Jessica Salas // George Jenkins HS, Lakeland, FL

Get staffers involved in promotion:

The drive-thru distribution was truly a different way to distribute books. I was extremely nervous about how it would work and also upset that my staff wouldn’t be able to be involved (district policy), so I had to come up with a way to still have them involved and yet adhere to CDC guidelines. I had each yearbook member come up with a way to promote the new yearbook distribution method and chose the ideas that I thought were feasible. The first step was to start promoting yearbook distribution day once we knew that the books were shipped, so two weeks before, I had each member start posting the date and times on their social media and then again a week before. My staffers received their books about three days before the rest of the school, so I posted pictures of my seniors with their senior gifts and books to help promote the book and hopefully get the school excited, while also using the chance to thank the seniors for all of their hard work the past four years.

Make plenty of signs and banners:

We planned for distribution day to be divided between classes. Juniors and seniors were from 8:30-10, and then sophomores and freshman were from 10-11:30. One of the ideas from a staff member was to have a banner made for the seniors. I had a large banner made that congratulated the seniors, thanked them for buying a book, and listed each of their names. The seniors seemed to enjoy it as I saw them taking pictures of the banner from their cars.

Add fun with DIY Snapchat filters:

We created a Snapchat filter that was active once the students drove on campus, and they were able to use it while in line to get their books. I had yard signs made that I posted along the drive-thru route that told them about the Snapchat filter. The filter was created by one of my students and was fun for the students. This is something that I will do again.

A final thought:

Overall, this method of distributing books was a hit. At a normal distribution day party, I usually distribute about 50 to 60 percent of the books. But with this new method, I distributed about 90 percent of the books.

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Shelley Hunsucker // Riverview HS, Riverview, FL

I was so nervous about the drive-thru distribution, for so many reasons — not having my yearbook kids, distributing 700 books, what if it rained? — there were so many variables and so many what-ifs. It basically came down to this: we have to do it, so how are we going to do this in the most efficient way but still enjoy the process? Here are a few things we came up with that helped with the efficient process:

First things first:

Get a good group of people to help you! Choose people who are enthusiastic and want to see the kids. It’s helpful if they also understand the yearbook distribution process is about making memories.

Pre-prep EVERYTHING! With so many books, I could not put every kid’s name on each individual book (that’s insanity), so instead, I printed three copies of the distribution list and put them on clipboards, made car signs, inventoried my supplements, organized my name plates, ordered distribution banners from HJ, made sure admin knew I needed a table, tent, cones, etc. I ordered lunch for my volunteers and got the word out (all text, all call, social media).

The process:

  • We did seniors in the morning and underclass in the afternoon. We decided we’d rather get it done in one day since we were already out there and set up. We planned an hour break for ourselves to have lunch and to get a reprieve from the sun.
  • We set up a car line. Three volunteers had the distribution lists and went down the car line checking IDs and double-checking what items were bought. We had instructed students/parents to write their name on a piece of paper and place on the dashboard. Once the ID was checked, the volunteers placed a slip of paper that had a pre-printed product type on the windshield (YBK ONLY, YBK+NP, YBK+ALL) and the car moved to the tent. (NP = name plate)
  • At the tent, all product was ready for distribution. On a table, we had a large stack of books, World Yearbooks, autograph supplements and name plates (that had been organized and placed on a sticky note with names on the top and put in a box). The car moved forward, we took the car sign off the windshield and gave them the items noted. If they ordered a name plate, we knew what to look for because their name was displayed on their dash.
  • Later that night, I combined the lists into one so I could see who had not picked up their book and to verify numbers.

What went well:

The process itself went so well! Even when there was a longer line, it moved quickly and efficiently. Everyone seemed happy and got one-on-one time with the teacher/volunteers. If there was a question or an issue, the car could pull farther up not blocking the rest of the line so I could deal with whatever was going on and the line could continue. We got almost all 700 books distributed in that one day!

What I would have fixed:

The volunteers, who I was (and am) so thankful for, don’t know the product and process like our kids do! They don’t seem to understand the stress of numbers as well as our kids do (probably because our staff works on that book all year!) I would have liked to had more time to really explain the importance of accurately checking the lists. I also would stress the importance of having a computer and your receipt book to double-check sales. As always, people will show up and say they purchased but there is no record. Finally, administrative support was critically important.

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Madeline Stone // Durant HS, Plant City, FL


First things first:

I have two big tips for distribution. First, a simple list format. Some advisers print so much extra when a simple list of names, grades and orders is all they really need. Secondly, I made a little graphic for my principal to explain (via email) how our distribution would work. A little extra, but visuals help.

Divide and Conquer:

Think of a fast food restaurant’s drive-thru. The most successful ones have multiple areas to distribute food. It allows those who want fresh fries to wait out of the way, while others who are just getting a drink to move on quickly with their day. Now apply it to a yearbook: break up your extra accessories and book distribution. I had two tables dedicated to just books. Parents/students would drive up, give their name and ID number, and my teacher helper would pass off the book and sign that it was received. If a student only had a book, they would drive happily off into the sunset.

If the student had any extras, they would be told what accessories they were and to drive up to the accessory table. We invested in yard signs (thank you, Amazon Prime) and clearly labeled each of our tables. Our accessory table helper not only had the name plates sorted alphabetically in front of them and books already wrapped in dust jackets, they also had a list of the students receiving extras to mark off that they were picked up. This could work with name-stamped books as well — keep those sorted alphabetically and away from the traffic of books without accessories.

Pro tip: Be sure to double check your personalizations before the big day. When a student ordered “Princess Pancake,” that’s cute, but if your helper doesn’t know who that student is, it can get frustrating. Write out the student’s full name on a sticky note and tape it to the name plate.


Thanks to our principal and a nifty program our district invests in, we can communicate with all students and parents directly. This system allows our administration to send out messages via email, text and phone by just using a student ID number. Before the big day, I sent my principal my eBusiness Excel document of buyers, and he sent out a message to those students and their parents about distribution.

After distribution day one, I sat down and deleted the students who picked up their books, and I sent him a new file with the remaining students. He sent out another message that day.

Don’t have a fancy system? Yes, you do. Use the Send and Sell feature in eDesign. Just make sure to change the header to “We’re in this Together” and write your message to include distribution details. In the recipient’s section, select to send to only those who bought a book. Done.

Final thoughts:

I think the only problem that I’ve had with distribution so far is not having an official cut-off date. I still have about 42 books that parents/students haven’t claimed. If I had an absolute last day from the beginning, I think it would have motivated people to come out earlier. Live and learn. (NOTE: Some schools also list a cut-off date from the start and reserve the right to sell books not picked up by the stated date. Other advisers may provide guidance for picking up books at the start of the next school year.)

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.

How Susan E. Wagner High School Does Distribution

For more than the last 20 years, Susan E. Wagner High School has hosted a yearbook distribution celebration. Every year, we choose a day at the beginning of June to distribute yearbooks to our graduating class. The event allows the seniors an opportunity to see their fellow classmates (current and past) and a chance to spend time with each other.

2:30 pm. Doors Open. Each senior is lined up in one of the 4 alphabetically situated lanes ( A-G, H-M, N-R, S-Z). Upon coming to the front of the line, each student must provide a form of ID. Once the ID confirms the student, the student gets a wristband, a yearbook and is allowed entry into the school cafeteria.

3-5:30 pm. Once inside, the seniors find tables that allow a good spot to sit down, catch up with classmates and sign yearbooks. In addition to the empty tables, there are tables full of a different variety of wraps, salads, and water bottles. The food is for the seniors to enjoy while signing each other’s books. While they eat and sign books, there is DJ playing the hits the seniors love to hear. When the seniors have signed every book, they exit the school and are greeted by an ice cream truck. The wristband identifies the senior to the ice cream operator.

Important: The event is held at 2:30 pm on a school day in order to allow our faculty to attend the event. Many of our seniors want the faculty who were a crucial part of their four years to sign their book. Our Principal is always present to say a few words on the microphone and to sign books, as well.

It is important to make the distribution of yearbooks a celebration. We don’t want the seniors to get their books and immediately leave the premises. That would limit the signatures they get. It would restrict them to only the people they find themselves around. It would prevent them from getting signatures of friends from their first three years of high school and the signatures of faculty they haven’t had contact with in the last three years.

The celebration is a thank you from the school to the graduates.

Susan E. Wagner High School Adviser • Staten Island, NY