Posts in category Elementary & Middle School

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.


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.

Simplify your year with Balfour’s Adviser Guide

Advising a yearbook takes skills…a lot of them. While creativity and photography skills matter, being business savvy and managing your time are arguably just as important. It’s a tough job, and that is why we think our advisers are total rockstars. Having the right tools to get through the year is important, so Balfour created the Yearbook Adviser Guide. This beautiful, 96-page workbook gives advisers space to keep track of all the important staff, school and publishing contacts, plus deadlines, budgeting details and upcoming tasks. Elementary customers: This book shipped with your 2018 Production Materials. Didn’t receive it? Contact your representative to order a copy.

Section 1: Planning & Selling

Get started with the roadmap showing the general timeline from building a staff to organizing yearbook delivery day. Once you’re up to speed on all things yearbook with the visual glossary, take a look at our tips for getting started. The Page Planner found in this section is a central location to keep track of what will go on every page of the yearbook. This is an important step to planning and producing the yearbook, and we encourage every adviser to make this step a priority.

Creating a budget is an important step of any business, including the yearbook. Read through our tips on proper pricing, how to marketing the yearbook and where to keep track of it all in our online resource site, StudioBalfour. A friendly budget worksheet is included and can be filled out with your representative.

Marketing the yearbook may seem scary, but we have provided a step-by-step guide and all the tools needed to market like a pro. We’ve even listed 25 fun ways to promote the yearbook!

Section 2: Designing Your Book

When it comes to design, you don’t have to be a pro to have beautiful yearbook. We’ll walk you through all the steps to designing a great cover, choosing the perfect fonts and colors and making it all look cohesive.

Master your portrait pages with step-by-step outline for making decisions that best fit your school. We encourage every school to make it their goal of spelling every name correct, and we have provided tools to make that task easier. The Portrait Proofing Checklist can be copied and given to teachers to help proof their class pages.

The Balfour fonts and colors are available in the guide along with a variety of font themes that show great examples of font and color pairings.

Section 3: Inspiring Designs

When designs catch our eye, we like to show them off. Thirty pages of design ideas direct from schools we work with can be found in this section. We highlight cover designs, portrait layouts, student life, sports, clubs and more.

The layouts on these pages are representative of the creative designs we see at schools from coast to coast. Use them for ideas and inspiration.

Section 4: Calendar

The Adviser Guide ends with a handy monthy-by-month calendar with space for notes. Be sure to check out the monthly goals to stay on track.


The 5 people you need in your yearbook network

We’ve said it before: It takes a village to make a yearbook. From coordinating school pictures to designing and editing pages, a yearbook’s production requires a team of talented and dedicated individuals. Recruiting interested students, parents and faculty members is crucial, but don’t overlook these additional players you need in your yearbook network–now.

The Principal

This one may seem obvious to most, but making sure your principal is involved in the yearbook process is key. Meet early in the year to discuss last year’s book and any expectations for this year. Be sure to verify the estimated shipping date and make sure it works with the end-of-year schedule. Discuss deadlines and ask for support in getting everything turned in on time. The principal may be able to encourage other faculty members or parents to send photos during crunch time. Be transparent with the budget as well, discussing the importance of selling yearbooks throughout the year. Consider asking the principal to help promote the yearbook by sending an email to parents from their school address. Principal emails have been shown to increase yearbook sales, especially just before price increase time or the book sales deadline.

The Front Office Staff

Everyone from the receptionist to the school counselors is vital to the success of the yearbook program. Introduce yourself to each and discuss your goals for the year, like spelling everyone’s name correctly and increasing sales. The front office team serves as the school gatekeeper, so arming them with as much information as possible is important. Provide a sheet listing the price of the yearbook (and student ads, if applicable), how to purchase and the sales deadlines. If you have copies of last year’s yearbook left over, give a few to the front office staff to show parents who visit the school. The reception area of the school is a great spot to leave order forms or display an eye-catching table tent as parents enter the school.

The Webmaster

Make friends with this person to get book or ad sales information added to the school’s homepage. Balfour provides free web banners you can provide to the webmaster, along with the direct link to purchase a yearbook on or a link to a custom PDF order form parents can return to the front office. If your prices increase throughout the year, it’s important to provide new order forms or sales information to this person so they can update the site accordingly.

The Custodian

If you are a classroom teacher, you know how important the custodians are to your success. Not only do they restore your classroom to normalcy after deadline all-nighters, they also let you into locked rooms when you forget your keys. Don’t forget the impact of a handwritten card—or a slice of cake during a celebration.

The PTA/PTO President

Whether you’re creating the yearbook as a parent volunteer or as a classroom teacher with a staff, be sure to reach out to the president of your parent-teacher organization. They have a direct line into the buyers you are trying to reach—parents! Provide them with as much information as possible about sales, book prices, deadlines, photo & design opportunities, and watch your yearbook network grow.