A yearbook, also known as an annual, is a book to record, highlight, and commemorate the past year of a school or a book published annually. Virtually all American, Australian and Canadian high schools, most colleges and many elementary and middle schools publish yearbooks. The term may also refer to a book of statistics or facts published annually.
Yearbooks are generally compiled by a student committee, which may or may not be advised by members of the faculty. The committee usually has one or more editors who are responsible for collecting and compiling all of the information to be contained within the book, also deciding the layout and allocation of space for each contributor.
Book layout process
Layout is the appearance of the pages, and it may include the following elements:
- The Headline: This is a theme that ties the page into the story and draws attention to the reader.
- The Story/Copy: Consists of several paragraphs, capturing the highlights of a specific department, sports season, organization, etc., from the past year. Often, yearbook staff members will either send out surveys/interview students, teachers and others for comments.
- Photographs: Candid shots of students, suitable to the page's topic and theme. Often, editors seek to include a cross-section of the student body (e.g., classes, races, school involvement, etc.). Included with the photographs are one or more captions, which describe each picture; these often begin with a lead-in.
Tools of the trade
Several programs exist on the internet to create many yearbook layouts. Features include easy web-based creation of pages, collages, personal profiles, and recordings of specific event situations. These methods of development allow for layout artists, editors, and students to access the layout, speeding up the process of creating the yearbook.
Paragraphs of text added to pages, also known as 'copy', are often typed and edited using a word processing program. The copy is then saved to a hard drive or disc and later imported onto the pages. It is also possible to insert a copy straight into the pages, themselves, as they are being designed.
In the past, most yearbooks were laid out by hand, with photographs physically cropped and placed on layout boards. The work was tedious, and required multiple deadlines and contact with a yearbook publisher.
Today, virtually all yearbooks are published using computers, which allows for shorter deadlines and easier editing. Some yearbook publishers have agreements with schools, whereby the staff send photos and copy for layout by the publishing company; the layout is later sent to the school for final editing.
Students typically paginate, or lay out, pages using a computer program such as Adobe PageMaker, Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress. Students are quickly able to size photographs and place copy, leaving minimal white space behind. Some yearbook companies provide their own computer programs for designing yearbooks. These programs are designed for easy navigation, copy/edit/paste functions, and more. Some people might just put pictures around the writing or have writing over a picture.
Most yearbooks have a similar format, which includes individual photographs of students; information on activities; sports; and other activities.
People (Seniors, Underclassmen, Faculty)
In the U.S., where a yearbook often covers the whole school and not just the final year, these sections are arranged in chronological order by class (freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior), in either ascending or descending order. Normally each student will have an individual photo of them accompanied by their name and perhaps one or two lines of text. Senior photographs are usually larger than underclassmen's and are often accompanied by text about their accomplishments throughout high school, and their future plans (if known). Also, (in some high schools) the senior's photos will be in color
while the underclassmen photos are in black and white
. Frequently, seniors are polled to nominate their classmates for "superlatives" or "class celebrities" (such as "most likely to succeed," "most athletic," "most spirited" and "class clown"), are often published in the senior section. Some private schools and smaller high schools set aside an entire page for each senior. These pages are sometimes designed by the seniors themselves, with each senior submitting a digital or physical version of the page he or she would like featured in the book.
In the UK and other markets, where yearbooks often only cover the final year group and not the entire school, each student may have more space for answers to various questions as well as their photo (or photos). In Year 11 (England & Wales) members are usually grouped by form/class; whilst Year 13 tend not to be grouped in such a way, but instead just appear alphabetically throughout the book. Its common in these markets for each person to have between a quarter and a whole page each, depending on the budget available for the yearbook (as more pages means a higher cost). The editorial team chooses questions for members to answer (such as "Favourite teacher?" or "Where will you be in 5 years time?") and these answers appear alongside member photos. These photos and answers are sometimes also collected online.
Several pages are often used for pages chronicling activities undertaken by students, such as trips abroad, activity trips, sporting and other special events. These pages often consist of photo-journals displayed with or without captions.
Sometimes members of a yearbook write editorial and journalistic content about life as a student, current events (local, national and international) and other matters of interest to the peer group.
In books having pages in both color and black and white, the photo pages - collages and other groups of photos - tend to be the ones which run in color; the others run in black and white, reducing the publishing costs (and overall purchase price) per book.
Talks about the classes, projects, and more educational aspects of the school year.
Describes student organizations (sometimes referred to as clubs
) and what they do. These descriptions are often accompanied by a photo or photos of the organizations' members. This section of a yearbook sometimes includes a list of the members of each organization.
Often listed by season or club, these pages chronicle the accomplishments of the school's teams. Along with a short article listing the season's highlights, these pages include team photographs and action pictures.
A US high school yearbook includes pages for all levels—varsity, junior varsity, sophomore and freshman teams—of each sport. Outstanding accomplishments are often included in the front section of the yearbook, in addition to their usual page.
Often, students will have to deal with the death of a classmate or teacher due to illness
, accident, or other cause. When this happens, a memorial page may be set aside to eulogize the deceased. The page will usually include a picture of the student or teacher, along with a mini biography, a candid pictures from happier times, a brief article explaining the loss and perhaps an inspirational verse or poem written by a close friend. This page can also include memories from teachers, friends, and or family.
Many yearbooks gain revenue by including a section of ads from local businesses.
Some schools sell advertisements for seniors. Parents, other family members and friends use these ads to congratulate a senior — or group of seniors — for their accomplishments.
An alphabetical listing of everyone included in the yearbook, along with the pages they may be found on. Usually, an editor keeps a master list of who is included on each page, to ensure accuracy. The index is not always included in high school yearbooks, as it can be time consuming to put one together, but due to advancements in technology, programs such as Sonar Bookends
have made the task easier.
Colophon or dedication
Typically the last page of the book. The colophon
lists staff members and acknowledges the hard work or yearbook volunteers. Often, this page includes a brief statement from the editor. Additionally, the colophon may include technical information pertaining to the yearbook such as publisher, total number of pages and paper weight.
In some schools, this page will also serve as a dedication page, for example for a retiring long-time faculty member, a prominent school supporter or the senior class. Sometimes, the dedication will be included in the beginning of the yearbook.
Signature or Autograph Page
Most yearbooks contain a few pages which will be left blank for people to write messages about the preceding year and summer. Some messages may be brief and perfunctory while other may hold great value. The length of the messages written usually increases with age as people will have known each other for longer and become more mature.
Publishers & publishing process
Yearbook publishers may send representatives to work with the adviser and staff at each school to assist in the creation of the yearbook.
Yearbook companies typically require that groups of pages be sent periodically, rather than all at once, to the plant. This is done to stagger the work required to complete yearbooks for all the schools they cover. After the editors review each page and make changes, the pages are sent to the yearbook plant – either mailed on a CD-ROM or Zip drive or sent via the internet.
If the proofing process is not performed on-line, the adviser and editors receive proofs (typically full size prints) about a week or so after the submission of pages. This gives the school a final opportunity to make adjustments or changes. After all the proofs have been returned to the publisher the requested corrections are made, the books are printed, bound, and then sent to the school for distribution.
Some yearbook publishers work providing designers and production specialists to lay out the entire book. Some companies provide comprehensive, end-to-end yearbook publishing services for schools that historically have never had a yearbook staff or advisor to help put together their own programs.
A number of educational institutions and yearbook publishers operate camps and summer sessions at which student yearbook personnel can learn or polish the skills they need in their work.
Often, yearbooks are distributed at the end of a school year to allow members to obtain the books and signatures/personal messages from classmates. In the US, those that distribute at this time may publish a supplemental insert with photographs from spring sports and milestone events (such as prom
), as well as other important events. Many schools at which yearbooks are distributed at or before the end of a school year have a tradition of having students sign and leave notes on each others yearbooks.
Some schools distribute yearbooks after the end of the school year – such as during July, at Homecoming (US) in October or another designated time in order to include year-end activities. In some cases, yearbooks are mailed to the parents' homes of graduated seniors.
Colleges, elementary and middle school yearbooks
Colleges that publish yearbooks follow a similar format to high schools
. Some college yearbooks include detailed recaps of football
games. College yearbooks are considered by the Associated Collegiate Press
to be a form of journalism. ACP holds the annual Pacemaker competition for college yearbooks as well as other collegiate media outlets.
Elementary and middle schools may have a designated staff member who is in charge of putting together that school's yearbook, with or without the help of the students. These books are usually considerably smaller than a high school or college yearbook.
Warships of the United States Navy
often produce a yearbook style publication upon completion of a long deployment (typically six months or more). These books, referred to by sailors as "cruise books
" are produced on board by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation department and Public Affairs staff, and then printed ashore by the same printing companies that publish high school and college yearbooks. The cruise book of a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier
typically reaches over 600 pages in length, as it includes portraits of the more than 5000 sailors and Marines assigned to the ship's company and embarked carrier air wing.
Example Cruise Books
The Navy's Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois also produces yearbook style publications for each graduating division of recruits. These publications are much smaller, as each recruit division totals roughly 80 sailors. The book is called "The Keel" after the part of a ship that is constructed first, as RTC or boot camp sets the foundation for the sailor's career. These books contain a color section common to all books published that year, with a specific black and white section added for each recruit division and their "brother" or "sister" division.
Around The World
Yearbooks published by Australian schools follow a slightly different structure to their North American counterparts. Australian yearbooks function as an annual magazine for the school body, with a significant focus on objectively reporting the events that occurred during the schooling year. There is less emphasis on discussion of student life, and the creation process involves minimal student involvement. Yearbook staff predominantly consist of only one or two school teachers who serve as editors in chief.
Australian school yearbooks are predominantly created on A4 paper size, featuring a softcover style front-and-back cover, typically 250 or 300 g/m² density. Hardcover style yearbooks are not as common, and it is a phenomenon yet to pick up in the country due to cost reasons.
To substitute for the lack of student life coverage in school yearbooks, many senior students in Australian schools publish a separate Year 12 yearbook. The Year 12 yearbook typically provides up close and personal coverage of student personalities through profile questions, a large number of personal and group photos and collages, quotes, awards, and humorous light-hearted entertainment. There is rarely coverage of academic, sport and school related matters as these topics are considered in the school yearbook.
Year 12 yearbooks are created almost entirely by school students with a school staff member, typically the grade's year advisor, providing guidance and supervision. School administration are often cautious about Year 12 yearbook publications, as they represent a legal and reputational risk to the school. There have been media-reported incidents where inappropriately published materials have caused major embarrassment to schools.
Australian school yearbooks are primarily published with offset printing
technology, with a mix of colour, spot colour, and black and white pages, depending on the school's budget. In the past, Year 12 yearbooks were simply printed using a photocopier
, but Australian yearbook publishers have improved the quality of these publications by providing low cost digital printing
A digital yearbook is a yearbook holding memories of a given time with a given group of people - most commonly, a school year at a particular school - that exists in digital form.
A digital yearbook contains text, images, audio, and video. While a traditional paper yearbook may contain a few dozen pages, a digital yearbook can contain hundreds or even thousands of pages. The end product of a digital yearbook is either a CD-ROM or a DVD.
Digital yearbooks are very common in America. A lot of long-term summer camps (1 month or more) have digital yearbooks.
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- Blakely, D. and Evans, C., A Complete Guide to Yearbook Journalism. 1991. Sylvania, Ohio: Advise Publications
- Cutsinger, J. and Herron, M., History Worth Repeating: A Chronology of School Yearbooks. 1996. Minneapolis, MN: Jostens, Inc.
- Hall, H.L., Yearbook Guidebook. 1994. Minneapolis, MN: National Scholastic Press Association