Raise your hand if you’ve made a mistake in the yearbook. Yup. The editing process for our small (read: five members) yearbook team transformed when we goofed up the spring sports section. Who noticed page numbers missing from the softball page? Softball players. Do you know who didn’t notice? Everyone else on campus. Regardless, that was the proverbial wake-up call this adviser needed to create a spread checklist to accompany the editing process. The flexible framework and quality assurance that came with its implementation simplified spread creation and elevated the theme elements.
List of Things to Include
If your goal is cohesive design and layout, include a copy of your style guide in your checklist.
Yearbook Style Guide Ideas
- Font size and weight: heading, subheading, caption, body copy, portraits, rosters, pull quotes, group photos, folio/page numbers
- Text alignment rules
- Color palette
- Theme graphics: size, use case
- Photographs: borders, size, shape, alignment, spacing, rules on hand gestures and photobombs
- Banned words: favorite, family, this year, come together (these aren’t industry standard, rather my list of campus-specific cliches I’d rather not see again)
When Do You Need a Yearbook Spread Checklist?
The quick answer: any time a spread is in progress.
Yearbook checklists provide a foundation, ensuring that students cover all essential elements of a spread—from images and captions to layout and design. There are no surprises. The checklist can alleviate surprises and questions such as, “What size are headlines again?”
At a minimum, spread checklists should accompany PDF proofs because we all do our best proofing after the book goes to print.
Using Yearbook Checklists in Peer Editing
The checklist becomes an educational resource in itself. It is a tool for quality control, enabling students to cross-check their work against established criteria. This fosters a culture of accountability and attention to detail.
[suggested workflow: designer + checklist -> editor + designer + checklist -> adviser + editor]
As students engage with it, they absorb design principles and begin to internalize design standards as they learn what works aesthetically. This learning opportunity extends beyond the checklist and contributes to the overall growth of emerging designers. (According to the folks at Cornell, peer editing increases student output.)
A Checklist is not a Rubric
In the educational realm, checklists and rubrics are like the Rocket Raccoon and Groot of assessment. Think of a checklist as your friendly to-do list; it’s straightforward and lists criteria that need to be met. Using the cycle above, it’s a coaching tool that moves yearbook spread designers from blank page (scary) to complete and tells the story of the year (goal). On the flip side, rubrics break down criteria into levels, providing a nuanced understanding of performance.
In yearbook class, the spread checklist emerges as a non-negotiable tool for success. From providing structural guidance to serving as a quality control mechanism, its benefits extend to both students and advisers. For new advisers, it acts as a compass, while returning advisers find it a means to ensure consistency and embrace innovation.