Mastering Yearbook Design and Layouts: Part I - Finding Inspiration

Yearbooks can succeed in so many ways: great themes, memorable and interesting photos, charismatic content, great representations of student life, and much more. However, two things that can really make or break your yearbook are graphic design and layout.

Poor choices and poor design can make a strong yearbook fall flat on its face. That’s why it’s important to understand the inspiration and fundamentals of good graphics and well-composed page layouts.

In Part I of this two-part series, you’ll find some inspirations for great graphic design. Even if you’ve never used Photoshop or drawn more than a stick figure, you’ll know where to look, and how to distinguish good design from bad design:


  • Consider your predecessors: Check out your school’s past yearbooks and yearbooks from other areas. Draw inspiration and see what works and what doesn’t. Trust your gut and your first impressions of the books. If something catches your eye, note what it is you like about it and consider how you could use the same idea and expand upon it in your own book. By the same token, if there is something that bothers you about it, check it over more thoroughly and figure out why that is and think about how to avoid that in your own yearbook.
  • Be open to inspiration: I don’t mean gander out the window aimlessly, but rather, get out in your school community and attend events, such as art exhibits, sporting events, fashion shows, theater performances, debate competitions, and photography classes. All of these will help motive you to go above and beyond in your yearbook. Seeing the passion of your fellow students will ignite your passion to execute the best yearbook you possibly can.
  • Immerse Yourself: Hang up well-designed posters in the yearbook room. Rip pages of advertisements out of magazines and take paint samples from the hardware store to create a design inspiration board. Take a Photoshop or Illustrator class, or watch software tutorials online.
  • Consider your target audience: Yes, we already know that you’re mostly targeting the student body. However, think beyond this to the next 10 or 20 years. What is going to be visually appealing to a 35 year old looking back on old memories? Avoid things that are too “in fashion,” because you don’t want to be the whole yearbook to be packed with outdated glamour shots. Ask questions to the current students to get design ideas that will appeal to your audience now.
  • Don’t delete anything: Even if you think you hate your initial design, don’t delete it! Save that version for something to come back to later. You may find that your original idea was the strongest. Even as you make revisions, save layers in your project in case any mistakes are made or changes are needed.
  • Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a student interested in graphic design, or even from a professional you may know. People that work in design generally love bouncing ideas off each other and value the opportunity to teach skills to one another. There are lots of little tips you can learn from someone that you won’t be able to get in an online tutorial – whether they are keyboard shortcuts, or other little tricks of the trade.

Don’t forget to come back for next week’s post, which will feature Part II – the keys to good design and layout tips for your yearbook!

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