Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Everything you didn't want to know about Yearbook


No doubt, the first week of summer has hit, and the deprived students of the world have already thrown their yearbooks in the closet and pulled on their Bermuda shorts. They have forgotten everything they tried to learn in pre-calculus and can’t recite their locker combination if they tried.

Well, I would invite those summer craving folks to pull out that yearbook again. The intricacies of a yearbook often go overlooked. So go get your yearbook. Yes, I’m talking to you. There are more to those stinkers than you might realize.

As a member of yearbook staff, I know what it takes to put together a yearbook. We start picking out a theme and cover before the previous year is over. We take those ideas to yearbook camp (yes, there is such a thing), and work with REAL artists to make it look aesthetically pleasing. (That means it looks good.) A theme is important. You shouldn’t even know it is there, only that the book isn’t boring to browse. Usually a theme has something to do with the year or something unique about the school.

We write articles, called copy, and take pictures all year long. Copy and pictures go into a spread – which is a pair of pages that face one other. We measure things in picas (pronounced ‘pie – kas’), even on the computer. A pica is one sixth of an inch, so about the length of a space.

What fonts we used are taken into careful consideration. For copy we use ‘serif fonts.’ You’re reading a serif font right now, actually. Note the little curves that are on the bottom of the letters, those things that tag out a bit. That is a serif font, and they guide the eye. This is a sans serif font (sans means 'without'), and we use this kind of font for titles because they looks cooler. Sans Serifs are, however, more difficult to read.

I know you probably don’t care about picas and serif fonts, and that is okay. Most people only think about yearbooks when they buy one at registration and when they get them at the end of the year. But staff members are silently snapping and interviewing all the time, you probably just don't even realize.

There are deadlines we have to meet. Generally, we have to turn in a signature every month. A signature is a mini book, in fact, sixteen pages long. Look at the spine of your book, the ‘back bone.’ You’ll see little gatherings of pages sown together and glued to the binding. Well, each mini book is a signature. That is why there are extra pages at the end of books. The publishers aren’t just randomly wasting paper, it just so happens that most books don’t end in multiples of sixteen.

The printing of any book takes time, but a yearbook is especially tricky considering it has to be done by the end of the year. So how do we do it? Well, when ever we send in a signature, the plant prints them. Then they store the finished pages until all the signatures are completed, then the book is sewn together. This is very smart… it wouldn’t do to have every school in the state wanting all their books printed at the same time. They stagger it.

That still leaves a slight problem. What about the spring sports? Some stuff like track and baseball go on until late May, yet the books must be printed and shipped about the same time. Another ingenious idea born from years of strife and deadline anxiety: the spring insert. So while to yearbook itself may be completed and shipped, hiding in boxes in some unused classroom, the staff works furiously on a last minute signature, one that is printed separately and delivered in the nick of time. Then, in secretiveness the CIA would be proud of, the staff hand-glues each signature into the back of each book. The reader doesn’t even take note of the concealed portion, (unless done by an idiot).

So I encourage you, to read the articles and captions (those are the descriptions that should be accompanied to each picture) and note the beautiful art and countless hours of your local yearbook staff members. Thank them, next time you see one, and impress them with your knowledge of their language by flipping out such words as: signature, spread, spring insert, copy, and picas. They’ll appreciate it.