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Yearbook Spread Anatomy

12 Elements of Yearbook Spread Design



A double-page spread is made of two pages, one left (even page number) and one right (odd page number). The gutter is where the two pages join together. Always design as double-page spreads.


Set adequate external margins. External margins work like a frame around a picture. The top and side external margins should always be an equal number of picas.


The bottom external margin should be at least 2-3 picas larger. It acts as a foundation for the spread content and allows room for the folios.


The folios are page numbers and reader reference information usually placed in the bottom margin. They should be as specific as possible; use spread content, not section labels.


On this spread, grids were used as the structure. Grids are nothing more than narrow columns. The grids are all the same number of picas wide. Remember the same structure should be used throughout the entire book for visual consistency. Notice the grids are separated by a half a pica instead of the traditional one pica. This adds a very contemporary look to the spread and is one of the newest looks in yearbook today.


The eyeline is a horizontal guideline that runs across the spread. It helps visually unify the spread and is used as a place to start or end content elements. The eyeline should never be placed in the exact middle of the spread.


The cluster of candid photos is always anchored by a dominant photo. Usually, a variety of candid photos with different shapes and sizes works best. Notice that eleven candid photos were used by scaling down the size of all photos in the tight package. Scale is paramount when packaging photos if the designer wants a large number of photos.


A primary headline, secondary headline and copy block (story) make up the copy package. In most cases, the verbal message of the headline should tie to the visual image in the dominant photo. The secondary headline acts as a bridge between the primary headline and the copy block.


Group captions are used with this type of photo package, as traditional caption placement doesn’t work. When using group captions, it is imperative that the reader can easily tell which caption goes with which photo. There also needs to be a clear reader entry point for each caption. Use this quick caption writing checklist to help write your captions.


Adding secondary coverage to the spread makes content more dimensional. Including more layers of coverage enables the staff to tell a more complete story of the year. Secondary coverage should change from spread to spread to add both coverage and visual variety.


Using planned white space as a graphic element is very effective for contemporary looking design. A horizontal and vertical grid of white space is used to separate and highlight the copy block as well as the secondary coverage quote package.


Notice that the type is coordinated. All the display type is the same font, weight, capitalization pattern and color, which visually ties the spread together.

Contributed by:
Paul Ender
Herff Jones Special Consultant
Former JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year

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