Why Paying Attention to Yearbook Margins Makes Sense (And Cents)

Yearbook Margins

Yearbook margins are often referred to by designers as “negative space,” because they are devoid of content. But I’m going to argue that there is nothing negative about your page margins.

In our latest Yearbook Ideas post, I’ll show, that by paying attention to the dimensions of your margins, you’ll see significant impact to the beauty of the page. I’ll tell you why, but first, let’s start with some background on margins.

Why Yearbook Margins Are Shrinking

Historically speaking, margins have continued to decrease in size over the years, mostly due to one thing alone: profits for book publishers. You see, a publisher that will print 10,000 copies of a book, and assume the burden of bearing the costs should they all not sell, has every interest in making margins smaller and profits larger. Smaller margins – mean more text on each page – means fewer pages in the book. That has a direct cost of production benefit for large runs.

Thanks to improved efficiencies in print-on-demand technology, TreeRing only prints what parents purchase, so you won’t ever worry about costs from unsold books. Additionally, to put it in perspective, the absolute cost of adding a few pages to your book to provide for adequate margins is less than a dollar.

A Few Definitions

Before we move on to providing tips for laying out your yearbook margins, let’s cover some important definitions:

• Spine – the end of the book where all of the pages are attached.

• Bleed – refers to the printing that goes beyond the edge of the page. This is the part that is trimmed to ensure that there are no unprinted edges in your book.

• Gutter – this is the white space formed by two pages that meet at the spine of the book.

Using Yearbook Margins

All margins are created equally, right? Not so fast. There are two types of margins that you’ll want to consider when building your yearbook pages: outside margins and gutters.

Gutter Margin

The margin near your book spine, or gutter margin, needs to allow enough white space so that the content near the gutter doesn’t become illegible, or get cut off. Pages, especially in thick books, tend to “disappear” into the gutter. The size of this margin will vary depending on the number of pages in your yearbook. But, to keep it simple, use 1/2 inch gutters for yearbooks between 24-150 pages, and 3/4 inch gutter margins for yearbooks greater than 150 pages thick. It’s important to remember the gutter margin suggested is per page. This means that the page spread will have a margin of 1/2 inch on the left facing page, and 1/2 inch on the right facing page, making the entire gutter margin an inch. Notice in the image below how the content disappears into the gutter?

Front Margin

The front margin is the margin opposite the gutter. In traditional publishing, the front margin is typically larger than the gutter margin. Since most people hold a book by the outside or bottom, the publisher will intentionally create more white space in those areas. Still, we need to be practical, since our main goal with creating yearbooks is to include as much content as possible from throughout the year. If you aren’t using TreeRing’s template based pages, and plan to create your pages from scratch, it’s our recommendation that you use front margins of at least 1/2 inch.

Top Margin

Top margin is exactly that. The margin at the top of the page. It’s almost always smaller than the bottom margin, but again, our recommendation is for a top margin of 1/2 inch.

Bottom Margin

The bottom margin, the margin at the bottom of the page, is the widest margin of them all. According to author Richard Hendel, in On Book Design, the bottom margin gets its size from Renaissance proportions that have been widely adopted as “rules” in modern day book publishing. I don’t think it’s an exact rule that you need to follow – the bottom margin being the widest – but it does have some benefits:

1) Creates more space for page numbering.

2) More white space for readers to hold your yearbook without obstructing the view of images and text on your page.

3) I can recall books that had a top margin larger than the bottom, and while I can’t give any exact reason, those books gave me the impression that there was a mistake in the final printing.

In summary, by being sure to avoid making margins that are too small, recognizing that white space is pleasing to the viewer, and that wider margins create better balance on the page while giving readers a place to hold the yearbook, you’ll have mastered the art of the margin.