Finishing A High School Yearbook – What You Should Know

Hello everyone!

I am happy to say that as of a couple weeks ago, I along with the rest of my school’s yearbook staff finished off the 2019-2020 yearbook! This was my first year on the yearbook staff- I applied at the end of freshman year because I wanted to try my hand at writing in a more journalistic manner, and the experience was everything I hoped for, plus a lot more. I had no previous yearbook or journalism experience. I applied to be a writer, but I ended up doing a lot of design and the slightest bit of photography as well, so I dabbled in all three of the main areas. If you’re interested in what you can expect in a year of being on staff from brainstorming until submitting the last deadline for print, keep on reading.

Just for easier organization, I’m going to break it down by month and the bulk of what was completed. Keep in mind that every school runs things slightly differently, and depending on what (if any) preparation you do in summer for the school year, your brainstorming and prep time in the beginning of the year may be longer or shorter.

May 2019

  • I found out that my application to be in yearbook for the 2019-2020 school year was approved (!!!)
  • All members received information on summer yearbook camp- we attended the Walsworth 4-day camp at Chapman University and attendance was highly suggested but not mandatory unless you were an editor, so not all new members ended up signing up (I did)

June 2019

  • Turned in money and forms to go to the summer yearbook camp at Chapman, set up carpools and our staff spirit outfits (they have a spirit competition there and there’s theme days)
  • Made sure yearbook was on my schedule for the next school year
  • Went over an agreement of dates/deadlines and understanding what was expected of me as a staff member, signed and turned it in

July 2019

  • Yearbook Camp!!! It was such a fun experience and I got to room with one of my best friends (the person who convinced me to join) and bond with the staff members that I didn’t know. I took the class “Yearbook 1: A Bit of Everything” with my fellow newbies and Walsworth staff taught us the basics of Adobe InDesign (our school’s design program of choice, if you use Walsworth as your publisher I’m pretty sure you have to use InDesign), the format of a copy and captions, and how to take good photos.
  • At camp, we brainstormed ideas for our theme/book title, cover, and main colors/design elements we would be using throughout the book. We ended up keeping the theme and title, but the cover and design elements were changed once the school year started.

August 2019

  • At school orientation, each member had to pick a shift to hand out flyers at our assigned table and remind people to buy their yearbooks. We also just promoted our staff in general, and the purchase of senior tributes.
  • School started, and we did some activities to get to know each other since there were about 8 people who didn’t attend camp. Each editor gave a presentation on something we would need to know (side coverage, captions, how to find an angle for a copy, photography, more InDesign tips, etc.)

September 2019

  • We got our assignments for the first deadline, which was pretty much only fall sports. I had one copy and one design. For reference, D1 was one of our smallest deadlines and our staff was about 25 people, and every non-editor staff member had 2 or 3 assignments. Our book is around 400 pages because my school is fairly big, but the editors handle a lot (the pages with school pictures, senior tributes)
  • We also got mod assignments, and each person had to do two to four mods with a partner on various topics/school activities. They were usually open-ended questions or school events, and one person would get photos while the other got interviews. My partner and I had one on our school’s food fair, one on asking people what their favorite school English book was, and so on
  • Photographers and writers had almost four weeks to get their content for D1 done, then designers had a week to design their spreads using that content. Our editor-in-chief made us design checklists with all the specifics (font size, how many photos to use on a page, how to space everything out) but a lot is up to us as far as layout as long as we follow the checklist guidelines.
  • Once you turn a copy or photos in, the editors and my yearbook advisor would give feedback. We’d make the edits and if the designer had already finished, they would have to adjust accordingly. If not, the edited version would be waiting for the designer to put in
  • Writers were allowed to do interviews during our yearbook class period by pulling people out for a few minutes (we have a system) or by text. Photographers can pull people out for photos for some stuff and getting quotes for captions, but for sports and most events they have to physically be present and taking photos there. Designers do everything on InDesign on a computer at school, or take the school laptops home if they need to.

October 2019

  • We finished our D1 assignments, got them edited, etc.
  • At the end of the month, we submitted all the pages that were part of the first deadline and got our assignments for D2, which was mostly comprised of student life and academics pages

November 2019

  • We got our first official “grade” in the class from D1. Each deadline is 100 points, and that’s usually the only thing we get graded on. Points are taken off if your assignments were partially incomplete/unfinished or late
  • We worked on our D2 assignments, using the same checklists/guidelines as D1, but with higher expectations. I had a copy on our academic decathlon, a copy on our technology classes, and a spread on our special needs sports program for both the copy and design
  • We got our “proofs” back from Walsworth for D1 pages, so any issues with things not translating well on the page (off-color photos, etc.) or mistakes that weren’t caught previously had to be fixed, and sent for final submission/print

December 2019

  • We turned in our D2 assignments at the beginning of the month, got them edited, and they were submitted
  • We got our D3 assignments, which were mainly winter sports. I had two copies and a design.
  • Winter break ate up a good chunk of the month

January 2020

  • The same week as finals week (towards the beginning of the month), D3 assignments were due.
  • We got our D2 proofs back and edited them, then submitted for print
  • We got our D4 assignments (small deadline because it included a bunch of senior tributes stuff and other things the editors were responsible for) and I had two copies

February 2020

  • We submitted our D4 assignments
  • We got D3 proofs back and edited them, submitting for print
  • We got our D5 assignments assigned- everyone had one mod on a club at our school, plus I had two designs and two copies, which were all for spring sports

March 2020

  • We got our D4 proofs back and edited them, submitting them for print
  • We submitted our D5 assignments the last week before our school shut down for coronavirus/quarantine, luckily. That was our last deadline, so the book was completed! However, some sports hadn’t had games yet and we were planning on waiting to get photos for proofs, so those pages had to be reworked. Luckily, my pages weren’t missing any content and I got everything done early.
  • The few leftover pages that had to be scrapped because they were on spring events got fixed up by the editors- one was an emotional letter to seniors about the coronavirus situation, and the other was about what people were doing in quarantine

April 2020 (adjusted because of COVID-19)

  • D5 proofs came in, so the editors and my yearbook advisor had to figure that out
  • We’ve been in quarantine and doing online school, so since the yearbook is done, luckily we haven’t been assigned any work so it’s one less class to worry about

May 2020 (TBA and adjusted because of COVID-19)

  • I think my advisor is planning on giving us a portfolio assignment so we’ll have a portfolio of all the pages we worked on this year
  • Editors for next year will probably be chosen

June 2020 (TBA and adjusted because of COVID-19)

  • Brainstorming for next year’s book
  • Signing up for camp
  • Not much else since we’ll still be online and school ends the second week of June

I hope this gives you an idea of what a year working on the yearbook looks like! There’s definitely a lot more that goes on day-to-day between major deadlines and events, so I’ll post a more detailed guide in the future if you guys are interested. Let me know if any of you guys have questions about yearbook- even if they may not apply to my specific role or school’s yearbook setup, I’ll try my best to answer them.