Posts in category Coverage & Design

We’ve got you covered

When it comes to covers, we tend to be swept away by the pretty fonts, cool designs and fancy cover applications. We’re so excited about the theme we sometimes forget the boring details. But there are a few cover and spine essentials integral to the yearbook’s historical function and its level of consistency.


First up is the cover.

We know the cover should include the look and feel of the theme, but what exactly does that entail? Essentially, it should include the typography, colors and graphics that will be inside the book. When working on the cover, make sure the cover artist uses fonts you have and plan on using throughout the book. (If the cover artist uses a font you don’t have, get a copy or switch to type that is compatible with your font options.)


Just like with typography, the visual look continues with the colors and graphics. The cover is a precursor for all the visuals on the inside pages. If the graphic element on the cover is a series of squares, we shouldn’t see circles or triangles inside the book.


In addition to the theme connections, the cover should also include the name of the yearbook and the publication year. Usually, this runs small and in one of the chosen fonts (especially, if there’s more than one font and that second or third font has not been introduced on the cover yet). It’s not necessary to put the school name on the cover although you can if it’s a school tradition or you prefer it included.


Don’t neglect the spine.

We’re so enamored with our covers that we sometimes overlook the spine. But that vertical strip is the first visual when a yearbook is on a shelf. Like the cover, it should have the look and feel of the theme. The colors, typography and graphics should carry over to the spine.


But the spine holds more than a visual presence. It provides information critical to the historical and reference functions of the book. The spine should include the school name, city and state, volume number, yearbook name and the publication year. Often, the city and state are missing from the spine, making it more difficult to differentiate between schools with the same name or to determine the school’s geographic location.

The volume number and year are also spine essentials. They let us know what year the book was published and the current volume number. Another overlooked aspect of the spine is the location of these two figures. Strive to keep the volume number and year in the same spot each year. This becomes an important visual when numerous volumes are placed together on a shelf. (Hint: Use last year’s spine as a starting point for the placement of the school name, volume number and year.)


Although some staffs add their theme logo to the spine, it’s not necessary. There’s plenty of other information that’s needed on the cover and the fonts, colors and graphics are a strong tie to the theme. Plus, the theme logo is featured prominently on the cover.


What about the back?

There’s no set criteria for the back of the yearbook cover. At the least, covers usually carry the colors and some graphics onto the back of the book. Some staffs opt to continue their cover treatment on the back (for example, a thermal cover might have the latent image on the front and back). Another option is to include the school seal or the mascot on the back, often blind embossed or debossed.


Whether it features air texture, a die-cut or UV coating, the cover should illustrate the theme and provide essential information. The old adage “never judge a book by its cover” isn’t the case here. We want you to provide all the necessary details for the preservation of your book’s place in your school’s history. When it comes to spines and covers, we’ve got you covered!


Create a style guide for your yearbook

As you start visualizing the look and feel of your yearbook pages, the abundance of available design choices can be fun but overwhelming. This is where creating a style guide helps. So what is a style guide and how do you create it?

A style guide helps to create a consistent look and feel for your yearbook. It positively impacts the design process by limiting the number of available choices when it comes to fonts, colors and other graphic elements. Your style guide can also touch on headline and writing styles to keep a consistent tone. Picking the right elements to put in your style guide is important, and here are the steps to creating a style that will set your yearbook apart and speed up the design process.

1. What’s your tone?

The tone of your yearbook will determine the style. What feeling does the cover design and theme phrase hope to evoke in your readers? Is it warm and traditional? Bright and funky? School spirit? Retro? Grunge? Determining the tone will help guide you as you select fonts, colors and graphics so this step is important.

2. Decide on fonts

Balfour offers a wide array of font options, but it’s best to limit your fonts to a small collection of three. Pick an easy-to-read font for text and student names, pick a headline font for your main text, and mix in a fun, decorative font to add style.

3. Pick a color palette

Less is more when it comes to colors, too. Use your color palettes to complement the tone of your yearbook. Consider starting with your school colors as a base or pick a fresh palette to match your theme. Check out this fun site to help generate color schemes.

4. Choose headline styles to hook readers

How will you present the topic of each page or spread to your reader? Most yearbooks have titles or headlines to quickly tell the readers what to expect. Get creative by creating a catchy headline while mixing together your font styles and colors determined in the previous steps.

5. Consider design elements

Based on the tone and theme of your yearbook, what graphic elements, if any, will you include? Less is always more when it comes to clipart and backgrounds, so consider a subtle way to use graphics to tie your book together. If you are using clipart, limit your gallery to a just a few pieces and reuse them in different colors.

Keep track of all your selections on this handy style guide sheet.

Design a cover your school will love

We know the saying well: Don’t judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to the yearbook, we aspire to create a great looking cover that captures the essence of the year while piquing the interest of buyers. It’s important to consider these tips when choosing a design.

Elements presented on your cover should also appear on the interior pages of your yearbook.

Does your cover tell the visual story of your theme?

If you’ve chosen a theme, you should have a built-in direction for your cover design. If your theme is about adventure, use clipart and backgrounds to create a design that evokes the tone of your theme. The cover is the place to introduce all visual and style-related elements your readers can expect when they turn the pages of the book. Incorporate the same color palette, fonts and images. This helps to create a cohesive and professional-looking yearbook and streamlines the design process.

Is it relatable to your students?

Making sure the cover relates to students is important. If your theme phrase includes the word “time,” for example, be sure your visuals make sense to students. A sand-filled hourglass or a sundial may not evoke a relevant interpretation of time in the way a digital clock or another more abstract element would. Before you begin designing, consider recruiting a focus group of students and ask their opinions and ideas based on the yearbook theme. Providing them with some visual sample ideas or sketches can help get their creative juices flowing.

Does it favor a certain grade?

The best yearbook covers are always inclusive of the entire student body. While some schools choose to include a photo or names of the graduating class, it is best to reserve those special dedication elements for inside the book. Why? Placing a picture of the 5th grade graduates starts a tradition that, if ever broken, can cause backlash among students and parents alike. It creates the expectation that every graduating class will appear, and it forces you into design constraints. If your school has a tradition of including grade-specific details on the cover and you are looking to change that, discuss the pros and cons with your representative and administration.

Is everything spelled correctly?

While this tip may sound outrageous, misspelled words and school names on yearbook covers are more common than you might think. It is easy to overlook a missing or transposed letter when the words are very familiar to you. Double and triple-check yourself by asking for multiple sets of eyes to see your cover. Are you listing the school year correctly? Standard practice is to refer to this year’s yearbook with the year it delivers. Example: The 2017-2018 school year is simply referred to as the 2018 yearbook. For best results, spell check both the original cover design as well as the cover proof with the same level of discernment to be certain the correct version made its way to the publisher.

Does it fit your budget?

Cool cover treatments are a great way to add visual and tactile appeal to your book. From die-cut shapes in the cover to thermal inks, your imagination—and your budget—are the only limits to what you can accomplish. If you are set on a particular cover treatment, talk to your representative about ways to accomplish it. They can provide pricing as well as alternative options that get you close to the same visual effect without breaking the bank.

Need some design inspiration? Check out our Pinterest boards or Balfour’s simplyCREATE designs where you can choose a yearbook cover with matching backgrounds, elements and suggested colors.


Design like a diva: mix and match your layouts

One of the most fun things about yearbook is coming up with the look of the book. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the pages. So, as you grab the mouse, let’s think creatively about the layouts you’re going to use in your yearbooks.


If you’re short on time, utilize the templates in Balfour Tools or StudioWorks+. Fall is in full swing and if you’re still needing templates, don’t be afraid to take advantage of ones already created. Find templates in the Balfour Tools or StudioWorks+ library. Switch the font to your theme’s type choices and add any graphic looks you’re carrying throughout the book. Don’t be afraid to adjust the design to give your own creative touch or tweak a module that needs additional photos or alternative copy.


Look at Pinterest or magazine design if needing inspiration. Not wanting to use the templates? Scour Pinterest or your local Barnes & Noble for ideas. There are tons of great yearbook ideas online and in professional magazines. It might be the perfect layout or a great module package. Take the idea and let it inspire a brand new or modified design.


Have a dominant package on the spread. Make sure that every spread has a dominant photo and accompanying story to anchor the spread. This gives the spread a central focus and helps the reader naturally move through the page.


Mix and match templates in different sections. Traditionally, staffs created one layout for each section. While this does provide consistency, it also gives the reader the same design over and over again. The monotony can cause the viewer to miss important content, or worse, skip the spread entirely. Instead, why not mix and match the templates? Take a spread in Academics and also use it in Student Life. Or take a cool sports page and run it in the organization section. The more you mix and match the designs, the more the reader will see a fresh look as they go through the book. As long as you’re using the same typography, graphics and colors throughout the book, the look and feel of the book will remain consistent.


Make lots of modules and mix and match those on different spreads. On a similar note, mixing and matching modules and sidebars is another way to provide contrast in the design. Instead of running the same sidebar on every organizations spread, use it a few times and then include it another section as well. The staff could also create multiple sidebars and secondary coverage packages, and then pick and choose what pages the go on. Save all the module options in the library and staffers will have plenty of items to choose from as they design a spread.


Use multiple designs in the people section. As noted earlier, using the same design on consecutive pages can bore the reader. This goes for people pages too. Using the exact same layout and sidebar on every spread doesn’t encourage students to look closely at each page. Instead, mix and match modules and sidebars in the people section. Maybe one spread has a Q & A, while the next one has a small feature profile. Utilizing different sidebars in various sizes and placements on the page also helps when trying to adjust for different numbers of school portraits.


Vary the placement of dominant photos, stories and eyelines. After you’ve designed all of your templates, print them out and compare them. Are there horizontal, vertical and square dominant photos? Are they always in the same location? What about stories and eyelines? Verify that these essential parts of the spread are not always in the exact same place. It’s important to vary the content to keep the reader engaged in each spread.


Glenn High School turned their football page into a showstopper by using a strong photo as a background image bleeding off the spread.

Add showstopper or wow spreads to break up the traditional design. Another way to jazz up the design is to add showstopper or wow spreads. These are pages that don’t follow traditional yearbook design. They might have 20 cutouts and quotes covering the whole spread or a giant photo that bleeds off the edges. These types of pages are meant to break out of the design. They can be fun topics like fashion or food, or traditional coverage topics like football or theatre that have an unusual design. (Hint, if you love the large background photo look, photos on dark backgrounds work great for this design. Think night sporting events, plays, musical concerts and stage dance performances. Also, sports like golf and swimming work well took because of all the grass and water, respectively.)


Designing layouts is one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of yearbook. The inspiration the students come up with will be permanently recorded on those pages. It’s a cool opportunity to remember history with a creative touch. So, open that spread, grab that mouse and have fun!


How to handle missing student portraits when designing class pages

Once school picture day has come and gone, many yearbook staffs are busy considering how to display all those smiling faces. A common question we get is, “How do I handle students who did not sit for their official portrait?” Do you ask parents to send in a photo? Do you leave them out completely? Is there a middle ground?

The short answer is yes.  There are many solutions to consider depending on the goals of your yearbook and the amount of time you can dedicate to the work needed. It’s important to be as inclusive as possible, giving those who were not able to attend picture day or who moved in after, a chance to be featured. Why does this matter? Having the most comprehensive student coverage is good for sales and marketing of your yearbook. Here are a few steps to achieving a comprehensive student section.

Deadlines Dominate

Before deciding on a solution, consider the publishing deadline for your portrait pages. This will help eliminate and consider specific options.  If you commit to tracking down and photographing every student, chances are you’ll be inserting student images into your pages moments before you publish, and that may not work with your school’s production schedule. Work with your representative on a solution that marries your needs with the needs of your delivery date. If your portrait pages are due in early February, give teachers, parents and students a deadline one week prior to your official publishing date as a buffer.

Choose a solution

Here are some options that work well for schools:

1. If you are showcasing students by teacher, it’s easy to print out your pages and hand them to the teacher with this attached checklist. On here is a space for teachers to list the students who were not photographed. Work with your administration to pull students from classes or lunches and take their snapshot to be included in the yearbook. Choose a neutral background that will coordinate well with the professional photos taken. Individual students can be added to the software and added automatically to the class or teacher pages where they belong. Not sure how to accomplish this? Give your account executive or our tech support team a call.

2. Consider asking the teachers for a list of students without photographs and display their names under a “not pictured” section on each teacher or grade page.

3. Some staffs choose to have fun with the blank “not pictured” spaces by incorporating their theme. Be sure to consider space limitations and whether including a “not pictured” graphic will push your portrait count past the page count allotted.

4. Another fun idea is creating a page or spread in your yearbook for new faces. This solution is inclusive of both student show missed picture day and those who moved in after their class pages were published and otherwise would not be listed in the yearbook.

Communication is Key

Be sure to let teachers, faculty, and sometimes parents know the plan and protocol for getting their students’ smiling faces in the yearbook. Put together a policy and post it on your school or staff’s website where parents locate ordering information. Also be sure to set expectations that sending in photos only applies to students who did not take their professional photo. Offering to replace photos for all student is not advised.

Check the ‘do not publish’ list

Schools and districts across the country must comply with the FERPA act, allowing parents to opt out of having their student’s information and photo from publication. Start early investigating how your school handles this issue. Some parents sign these forms, not realizing it excludes them from the yearbook as well as other digital publications. Here’s a handy form that can be used to contact parents and verify their intent.

Being inclusive is important, but setting a deadline, choosing a solution and clearly communicating the plan will save you time and sanity as you prepare your portrait pages for publication. For more information, check out page 28-31 of your Balfour Adviser Guide.