It also serves as a template against which one can hold oneself in later years.

My high-school yearbooks portray me as a performer, a musician, and an artist. I'm none of those things now. Well, maybe musician a little, and it's been said that coding is an art...

Yearbook signatures carry a tenor of captured time--a musty sense of personal history. My Senior year, the girl I was dating (then, a Junior) wrote:

Hello Daniel,
God I'm going to miss you, we've been such good friends and I never want to give this up. At least you're stuck in the state for the summer like the rest of us losers, and myself. Will you miss us? Will you miss me? I hope everything works out for you, you are one of the most wonderful, beautiful people I have ever known. I hope everything works out for us. There should be a lot of fun ahead.
Love,
Rebecca

The fact that she broke up with me less than a month later doesn't change the sentiment that I feel on re-reading that.

A yearbook is a record of the people and events that attended and took place at a given educational institution within the course of an academic year. Varations on the traditional yearbook format are sometimes used by corporations and religious congregations. I've seen it happen. For the sake of simplicity, however, this writeup will describe the steps taken to produce a yearbook for a school.

Standard Information

Every yearbook is different but most include some common elements. These are, most often, pictures of faculty members and students. The graduation portraits of graduating students are usually printed in the book as well. The organization of each book (that is, the order of sections and how many pages are devoted to each topic or group) is determined by the individual school. Some books devote pages to special events, sports teams, clubs, and 'candid' photos.

The length of the yearbook depends entirely on the size of the school's yearbook budget. Books can be as short as under a hundred pages to more than three hundred. I've seen this happen, too. It depends on the size of the student population, the number of extra-curricular activities that take place within the school, and the amount of money available.

The publication and printing of colour costs extra money, so most yearbooks are printed primarily in black and white ink. It's becoming more and more common for books to include one signature (a group of sixteen pages that are bound together) with colour pages. A colour signature's pages are alternately black and white and colour. Extensive planning is therefore required as to which pages are printed with colour ink and which remain black and white. The colour signatures usually come with earlier deadlines than their exclusively black and white counterparts; this is why events that occur early in the school year are most often the ones that go in the colour signature.

The Creation

Yearbooks do not create themselves. Most are year-long projects that begin with preliminary meetings in September (and sometimes earlier) and end with distribution at the conclusion of the academic year (or sometimes later).

Most high school yearbooks are created by either an extra-curricular club or by a class. Yearbook classes provide students with credits (most often of the language arts, art or technological variety); they also usually test students on the fundamentals of design and grade them on their creations. Students who participate in a yearbook club as an extra-curricular activity don't generally receive academic credits for their work but are free from the academic criteria imposed on those who produce the yearbook as part of a course.

Yearbooks often have a "theme" or common element that is intended to create a sense of unity throughout the book. One of the first tasks for the editorial staff is to choose the theme (it could be as simple as a consistent use of one font or spot colour). They also have to determine the order of the contents and decide how much space to devote to each element of the book. This is usually planned out on a chart known as a ladder.

As events occur, members of the yearbook club or class are assigned to take pictures. Once these pictures are developed, the best ones are separated from the rest and layouts are designed around them. Whereas layouts were formerly (and sometimes still are) designed on paper (using large layout sheets with pica grids), many are now done using computer applications such as Adobe Pagemaker.

Once the layouts are completed, the areas that will be filled by photos are numbered. The appropriate photos are labelled according to their respective page and position numbers and are cropped to fit the space or to eliminate unwanted elements from the picture. Cropping is done with a grease pencil and cropper (a device that maintains a particular shape after being "locked" into it -- it can then be expanded and contracted at will to the desired size). Photo editing can also be done digitally, and many schools are using this technology on a frequent basis. The layouts, photos, and any text for the pages are sealed in an envelope and sent to the publishing company. The most frequently used companies in North America are Jostens and Herff Jones.

Once the company has had the time to process the layouts and scan the photos, it usually sends "proofs" back to the school. Proofs are previews of how the page will look, with the photos and text placed as the designer formatted them. This allows the editorial staff to ensure that there are no typos and that all the photos were properly croppd before the publishers go ahead with the final stages of publication. Some companies allow text to be modified for free (as typos can occur quite easily) but charge for changes to images because of the difficulties involved.

The bulk of the yearbook is actually performed by the publishing company. This includes printing and assembly. The company ships the books to the school upon their completion. This is traditionally done in the spring so students can receive their yearbooks before the end of the academic year but many schools are now opting for a fall delivery. Spring deliveries mean that all layouts have to be submitted by March or April, and that often means that some important stuff (like graduations) wouldn't go in that year's edition.

Distribution

While some schools charge an additional fee for their yearbooks, others include the cost of funding and publishing the yearbook in any administrative or registration fee. This impacts the way the school actually goes about distributing the book; pre-paid books mean everyone gets one (practically, read on), and pay-per books mean various members of the yearbook club or class set up shop in the cafeteria (or somewhere similar) and sell books to people.

Some schools use the "allure" (yes, allure) or a yearbook to encourage students to return their library books or pay any fines by not giving them one until their files are clear. I know mine did.

After the distribution, people usually write witty things in each other's books, often next to pictures of people they especially liked or didn't like. The yearbook staff usually feels a sense of pride and accomplishment upon receiving the final result of their year-long efforts, even though people will generally always have complaints about various elements of the book. Besides, they're fun to look at years after the fact. (That, of course, is assuming that you can actually bring yourself to look at them years after the fact; anyone who can't may or may not have been involved in their production.)


Resources:
I did yearbook (as part of a club) for three years. I was a co-editor for two. I lived, ate, and breathed yearbook. It was hell. I didn't need to consult anything else, despite numerous attempts to block those years from memory.

Year"book` (?), n.

1.

A book published yearly; any annual report or summary of the statistics or facts of a year, designed to be used as a reference book; as, the Congregational Yearbook.

2. Eng.Law

A book containing annual reports of cases adjudged in the courts of England.

⇒ The Yearbooks are the oldest English reports extant, beginning with the reign of Edward II., and ending with the reign of Henry VIII. They were published annually, and derive their name from that fact. They consist of eleven parts, or volumes, are written in Law French, and extend over nearly two hundred years. There are, however, several hiatuses, or chasms, in the series.

Kent. Bouvier.

 

© Webster 1913.

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