Interview with the Aspley State School Yearbook Coordinator

Aspley State School Yearbook Julie

Here they are – the very first yearbooks created with our new yearbook builder have arrived and they are amazing!

Do you want to see how people use it? Are you looking for inspiration for your own yearbook creation? Well, you are in the right place. Here is an interview with Julie, the Yearbook Coordinator of Aspley State School. She did a remarkable job and accepted to share some of the ideas, tips and tricks she used to create her yearbook this year.

As you’ll see in the pictures below, the results are impressive – especially for someone without design experience! Have a look and tell us what you think. Enjoy!

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This year was the 125th anniversary of your school. To celebrate this particular birthday, your school decided to create an anniversary yearbook. Why?

A 125th birthday is pretty special and the celebration organisers had planned a year of fabulous events, culminating in a night time fete with fireworks, a Reunion Dinner for former students, and a whole suite of memorabilia to mark the occasion. We decided to produce a printed book (as opposed to an e-Book) to complement the school’s Centenary History (published in 1990) and to provide a long lasting record of the school’s history and achievements to date.

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Can you briefly explain how you structured the book?

After brainstorming ideas for what we would like to include, the content fell naturally into three areas: a history of the school and district; a themed section that showcases what makes Aspley State School a remarkable school and community; and a celebration of the Class of 2015, with class photos and image montages.

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Your yearbook is impressively documented. You had to collect photos, posters and other documents on a wide period (1890 to 2015). How did you proceed for that? Did you scan the old photos yourself as well? Would you recommend a special process for collecting and scanning images?

The photos and visual material were the most difficult aspect to manage, with multiple sources and thousands of (digital) images to sort. With the historical material, the school already had its own digital archive of scanned class photos. I contacted research institutions to request copies of historical material which was provided in digital format. We also put out requests via the local newspapers and the community responded with some wonderful items which were scanned or photographed. With the more modern photos, we have very talented photographers within the school community and they produced high quality images especially for the book. I was also grabbing images from Facebook, parents sent them through on phones, and staff copied images from laptops and personal drives.

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I had two talented people assisting with scanning and selecting the best images. We made use of Picasa and Dropbox to share the images, although I mainly worked with a single USB drive with folders arranged by decades and key subject areas. I would really recommend having one or two people who are dedicated to ensuring the quality and organisation of the images, as this is what everyone really loves when it comes to a yearbook. And start early!

You’ve done an amazing job with the design. Did you have any design experience before this project?

None at all! I’ve never designed anything, but I have worked as an editor/writer for both print and web publication and I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some really talented designers. I do have a passion for clear and concise information design and I do notice graphic design everywhere, the good and the bad. The Fusion system really gave me the confidence to experiment, starting with Fusion’s templates that suited our stories, and then swapping out fonts and colours and moving things around to create my own individual style.

Flipping through the pages, we can tell that you’ve build a real style guide that you followed from cover to cover. Where did you find your ideas and inspiration? According to you, why is it important to stay consistent?

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I have to admit that at the beginning I got carried away and created a visual circus! There were so many nice fonts and unlimited colours. So I took some guidelines from Fusion’s designers (such as really great colour contrasts in templates that I wasn’t using), I was on Pinterest searching for yearbook design inspiration, and I was Googling graphic design guidelines for “rules”… in the end I absorbed some of it and ignored a lot. Much of my inspiration came from favourite magazines and even websites. I always kept in mind that we would have 80 year old readers and 8 year old readers and that the design needed to appeal to a broad audience. Once I knew exactly what was working, I removed anything that didn’t feel right. I guess for me, the design tells the story as much as the words and pictures, and just as it is important for the reader that all the words are spelled correctly, it is important for the design to quietly and consistently support the storytelling.

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“The design tells the story as much as the words and pictures.”

I noticed that you really enjoyed playing with fonts and colours, especially for titles and text boxes. Would you have a few tips to share with other yearbookers?

We wanted a modern clean look for our design. I was very strict in terms of one font only for body copy and one style only for the captions. I wanted this to give cohesion throughout the whole book – to make reading the text easy. That left room to play with the headings and subheadings.

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For the historical section, I chose romantic and elegant typefaces, to reflect playbills and old typeface styles from newspapers. The font Oswald, which features on the cover, appears regularly throughout the book, but I deliberately contrasted that font with fun and quirky fonts which were chosen to match the mood of the page. I tended to take my colour cues from a standout photo on the page. The historical section uses muted colours and soft tones to showcase the black and white and sepia photos; while the modern section is much more vibrant. My only advice really is to borrow artfully from designs that you absolutely love. Don’t steal or copy – interpret!

“Borrow artfully from designs that you love. Don’t steal or copy – interpret!”

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Our page editor is currently working on single pages, but you came up with awesome spreads. Why is it important to think in terms of spreads and would you have any advice for our users to manage it?

The page spreads were really important to me from the beginning and again I was inspired by modern magazine design. In planning the book, I was looking for stories that would run over two pages or complement each other so the book would flow logically and make it easy to read. I really wanted each turn of the page to invoke a WOW response, but I also wanted the spreads to be harmonious. The Fusion viewing pane was a terrific tool, because (at the right resolution) I could see the whole book at a glance. Weird pairings could be spotted and changes made.

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What are your favourite features in Fusion Yearbooks? Do you have any special tricks you’d like to share?

I loved how usable and intuitive the whole system was to work with, and I soon noticed that anything that saved me time became a favourite! For the majority of pages, I would select a template, alter colours and fonts to suit our style, move the images in relation to the text, and then clone what I had done to create the next page (this is one way I kept the style and it also ensured correct alignment, especially with the double spreads). I enjoyed the ease of being able to bulk upload images, and to keyword search for clipart and graphics. My favourite single item was an image box that I could resize to any proportion… I could experiment with 1:1, portrait or horizontal, enlarge and reduce easily and it saved time when making adjustments to the page.

Thanks Julie for sharing your experience and congratulations again for this very nice piece of work!

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After a degree in corporate journalism and 4 years in a publishing agency in Paris, Julien fell into digital. Passionate about content in general, he loves turning good ideas into practical tips & tricks. That's just one of the things he does at Fusion Yearbooks, as a Digital and Content Manager.

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