Yearbook students, instructors emphasize importance of theme

All week at the MIPA Summer Workshop, yearbook editors and staff members have attempted to think up an original theme for the upcoming year’s publication. But as they lay awake at night, titles and taglines dancing in their heads, others questioned how important a theme really is.

“The typical yearbook buyer might not necessarily be able to fully appreciate why your theme is there,” Brian Wilson, Yearbook Editors in Chief instructor, said.

So, if the average Joe more than likely isn’t going to stop and marvel at the originality of a yearbook’s theme, what’s the true purpose of it?

“They aren’t buying (the book) for the theme… but the really good themes are going to help them enjoy the book,” Wilson said.

Co-editors in chief of Birmingham Seaholm High School’s yearbook, The Piper, Anastasia Monroe and Allison Davis, explained that a theme, no matter how subtle, is an essential part of any yearbook.

“The point is to unify the design and overall look of the book and just to organize it,” Davis said.

“It sets a voice for the yearbook,” Monroe said.

Lori Oglesbee, Taking Your Yearbook to the Edge instructor, said she agreed.

“[A theme] is a way to package a book and give it a feel,” she said.

Yearbook students from North Farmington High School work on page design during the afternoon session.  They were focused on “making the yearbook worthwhile.” Kelly Martinek/ Photo

Yearbook students from North Farmington High School work on page design during the afternoon session. They were focused on “making the yearbook worthwhile.” Kelly Martinek/ Photo

In order for a theme to unify coverage of an entire year of experiences, it must first be created.  This is how students in the various yearbook classes offered at the MIPA Workshop spend their week – collaborating with their staff and creating a theme that represents their school.

“What you need to do is pick something that can’t be used in any other school, or in any other year,” Wilson said. “You want to be able to capture that specific connection to the school.”

And, according to Oglesbee, if a theme is really original, it will speak for itself.

“If it’s the right theme, I promise you people will notice it,” Oglesbee said.

But a perfect theme would be nothing without good photography, according to Oglesbee, who emphasized the importance of using photography as a storytelling tool.

Wilson said he agreed.

“I stress theme because I think it’s important, and I think design is critical,” he said. “But… the number one reason for the book in the first place is to tell those stories, and hopefully you’re telling them through the use of the photographs, so I think that’s still the most important thing.”

“I don’t care if you have a theme,” Oglesbee said, “but I care if you have good photography.”

However important they are, most of the photos and coverage that will end up in the book must be done during the school year, so yearbook students spend their week at MIPA planning other aspects.

“We can’t take the pictures here, so we focus on theme,” Monroe said. “We design a few spreads here and the teachers help us critique them.”

“Last year we came and weren’t planning on having a theme,” Davis said. “But all of the advisers were really big on theme, so we made up ‘True Colors’ and we stuck with it.”

Looking forward to next year, Davis said she would do some things differently.

“I liked the color concept, but we weren’t able to carry it out through the whole book,” she said. “I’d like to fix that for next year.”

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