Yearbook Examples: Why Studying Sample Content Is Critical (& How to Do it)

school yearbook examples

Some days, you’re so deep into the pages of your yearbook that you can’t figure out how to solve a problem staring you in the face. That’s when you need yearbook examples from other schools.

School yearbook examples can be the single best tool in your arsenal when it comes to helping you solve design problems, find fresh story ideas and layout treatments, and build a library of best practices.

It’s one of the reasons Pinterest has become a super-hot resource for yearbook ideas.

The problem with Pinterest (and any other “lookbook” approach), though, is that you’re never going to get a full yearbook. And you’re certainly never going to get it in print. Both those factors mean you’re missing out on a lot; namely, context and the ability to easily revisit.

Why not, then, build up a library of yearbook examples from a bunch of other schools?

It’s a tried-and-true approach at some of the best school yearbook programs across the country, and it’s really easy to do on your own. You just need to know where to look and who to ask.

Inside this post, we’ll walk you through the reasons you should be getting your hands on other schools’ yearbook examples and how you can go about doing it.

Why You Should Be Getting Your Hands on School Yearbook Examples

We already hinted at the big reasons for grabbing yearbook samples from other schools, but let’s take a second to make it super clear. You can’t beat having a whole book, in all its context, right in front of you.

Think about it: You don’t release your yearbook one spread at a time on Pinterest for your students, do you?

Of course not.

You give them the whole thing, in all its printed glory, because that’s what the yearbook is all about. Each page and spread builds on the other to create a story of the entire school year.

While learning how other schools shape their yearbook’s narrative is reason enough to collect yearbook examples, there are others, too.

Let’s explore six of them:

  • Find new design ideas. It’s a lot easier to have your yearbook team work through design problems and find inspiration when you have some great examples sitting in the same room as with them. And we’re not just talking about spread designs. Other schools’ yearbooks can serve as a way to work through design issues related to everything, including mods, folios, and section breaks—with the added benefit of seeing how those designs complemented theme development, were used as templates throughout the book, etc..
  • Spot trends that fit your book. A new yearbook trend seems to pop up every year. Keeping track of them can be hard, and figuring out which ones are best for your yearbook can be even harder. It’s easier to spot them—and know which ones you like—when you have a library full yearbook samples from other schools.
  • Identify story angles and themes. You might not know the students featured in other schools’ yearbooks, but that doesn’t matter much. They can still be a goldmine for identifying story angles, themes, and everything else that goes into shaping your yearbook’s narrative. Granted, you won’t use this stuff verbatim, but it’ll help you and your team look at your yearbook a little differently.
  • Develop best practices. If you’re lucky enough to collect a bunch of yearbook samples that your team aspires to recreate, you’ve just found the ultimate resource for developing best practices. Gather those books, ask students to find commonalities among key aspects of the yearbook, and list them out. Use that as your guide for creating your own, best-of-the-best yearbook.
  • Create new takes on old features. Some features, like table of contents and superlatives, are practically synonymous with the yearbook. But that doesn’t mean they need to be treated like status quo. In fact, a lot of schools have stopped doing that. Using your library of yearbooks as examples, you can find those refreshing approaches and draw inspiration to create your own.
  • Practice critiques without hurting feelings. Teaching your yearbook team how to conduct critiques is important, but it’s not always easy when the only yearbook you have on hand is your own. It can be hard to be honest when you’re worried about insulting your friend’s work, and having yearbook samples can ease that tension and give everyone a safe place from which to practice critiques. Do that, and the actual critiques your team does will be that much easier and that much more effective.

If these reasons aren’t enough, well, here’s one more for you: Collecting yearbook examples can connect you with other yearbook advisers, volunteers, and students you would have never otherwise met. Those connections, which could become totally awesome friendships or just people to give you advice and listen to your yearbook problems, can be worth more than any of the other reasons listed above.

How to Get Yearbook Examples From Other Schools

So, here’s how you can actually get your hands on yearbook samples from other schools:

  • PTA/PTSA Meetings: Every PTA and PTSA is full of involved, invested parents. Some even create the yearbook. Start asking around at county-level or regional-level meetings to build yearbook connections and swap books with other schools in your area. Even if the PTA or PTSA doesn’t run the yearbook, they’ll be able to connect you to the person at the school who does.
  • Principal Groups: Most principals meet in groups, whether it’s part of a school district’s requirements or a professional development opportunity. Before they go to their next meetup, have your principal ask his or her existing connections to bring a copy of their schools’ yearbooks, so you can have them. It’s an easy way to collect a bunch all at once. (Just be sure to give your principal enough books that he or she can return the favor.)
  • State Associations: While most yearbook advisers likely know JEA and NSPA, the national scale of those organizations might be intimidating to some. Instead, look to your local scholastic journalism associations at the state level. These organizations can be less intimidating, and are focused solely on your helping schools in your state. Check out this list to find your state organization.
  • Social Media: You’d probably be surprised at how many friends and family can be in a position to help you. And how many other people out there would be willing to help. Put out a request on Facebook or Twitter, and you’re likely to get dozens of offers for help. And don’t forget about LinkedIn. Nearly 6,000 people list themselves there as being elementary, middle, and high school yearbook advisers and volunteers.

Getting great yearbook examples for your yearbook team isn’t hard. You just need to know where to look and who to ask. Start following our tips, and you’ll quickly build a library of books that’ll help you solve design problems, find inspiration, and create a better book overall.

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