“Tell Me a Story” Writing for the Yearbook – Part 1 (finding the story)

Why do people read yearbooks?

  1. A yearbook captures important events, touching memories, sentimental feelings that matter – the times that give meaning and life to a school year.
  2. The yearbook reminds us, years down the track, what it was like when we were younger.

Yearbooks without stories have a hard time of achieving these two goals. To achieve these goals, we need to write stories that are captivating and personal!

1. Read the following rules, then discuss whether our current yearbook follows these rules or not.

  • Focus on people, not events. Think about the stories you read – they are about characters overcoming problems and striving to achieve goals. How can you make your page more focused on the people involved in the event or activity?
  • Narrow focus to a moment or two that defines the topic, rather than trying to tell everything that happened. For example, tell a story that shows how the volleyball team was different this year. (Usually big games, finals, or important tournaments near the end of the season work well.) Use photos, captions and sidebars to tell the rest of the story.

2. In your activity/story groups, brainstorm the ‘Who, what, where, why, when, how’ of your story. How can you get the story for your page? What information do you need to find out?

3. Read this document to find out the various ways you can tell a story. Sketch out a rough plan for your page(s).

4. Go and get your story!

Introduction to page design

In this session, we will learn some key terms and some core design principles. For reference, the key terms are:

  • DPS – Double page spread – two facing pages
  • Caption – The copy that explains the who, what, where, when, how and why of action in a photo; plan space for every photo to have a caption!
  • COB – Cut out background – a photo where the background is removed (e.g. in Photoshop)
  • Dominant element – The largest eye-catching photo or collection of photos or elements on a spread. Often this will ‘sit’ or ‘hang’ on the eye-line and sit across the gutter, providing unity to the spread.
  • External margin – A frame of white or empty space that will frame the edges of the spread
  • Internal margin – A consistent amount of white space between elements on a page; usually one pica.
  • Copy – All the text on a spread – includes captions, headlines, stories. The copy tells the story of the year.
  • Eye-line – A one pica horizontal line that connects the left and right pages. Usually this is about 1/3 or 2/3 the way down a page. All elements should either sit on top of or hang below this line.
  • Bleed – When pictures or text extend right the way to the end of the page.
  • Headline – Words set in large type that attracts the reader to a spread. Traditionally set above copy blocks.
  • White space / negative space –  The absence of any element.
  • Gutter – The space where the left and right pages meet. Often one or two picas wide and folded as the book comes together.
  • Type / typography – Printed letters and characters
  • Logo – Artwork to represent a company; can also unify a yearbook
  • Pica – A journalistic unit of measurement, one pica=1/6 of an inch or 4.23 mm.

We will also learn at the following design principles.

Here is an example template created using these design principles in InDesign! Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 4.17.44 pmLink

Now it is your turn. Starting working on your own page…

  1. Download the template.
  2. Organise the pages – double page spread? Or single left? Single right?
  3. Use the following guides to design a layout for the page. Use shapes for photograph placeholders and text boxes for headings, captions and copy.
    1. The 10 Rules of Yearbook Design
    2. 8 column layout design made easy

MS Chowa Introduction – Personal Yearbook Page!

Today we will learn the principles of effective page design by creating our own personal yearbook pages! You will need Adobe InDesign installed on your computer for this lesson.

Step #1: Make sure to check the ladder to indicate which teams / pages you will be working on for the yearbook this year.

Step #2: Access the following website to learn about the basics of page design. Then, have a look through our yearbooks from past years and evaluate them – how are we doing?

Step #3: Start your own practice page!

  • Download the InDesign template here.
  • Make a folder on your desktop called ‘Yearbook’. In this folder, make another folder called ‘Practice Page’. Put your template into this folder.
  • Gather some photographs about you to create a page with. It could be about you generally, about friends, hanging out, hobbies, sports, a recent holiday… Download these photos into your ‘Practice Page’ folder.
  • Follow this guide to create a practice page, remembering to follow the 10 rules of design!

Step #4: Evaluate our pages

  • Review the 10 rules of basic design here. Then complete this checklist for a friend’s page. Has the person:
    • created a double page spread?
    • used columns?
    • placed a central or ‘centr-y’ / dominant image (that stretches across both pages; it can be ‘offset’)?
    • used consistent internal margins (i.e. is the gap between all elements equal?)
    • left some ‘white space’?
    • used the ‘bleed’ sparingly? (i.e. once in each direction)
    • put empty spaces on the outside (not the inside!)


Exporting your yearbook page

Today we will start building our rough printed portfolio for the yearbook, so we need to learn how to export our InDesign pages into PDFs.

Follow this guide to find out how!

As for error checking, this website has a useful tutorial on Live Preflight. It is quite detailed and not really necessary, but you might find it useful should you get stuck.

The following document is also accessible through Google Drive here.



(from Jill Butler’s Lynda.com tutorial)


  1. Distrust default software settings
  2. Ensure good contrast between text and background
  3. Avoid chart junk and page junk
  4. Enforce a consistent style within a document
  5. Maintain a visual hierarchy
  6. Group related page elements


  1. Printed body text from 9à 11 points
  2. Set body text two to three alphabets wide
  3. Favour flush-left, rugged right body text
  4. Separate sentences with one space, not two
  5. Don’t allow less than seven characters on a line
  6. Avoid bad paragraph breaks
  7. Avoid line-breaking hyphens
  8. Signal new paragraphs once, not twice
  9. Break up large blocks of text


  1. Emphasise ten percent or less of text
  2. Avoid all caps and underlined text
  3. Set acronyms and initialisms in small caps
  4. Hang punctuation in small chunks of text
  5. Hang bullets and numbers in lists
  6. Avoid bad line breaks
  7. Use symbols and special characters as needed
  8. Use proportional old-style figures in body text
  9. Adjust learning and kerning for large text
  10. Verify software alignments optically


  1. Connect thoughts, using em dashes
  2. Show ranges, using en dashes
  3. Clarify, and improve readability, using hyphens
  4. Designate feet and inches, with prime symbols
  5. Replace missing characters with apostrophes


  1. Limit typefaces to two per document
  2. Use typefaces that reinforce a document’s mood
  3. Choose serif or sans serif, based on aesthetics

Starting to work with themes

Our yearbook theme this year is doodle.  This means we should add some little touches to all our pages to keep the entire yearbook consistent.

Today, we will play around with some different brushes in Photoshop.

Go to this website and check out some of the brushes. Find a set that you like and download them. Then, get doodling! Draw something related to a recently completed page.

To use the file in your InDesign yearbook page, you will probably want to remove the background and save the picture as a .psd file (this means the picture will have a clear background and can be superimposed anywhere on your InDesign page). Use layers to help you with this. [Quick tutorial on cutting out backgrounds is here.]

Drop the file in the same working folder as your InDesign file (with all your other pictures). Then place the image using the ‘frame’ tool just like all the other images.

Yearbook: Creating ‘beats’

Now that we have decided on our ladder, we need to determine who will cover what. A ‘beat’ is an area or topic that a reporter is assigned to cover – you will be assigned to cover a specific person, club, sport activity or event and it is your job to stay in contact with that person or people involved. It will also be up to you to find and generate the ‘stories’ of these activities as the year progresses.

Step 1 – Assign Beats

Look through the ladder and divide the pages. Think about which topics can be combined into a single beat. Then, think about how you could ‘cover’ the beat – Q+A, attend yourself etc… Put this into the ladder.

Step 2 – Get Ready!

If you are reporting on a sports beat:

  • Contact the captains and coaches of the sports teams and let them know you will be in contact with them for information. Tell them that you will be looking for interesting stories, scores for games, and anything else that can tell the ‘story’ of the event.
  • Keep a record of all games, opposing teams and scores.
  • Find out about particularly interesting games (or stand out plays / players during particular games)
  • Keep track of games and try to attend a game sometime.
  • Contact the MS and HS photography club and ask them to gather or share any photos for the sport they might have (or point you to where other photos might be!)

If you are reporting on a club activity beat:

  • Contact the club adviser teacher and let them know that you will be in touch with them for information – you are trying to tell an interesting story of the activity!
  • Find out about any upcoming events (both inside and outside of school)
  • Contact the MS and HS photography club and ask them to gather or share any photos for the activity they might have (or point you to where other photos might be!)

Step 3 – Research

Read some example stories and see what sort of information you need to gather.  Grab a ‘reporter’s notebook’ and plan your first visit.  Go out and get the scoop!

PS: There is also a middle school writing club – you could liaise with them also (i.e. give them some instructions and get them to write a story for you!)