It’s about the people – Part 1

Oh, how we love to procrastinate. And when it comes to the people section, it’s easy to put off the planning and design. You don’t have the mugs so how can you start? Oh, but you can.

 In this two-part Tuesday Tip, we’ll help you navigate the people section. Today, we’ll focus on planning the section as a whole and simple tips for squeezing a little more space out of those mugs. Next week, we’ll tackle design, theme connections, and more space saving suggestions.

Plan ahead

A complaint we often hear from advisers and staffs is they can’t possibly plan and design the people section until they know how many portraits were taken. This is where a little strategy and background can generate a reasonable estimate. Here’s how:

Using last year’s book, count how many portraits were taken for each grade level. With each grade, divide the number by the total number of students in that grade last year. That provides a percentage of students who had their picture taken. Take that percentage and multiply it by the population of that same grade level for the current year. This gives a rough estimate of how many students will take their pictures and therefore, how many portrait spaces to plan on. For example, if there were 400 sophomores in 2017 and 320 took their school pictures, that’s 80% of the 10th graders. Multiple .80 by the current sophomore class of 425, and expect about 340 sophomore mugs.

You can also take the percentage and use it for the next grade level if you prefer it to match the same students or use an average of all grade levels. Keep in mind, there will be some fluctuation (5 to 10 percent), but this is a really great starting point for planning.

Using your estimated numbers, plan how many portraits per spread, leaving space for stories or secondary coverage. With the space created, staffers can design headlines, stories, graphics and sidebar ideas. When the real numbers come in, designers can make minor adjustments to the size of packages by adding or deleting a row or two of portraits as needed. Because of the advanced planning, these changes are usually fairly minor. In the unusual case of a wide disparity of numbers, staffers can delete or add an entire half page or page of stories and sidebars as necessary.

Make more space

If you love the idea of having more coverage in the people section, but can’t add pages, consider making the mugs smaller. Take a moment to compare your portrait size with other yearbooks. Are they substantially larger or similar? Is it possible the mugs could run smaller?

Reducing mugs by even just two points could allow for an additional row and/or column of portraits. For example, if you’ve always run mugs 6 picas wide and 8 picas tall, consider 5p10 wide and 7p10 deep. This is such a minute difference that students often don’t notice the portraits are smaller than in previous years. If you need drastic reductions, considering dropping the size only two to three points per year until they are at a more preferable size.

Another way to made additional space is to run the names on the outsides of the portrait blocks. Including the name under the portrait takes more space. Placing the names in order on the left or right of each row allows the rows to run closer together, providing space for an additional row.

Similarly, if you are only running only one, two or three columns of portraits on one of the pages, try moving the names to the opposite side with the names from the adjoining portrait block. This frees up space for stories and sidebars, and avoids wimpy looking text blocks with only a few names. Keep in mind, the font size will need to be small (7-9 pt) to fit an additional one to three names.

One other way to add space is to look at how much space is left between mugs. Often, staffs have left two, three or four points in between portraits. One point between each mug is plenty of space and might free up room for another column of mugs or feature coverage.

Leave some space

Speaking of space, this is somewhere we want a little extra. The old design standard of leaving one pica between editorial content and portraits is too small. It makes the page feel cramped and crowded.


Instead, leave a grid or rail of space between the portraits and the stories or sidebars. If you’re not using grids or rails, try leaving two to three picas of open space. It’s amazing what this breathing room does for the look and flow of a page.


Next week: Check out the blog next Tuesday as we focus on the design and aspects of the people section. We’re saying goodbye to boring and hello to fresh and creative designs!