Ginny Ordman, Adviser, Trojan Epic Yearbook, West High, Iowa City, Iowa

Photography, Design, Graphics

Ordman’s advice to stay on top of trends:

“Read the monthly magazines put out by the major yearbook companies. Study graphic design magazines. Purchase and look at current magazines that create visual trends. Take a class at a local university. Take graduate classes for advisers offered by state journalism education association,” she said.

Copy can be visual:

“Sidebars can be very informative and also look good. Teen magazines do this all the time. There is a place for copy that is more like a magazine article, not just a sidebar. Students may not read that copy the year they get the book but eventually they seem to. White space is very necessary. It’s always a friend at the outside of the page. I tell my classes ‘You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much white space,'” she said. I try to have my students incorporate alternatives-to-text in the form of infographs and anecdotal captions as much as possible. Photos and stories in my mind should be first and foremost when it comes to producing a good quality yearbook that the student body and the community want to purchase.

Use “natural photos that tell the story of high school. Don’t manipulate them in Photoshop unless there is a compelling reason to do so and then tell the readers you did it. Biased would be photographing all your friends, which should be discouraged in a big way,” Ordman said. This is a great point because as the yearbook, the entire staff should be devoted to capturing the entire student body because this is the only way to tell the whole and real story of the year and the high school experience.

Size does not matter when it comes to yearbook. “In the past I’ve listened as staff members admired a yearbook and said, ‘Oh we could never do that–look how big their staff is.’ My response is there are a lot of BAD yearbooks out there with big staffs. It’s jointly buying into the purpose of the yearbook AND to the time and energy required to produce quality journalism,” she said. You need a plan for coverage, how you’re going to capture the essence of the year for the students. Then divide and conquer. You do what you can do. It’s not perfect, but most of the time your audience will be very pleased with the results. You may not picture every student, but your staff can try to get as many as possible included. Ordman even recommends offering an introductory class to help with coverage. “I assign those students to get profiles or quotes. It’s important the students learn time management and not waste class time. The biggest reason why mistakes get in the yearbook is someone didn’t get started early enough and is rushed the job,” she said. I would agree, you need to help your students learn how to delegate tasks and take responsibility seriously. This is a area that requires a lot of responsibility, and if not handled correctly things could fall apart quickly. This is also when focus starts to fade from what it should be. If the entire staff knows exactly what is expected of them, they will be more likely to tackle the tasks at hand and work towards goals.

Yearbooks as viable candidates for digital formats

“Personally, I think people will still want to look through a yearbook like a scrapbook or photo album. Too many people seem to leave digital photos in a place that can’t be viewed easily, and a digital yearbook would end up in the same destination perhaps. If the idea is to capture the year and deliver it in a product that students have as a keepsake, I think you cover the year using new technologies and you produce a product that appeals to the audience and is not loaded with mistakes. The nicer it looks, the more appeal it has, especially if you cover your audience,” Ordman stated.

I still believe students want the actual book, but perhaps, as Morris stated in a previous interview, you could add a technological element to move the book into a more digitized direction to see how people respond. The cost of yearbooks is going up, and with this comes a slight decline in sales and Ordman recommends that to alleviate this you could: make more effective use of the space, solicit more advertising, and create interest in the product. “Teens spend so much money on a pair of shoes or a purse, they will buy a yearbook,” Ordman said. The yearbook serves as a reminder of a whole year in the life of a high schooler and I can’t imagine why students wouldn’t want to have a remnant from this big part of their lives. I do think that this population (teenagers that is) just don’t see the possible effects of what lies ahead, that is sometimes they aren’t able to see the consequences of their actions. I think they may not be able to see what a significant role that the yearbook plays, so as a staff you have to give students and the community a reason to purchase the yearbook, and it must be a reason that moves beyond the fact that the parents of a senior want to buy a book because their child is in it. It must be also because the book does an incredible job of telling the story of the entire school in a multitude of ways. The book needs to be accurate, visually pleasing, and relevant , and tell the story of the entire year through pictures and the voices of the students, staff,  and the community.

What does a 21st Century yearbook look like?

“It’s even more packed with photos, information, graphics and memories of the year,” Ordman said.


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