What is Modular Yearbook Design?

yearbook student sketching potential modules for th academics and sports sections

Modular design for yearbooks is an approach to layout and design that emphasizes flexibility (just like your favorite yearbook company) and ease of content organization. Small, self-contained modules include photos, copy, and other theme content. With multiple reader entry points, a modular layout contains three or more, each telling a different story.

Learn the difference between traditional and modular design.

Four Modular Layout Ideas

Because modular design has many interpretations and applications, we pulled together four different looks.

Idea 1: Let Your Story Be Your Guide

Treering theme used: Yin Yang

This spread covers the middle school schedule, media program, study habits, and electives in six modules. There is a large amount of copy beyond the feature story and a quote “sidebar” running down the middle of the spread.

Idea 2: Give the Whole Picture

Treering theme used: Spectrum

This varied collection of mods includes a quote package, personality profile, election results, and event coverage. In a chronological yearbook, such as this, modular layouts help organize myriad stories on a single spread.

Idea 3: Start Small

Treering Design Contest Runner-Up: Northampton High School

Not only did the six polls reveal more about the faculty, but the yearbook editors added quotes and cutouts to teach us more. Adding a mod to the people or reference section is one way to add voices to an otherwise flat section.

Idea 4: Drag and Drop

Treering theme used: Maximalist

Low on copy, high on images, this sample spread with four modules provides ample space to detail aspects of art creation. As-is, this layout is available with the others in the Maximalist theme under layout and design for Treering Yearbooks editors. Other modular themes include Tropical Chronicles and Tied Together.

Layout Tools and Tips

Treering Yearbooks’ built-in tools to help you create your own layouts and modify ours in a few clicks.

Treering design school in under 18 minutes.

Pros and Cons of Mods

While modular design increases coverage opportunities, it takes more planning from your editorial team. 

Pro: Coverage

Devoting a spread to one topic limits the coverage to one group. Opening up a sidebar or two increases your possibilities to tell more of the year. 

Pro: Collaboration

On larger teams, modular design facilitates collaboration among a team of yearbook contributors. Section editors can distribute interview and photography assignments by topic.

A quick note for advisers: assigning module topics is also a way to combat the “I have nothing to do” line that tends to get tossed around the newsroom. 

Pro: Consistency

Recurring modules maintain a consistent look and feel throughout the yearbook, which strengthens the theme and overall design.

Con: Planning

Frankly, some content may not neatly fit into modular structures. It’s fetch. And if not managed carefully, modular design may lead to overusing the same design elements. There’s a fine line between consistency and monotony.

Yearbook Module Ideas

The most popular yearbook mods tend to be sidebars with a question-and-answer format. If you want to add something new to your yearbook layouts this year, this is one way to increase coverage and develop open-ended questions. 

Consider building in these additional modules:

  • This or that: fashion, fandoms
  • Matching: teachers with their first jobs, the shoe to the sport
  • How-tos/step-by-step: prep for an inside and outside pirouette, outline a DBQ essay
  • Flat lays: teachers’ desks, backpacks
  • Essential gear: art kit, robotics team
  • Timelines: getting ready for a school dance, fundraiser from start to finish
  • Lists: five ways to welcome new students, 10 reasons people auditioned for the spring musical

This blog is adapted from Liz Thompson’s Design 201 session from TRL 23: Start Here. Thompson, a former high school yearbook adviser, serves as a customer success manager with Treering Yearbooks. 

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