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Widening the gap: How increasing external margins has a big impact on design

External margins are the areas of white space that frame the spread. The margins are there to keep staffs from designing elements too close to the edge of the page. But the default settings are very small. In StudioWorks+, the external margin is two picas (this is the yellow border on the layout below). In InDesign, it’s three picas. With six picas in an inch, this is only one-third to one-half of an inch of white space, a very slim margin. In all honesty, it’s just too small.

With our natural tendency to design all the way to the edge of the content area, this creates a very crowded page. All the elements seem crammed in with little room to breathe. If the margins are increased slightly, then the elements inside the content area would not be so close to the edge. Suddenly, they have room to breathe and the page has more flow.

A healthier margin is four to five picas (maintaining one to two picas for the inside margin near the gutter). This change has a minimal impact on the content while having a maximum impact on the look of the page.

Advisers often ask how to improve their books or how to win awards; changing the margins is a huge step in the right direction. Look at nationally award-winning books and you’ll notice they don’t have tiny margins. They have nice, fat wide margins that give additional white space around the spread content.

So, how do make this change?

In InDesign, it’s simple. You adjust the margins by going to the Margins and Columns option under the Layout tab in the Menu bar. (Keep in mind, you’ll need to break the link icon to make sure it doesn’t adjust ALL the margins. Otherwise, the inside margin will be four picas too.) We suggest anywhere from four to five picas for the top, bottom and outside margins. If you prefer symmetrical margins of equal space, set the top, bottom and outside margins to the same number of picas. If you like additional space for a larger folio, add an extra half to full pica to accommodate. Some staffs prefer a middle ground and will use 4p6 for all the margins or 4p0 for top and outsides and 4p6, 4p9 or 5p0 for the bottom for a little more cushion.

In StudioWorks+, it’s a little different but still possible. While you can’t make the yellow portion of the layout bigger in SW+, you can create bigger margins in three possible ways:

Option 1: Add multiple columns and rows to create a grid. The vertical and horizontal rail closest to the yellow margin is the extended margin. To ensure it is equal spacing all the way around, use a grid that creates squares, not rectangles. Also, to make sure the new margin isn’t too large, you’ll need a lot of rows and columns. To create a grid, go to the Full Menu Options icon (the one with the three horizontal lines and go View>Preferences. Under the Guides tab, select no Grid and adjust the number of columns and row spacing. The number of rows will have to be slightly larger than the number of columns. (A few suggestions: 17 columns and 14 rows, 19 and 16, 22 and 19 or 24 and 21.) You can also adjust how large the space is between columns and rows, often called a gutter. In StudioWorks+, it’s referred to as column spacing and row spacing. Since there are more columns and rows, consider choosing a smaller amount of space like 6 or 9 instead of 12.

Notice how the grid closest to the yellow margin at the bottom does not contain any content. This helps in creating a wider margin.

Option 2: Place an outlined box or individual lines on the preferred margin and let students know they should not design past those lines. Use a bright color like red or orange to make it really noticeable. You can lock these lines/bars or place on the master pages. If you go with this option, make sure to remove the box or lines before you submit pages to Balfour.

Option 3: Use the document grid to establish a wider margin. Under the Full Menu Options icon, go to View>Preferences>Guides. Select the Small (pica) option which provides a 1-pica grid. Using the 1-pica grid, decide how many additional picas of margin you want past the yellow area. An extra pica would provide a 3-pica margin, two picas would be a 4-pica margin. Let students know they should skip one, two (or however many picas you designate) past the yellow area when they place photos and text. Photos that bleed off the page would still go to the outer edge of the yellow border. If you feel it’s necessary, add a box or lines along the pica grid to make the new border clearer to students. Just as noted earlier, make sure to delete before hitting submit.

Adding this small bit of white space is a simple way to improve the design of a spread. It makes the pages feel less crowded, lets elements have a little more room to breathe, and provides a clean look. It’s the little details that can make a big difference in a yearbook.

Leander High School is a StudioWorks+ book that uses grids to create a wider margin instead of using the 2-pica default margin.

Selling the Yearbook: 10 proven tips to increase buy rates

The yearbook staff at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, Wash., paints signs to hang around campus, letting students and parents know yearbooks are on sale.

Advisers and their dedicated staff members think everyone should have a yearbook. You want to share your stellar photos, crystalline words and compelling designs with the world. Every fall, you hang posters in the hallways, stack order forms on the reception desk, then sit back and wait for the orders to pour in. All too often, the response is more a trickle than a flood.

So how do you increase sales? Successful staffs pull out all the stops to reach potential buyers throughout the year. Here’s a sampling of the advice we’ll share in the fall issue of Elements magazine in November.

Interlake High School:

Tip 1: We try to get information out in as many ways as possible:

  • We send home a flyer with the back-to-school mailing.
  • We post our sales information on the school website.
  • We have flyers in the front office and counseling office so that parents stopping in for other business will pick one up.
  • We ask our principal to include our information in her weekly emails to parents.
  • We send emails out to students with sales information.
  • We include sales information in the PTSA newsletters and on their Facebook group page.

Tip 2: We also try to represent as many people and activities in the book as we can.

  • We do spreads on sports that students compete in that are not our school sports, such as crew, rugby, skiing, etc.
  • We try to listen to our students and include features they want and enjoy.

Tip 3: What we do is not earth-shattering, but we try to keep yearbook sales on people’s minds all year long so they are constantly reminded to get it done.

Interlake High School, located in Bellevue Washington, has 1,500 students, and the staff sells 1,000 books. Megan Bennett is the adviser of the book.


Glacier Peak High School

Tip 4: We offer a combo pack with student body cards/yearbook/parking pass for $110. The three things purchased separately would cost $160.  The package offers students a $50 discount.

Tip 5: Several times a year, as a promotion, we post 11”x 14” photos in the hallway and then give them to the students who are pictured.

Tip 6: My Favorite– One week before the book arrives, we hire the FCCLA Club (Our Cooking Club) to make 1500 cookies. We package them in a clear baggie with a ribbon/sticker reflecting our theme on the front. We tie a Sharpie marker on the bag and thank students for purchasing a yearbook. Because they want the cookie and Sharpie, students who were on the fence about purchasing a book, buy the extras we order.

Tip 7: We always do a “Reveal” of the cover for the whole student body at an assembly. This is something our students have really come to look forward to. We hang a banner of the cover in the cafeteria for three weeks before distribution.

Glacier Peak High School, located in Snohomish, Washington, has 1,776 students and the staff sells 1,500 books. Annie Green is the adviser of the book.


Inglemoor High School

Tip 8: We are included in the “back-to-school” letter that my principal mails to all students in the summer. It includes the price and states that yearbooks may be purchased at the back-to-school fair just before school starts. Having this come from the administration and be a part of all the other back-to-school information makes more of an impact on parents than if we sent our own letter.

Tip 9: My staff does a very good job of talking face-to-face with people about buying a yearbook. We have created a culture here that buying a yearbook is just one of those things you do. The majority of students don’t ever consider NOT buying one.

Tip 10: We have a huge “all-school” release party at the end of the year. (This is during the school day.) It is called Viking Day (our mascot) and it’s kind of a year-end party; however, because that is the release day for the yearbook, the whole event just becomes a big yearbook signing party. Students feel really left out by not having a yearbook. This is well-known, so most students are certain to have bought a yearbook ahead of time.

Inglemoor High School, located in Kenmore Washington, has 1,500 students and the staff sells 1,000 books. Zane Mills is the adviser of the book.


Read more from these and other advisers in the upcoming issue of Elements, including tips on selling ads and promoting the yearbook program in your school.




How to prep for school picture day to save time (and your sanity) around deadlines

School picture day is a rite of passage for students across the country. Page after page filled with smiling faces is what makes a yearbook so timeless. As the yearbook adviser or coordinator, doing a little planning before picture day could save you days—if not weeks—of work later in the year. Here are some tips to consider before, during and after school picture day to maximize your time and save your sanity.

Plan Ahead

Start by doing a little legwork with your school’s front office. What photography company do you use? Similar to yearbook companies, photography companies also have representatives who work with your school to coordinate picture day and delivery. Request contact information for your rep and reach out to introduce yourself before the big day. It is helpful to use this opportunity to:

     Ask when you can expect the portraits to be delivered

     Ask if portraits will be sent via disk or digital download

     Request large-format picture sizes to prevent print quality issues (640 x 800 pixels) 

If you are an elementary school and you intend on using the professional group photo for each class page, it is vital to confirm the group photo date now and when you can expect the digital files. Many photography companies do not release the digital files for group photos, or they are taken too late in the year to meet publishing deadlines. If you find yourself in this situation, picture day is perfect for snapping your own class photo after the students file through the line for individual shots.

Before picture day, decide what your class pages will look like. Do you have space for candid and quotes? Gather these on picture day while students are waiting in line for their portraits. Click here for yearbook question ideas for students.

Lastly, contact with your school’s administration and ask for their support on picture day for getting the teachers and faculty to sit for their individual portraits. Some principals will be eager to help as they also use these photos in the school. Collaborating on this will keep you from hunting down teacher photos at deadline time.

School Picture Day

Plan on getting to school early to meet the photographers and the photo representative. Putting faces with names is helpful for building a great working relationship with your rep. (They can save you in a pinch!) If you are not able to be there the whole day, ask for volunteers from other parent volunteers or your yearbook team. As teachers are bringing their classes down, ask for their support in checking the spelling of student names on the namecards provided by most companies. If a student’s name is misspelled, mark the change so the photography company can update the student record before it makes its way onto the portrait disk.

As students are filing in, have your camera ready to capture candid moments. Write down the names of students and their classroom teacher or grade so you can refer back and easily sort the photos after the day is over. If you plan to fill extra space in your yearbook with Q&As and quotes, now is the perfect time to gather this information. Not sure what to ask?

As mentioned in the planning phase, if your photographer will not release or you cannot get the group shots of the classes in time, today is an excellent time to grab the class and have them pose for a fun photo outside on the playground or in front of the school. Doing it now will save you individual trips to every classroom later in the year.

Let students know yearbooks are on sale by handing out order form. The more opportunities to promote the yearbook the better.

Does your school do something special in the yearbook for the oldest grade? Using picture day to capture those additional poses or quotes is ideal. See examples here.

Wrapping everything up

You’ve survived picture day! It may have been an exhausting experience, but you’ll thank yourself later, we promise. Be sure to send a thank you to the administration and teachers for their help. Being visible and proactive in your communication helps get teachers on board with the importance of yearbook.

Before you relax and get back to your normal routine, be sure to immediately file portraits into folders by teacher or grade. Transfer any quotes or caption information into a place for safe keeping (if using StudioWorks, enter caption details directly in the image description.)

Take time to follow up with the photography company representative to confirm retake day and the delivery of the portrait images. Mark your calendar so you can easily remember to reach out if you have not heard from them by the date promised. Note: It is best practice to only use the photos provided after retake day. Doing this allows the photo company to resolve duplicates and ensures you have a more complete and accurate collection of student images.

Feeling accomplished yet?


Yearbook tips when you aren’t sure where to start

If you’re reading this blog, more than likely you’ve found your way into the wonderful world of yearbook. First things first, welcome! Doing the yearbook is an exciting and special opportunity to be a part of your school’s history. At the same time, it can be an overwhelming project. If you’re like many yearbook advisers, you’ve probably asked yourself a series of questions similar to the one above.

Where do I start?

How do I sell books?

Who do I contact?

I do the yearbook, so now what?

We’re here to answer those questions, guide you through the yearbook journey and help you have a successful yearbook delivery, whether it’s your first time doing yearbook or you’re a seasoned pro.

The first day of school has come and gone, and fall weather is making its appearance. As you start thinking ahead to what the year has in store, take a moment to check these items off your yearbook to-do list.

Meet with your rep

Set an appointment to meet with your representative in person. Along with your in-plant account executive, your rep will be your lifeline to all things yearbook. They can guide you through the process, calm your fears and walk you through the software you’ll be using to design your yearbook pages. In addition to your rep, you also have an in-plant account executive who is assigned to your school. They help coordinate the production of your yearbook pages inside the plant as well as help with software support.

Recruit a yearbook team and photographers

The yearbook is more fun with friends. Reach out to parents or teachers who are willing to help with creating and editing layouts, taking photos and coordinating sales on campus. Be sure to take advantage of Balfour’s ImageShare app which allows anyone in the school to submit photos for consideration in the yearbook right from their smartphone. Keep track of everyone on your team as well as other important school contacts with this handy sheet from the Balfour Adviser Guide sent in your starter kit.

Set 3-5 goals for your yearbook

What does success look like to you? Setting your goals now will establish expectations for yourself and your yearbook team as you tackle the rest of the year. Goals can include the number of books you wish to sell, the amount of money you intend on raising and the number of times you wish to picture everyone in the yearbook. Other goals might include spelling every student’s name correctly (hint: request a student list from the front office now) and meeting your deadlines so stress stays out of sight.

Set up online sales

Setting up an online store is a convenient way for parents to purchase yearbooks and student ads/dedications. Schools that offer online stores consistently sell more books, so set your store up early and begin promotions during the first month. Before setting up your store, your rep can help with budgeting to establish your sales price. Use flyers, posters and web buttons to promote your store and guide parents to the right location to make their purchases. Need more selling tips and ideas? Sign up for Balfour’s Yearbook Sales Manager Program.

Focus on photos now

Photo opportunities are happening every day, so your focus during the first couple of months of the year should be on capturing as many photos as possible. Having your yearbook team helping to cover as many events as possible makes designing pages easier once you’re ready to get started.



6 tips for getting started on your 2018 yearbook

With schools back in session, planning your 2018 yearbook is top of mind. Where should you get started? Spend a few days introducing the rookies to the yearbook world by covering these staff topics and procedures. This exercise also serves as a refresher for the returning staff so everyone starts out on the same page. 

Tip #1: Create a binder or Google doc with essential information:

  • -The bell schedule, school calendar and master schedule
  • -Student alpha list with grade levels
  • -Coaches with contact information
  • -Club sponsors with contact information
  • -Yearbook representative and account executive contact information
  • -Yearbook tech help number
  • Staff member directory with addresses, mobile numbers and emails
  • -Yearbook deadlines and work day schedule.

Tip #2: Go over camera equipment and check-out procedures. Have a photo editor walk through camera basics. Teach staffers how and where to download images. Use this handy camera check-out sheet to keep track of where your staff cameras are at all times.

Tip #3: Practice interviewing each other before going out for the real thing. Encourage “why” and “how” instead of “yes” and “no” questions. Emphasize gathering details and reactions. (Check out our post on Listening for quotable quotes.)

Tip #4: Show staffers how to access yearbook pages and where to save worked photos. Getting familiar with the workflow is important so staffers can be efficient as the school year progresses and deadlines approach. Now is a great time to create user log-ins for the software your staff will be using.

Tip #5: In the design software program, point out important tools, panels and inspectors. While you may not be ready to let student design real pages, it’s a great time to have your staff practice drawing text and picture boxes, placing photos and adding lines, shapes or color. Creating a practice spread to learn the basics or refresh veteran staffers can be helpful.

Tip #6: Walk through basic design principles and writing structure. Show several examples and practice together.

Don’t worry about covering everything—just hit the basics. Students will learn and assign more meaning to the skills as they put them into practice. It’s the beginning of a new year and we’re excited to be back to yearbook!