Wow 'em with showstopper spreads


Peanut butter and jelly can get old if you eat it every day. But mixing your lunch routine with other options—pasta, salad or chicken—can surprise your taste buds. Why not vary design the same way?

Beautiful photos, smart layouts and captivating headlines will entice buyers to take in your spreads. But like eating PB&J every day, seeing the same design repeatedly makes for a less than appetizing experience. To spice things up, consider sprinkling showstoppers throughout the book. 

17_Harrisonburg_marchAbove: Harrisonburg High School used a full bleed photo for their showstopper spread on the Women’s March in 2017.

What are showstoppers?

Showstoppers are original, creative layouts that break the traditional design look. Also called wow spreads, breakers or disruptors, they are one-offs meant to dazzle the audience. Breaker spreads provide a change of pace, disrupting the book’s layout organization and the traditional design rules – dominant photo, eyeline, main story, etc. (The theme’s graphic elements, colors and fonts are still implemented to provide continuity throughout the book.)

The beauty of wow spreads is the creative factor. There’s no right or wrong way to design one. Showstoppers can have full bleed photos that cover the whole spread and draw the reader in. They can feature images across three-quarters of the spread and include more traditional design elements in the other 25 percent. Or they might omit a dominant photo completely and fill the two facing pages with secondary coverage. Showstoppers provide an opportunity to cover fun or nontraditional topics that will interest students. Oak Grove High School created a wow spread in 2017 that featured things students loved about their school. Vista Ridge High School put together a Cosmopolitan-like quiz, asking “Are you a true Ranger?” To highlight academic statistics, Southern Methodist University featured facts and figures, with a full-bleed photo of an iconic campus building. These ideas provide innovative coverage of the school community in a fun and fresh package.

Showstopper spreads860 (4)

Above: Passing periods, 2015 Vista Ridge High School. Obsessions, 2016 Hill Country Christian School. Rodeo, 2017 Cypress Creek High School. Socks, 2017 Claudia Taylor Johnson High School.

Showstopping content

Showstoppers are a great way to add fun coverage to your book. Whether it covers the latest trends, pop culture or food joints, a wow spread is an innovative way to share the content. Here are some fun suggestions for topics to cover on your breaker spreads:

  1. Trends (fashion, memes, dance moves, gadgets, slang)
  2. Pop culture (movies, books, celebrities, TV, music)
  3. Current events (local, national, world)
  4. Food (hangouts, favorite dishes, snacks, late night places, cafeteria options)
  5. Drink (coffee, water bottles, snow cones/slushies)
  6. Studying (midterms, finals, study habits, music choices, coffee & food choices)
  7. Travel (summer, Christmas, spring break)
  8. Social media (Twitter feeds, Instagram photos, Snapchat streaks)
  9. A-Z spreads (Use the alphabet to cover any topic—clubs, academics, school characteristics)
  10. Books (English required reading, social reading)
  11. Socks/shoes (sandals, heels, boys’ sneakers, popular styles, colorful/unusual socks)
  12. Between the bells (hallway coverage between classes)
  13. Pets (exotic pets, selfies)
  14. Obsessions (pop culture, collections)
  15. Game Day (essentials, day-in-the-life features, off-the-field events)
  16. Outdoor fun (extreme sports, outside activities)
  17. Holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day)
  18. State fairs & rodeos
  19. Day in the life (athletes, pep rally day, theater performance day, one student, multiple students, teachers, a single desk)
  20. Statistics (facts & figures with illustrations, graphics or large photos)
  21. Sleep (lack of, reasons for reduced amounts, surveys, sleep deprivation survival tips)
  22. Weather (summer heat, unexpected flooding, ice or snow)

Add wow to traditional coverage

Not everyone has the space or budget for fun spreads (you can always shrink the coverage to include in the people section). But despite space issues, showstoppers can still be incorporated into the book. Create breaker pages for topics you’re covering anyway like theater, art or swimming.

Spreads that have strong photography lend themselves to wow designs. Images with dead space work well as full bleed photos (think lots of sky, grass or a solid background). Stories and smaller photos can be layered on top without feeling cluttered. Golf, for example, is a good choice for a disruptor spread. A wide shot of a golfer on the fairway provides a lush amount of green grass and ample space to add additional, smaller photos.

Sports and events that happen in a darkened environment are also smart choices for wow designs. The choir or dance team performing on stage can make for a compelling breaker spread. Football and soccer pages can also wow the audience with the dark backgrounds. Please keep in mind, while breaker spreads can create gorgeous design they tend to have fewer photos. Be mindful of the groups you feature on showstoppers so they still receive adequate coverage.

Showstopper spreads are a great to mix up the design, inspire creativity and wow your audience. PB&J pages will sustain most of your book, but every once in a while you need a steak. Dig in!

16_Vista Ridge_danceAbove: Performances in dark theaters make for great showstopper spreads. 2016 Vista Ridge High School

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