Why Third-Wave Coffee is the Perfect Parallel to Better Yearbook Idea Brainstorming Sessions

brainstorming yearbook

The most sure-fire way to generate fresh yearbook ideas for your empty page spreads is to use an established process.

Sure, you and your team have probably spun up a couple of last-minute ideas by gathering your members, asking them to call out ideas, and taking notes on a board. But that traditional way can be just as frustrating and panic-inducing as when you realize you’ve got no content in the first place. And that’s because a traditional, anything-goes, just-shout-it-out brainstorming exercise is fraught with limitations.

For starters, your group may be too large, and some may be too shy or self-conscious to volunteer their opinions. Fortunately, there are other, often more efficient ways, to get your committee’s creative juices brewing.

Actually, speaking of brewing…

What Third-Wave Coffee Processes and Brainstorming Yearbook Ideas Have in Common

Quite a few of us here at TreeRing (Hi, Ray; Hi, Arouna; Hi, James; Hi, Allison; Hi, Leo) are big fans of third-wave coffee. Which had us thinking: All those aeropresses of Andytown and chemexes of Counter Culture have a lot in common with better ways to brainstorm yearbook ideas.

(If we’re speaking a foreign language right now, we’re sorry. And we’ll stop. But please, do email any of us if you want tips on how to make better coffee…or yearbooks.)

See, the thing that makes third-wave coffee so good isn’t the hipsters in flannel or the music in the cafe, it’s the process used to make it.

Third-wave coffee roasters are deliberate in their efforts to find the best raw coffee beans out there, test different roasting techniques based on the bean’s origin and varietal type, dial in the best one, and roast the beans in small batches just days before serving it.

The result? Despite all the variables and possible chemical changes that can alter a coffee (for better or worse), these roasters end up producing a similar level of quality every time their baristas break out a gooseneck kettle at one of their cafes.

The process for brainstorming yearbook ideas isn’t really any different.

By being way more deliberate in generating ideas and by finding the process that best matches the personality of your team, you’re infinitely improving your chances of developing a great idea every time you need to do it.

Three Ways to Brainstorm Yearbook Ideas

Here are three alternative approaches to brainstorming that can help draw out more introverted members of the yearbook staff and let each of their personalities shine through. Like coffee roasting, devote the proper time and attention to each step for a fully-developed final product.

1. Brain writing

Brain writing is similar to brainstorming—but with a twist.

This collaborative alternative asks participants to build upon each other’s ideas. Compared to brainstorming, brain writing yields more ideas in less time, which is especially important when you have limited time for group meetings. And since you don’t need to call on people and write down individual ideas, it’s more effective (and less overwhelming) for large groups. People are less influenced by outspoken committee members, and each person’s ideas are given equal consideration.

So how do you do it? Rather than pitching yearbook ideas out loud, ask your committee to write down ideas on their own sheet of paper for a couple of minutes, and then have them pass the page to the person to their right. The next person adds more ideas based off what they see on the page, building on the original theme, before passing the paper to the right again.

After a few rounds, you can review all the sheets as a group.  

2. Mind mapping

Mind mapping connects information around a central subject, say “yearbook pages.”

This method gives everyone a broad overview of a subject while still containing a number of small details. Unlike brain writing and other brainstorming methods, mind mapping can incorporate words, images, numbers, and colors. It’s visual, so it’s more memorable and fun to create. Mind mapping is an intuitive way to organize thoughts since our brains tend to use natural associations to jump from one idea to another.

Here’s how to make one: At the center of a piece of paper or a whiteboard, write “yearbook pages.” From there, draw lines to more detailed sub-groups like “sports” and “student life.”

Even more specific sub-groups should come from each of those, so football, for instance, divides into “year’s greatest touchdowns,” “new uniform reactions,” and “outstanding underclassmen.”

Also, a pro tip here: Branches can be linked together. So, “football” could be linked with “band” to form “pep band’s halftime show.” Different colored markers, surprising connections, and fun doodles can really get your committee’s  imaginations going.

3. Blind writing

Blind writing, or “free writing,” is the best alternative to brainstorming for anyone who struggles with feelings of self-consciousness. Blind writing forces everyone to participate and think creatively (which is a major plus if your committee happens to be a group of adolescents).

To practice blind writing, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) for ten minutes. The only rule? Write the whole time.

Even if that means someone is writing “I have no new ideas for the remaining pages of our yearbook,” they need to keep going. Sooner or later, they’ll come up with something.

Remind your committee that it doesn’t matter if they stray off topic or use incomplete sentences, as long as they don’t stop to erase or change anything. Blind writing helps people overcome mental blocks that would otherwise stop them from getting all their ideas out. Even if most of the ideas are unworkable, everyone is still stimulating the creative parts of their brain.

The best ideas for your yearbook aren’t always from the most extroverted committee members. Like coffee, the best results come from bringing out even the most subtle flavors. By practicing one of these three methods of alternative brainstorming, you ensure that each member’s ideas are given equal attention, without taking any more time than a typical brainstorming session. You might be surprised what yearbook ideas come from it.