Choosing the Best Theme for Your Yearbook

Jostens Advisers & Staff

Matthew LaPorte // Southwest Career and Technical Academy [NV]
Matthew has been advising the Southwest Shadow Online New Site and The Howl Yearbook at Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada for over nine years. He was recognized in 2015 as a JEA Rising Star.

“Ok. We decided on our theme. It’s going to be ‘The Time of Our Lives.’” For many advisers, just hearing any reference to Dirty Dancing might make your skin crawl.

But, in the context of your yearbook, it might actually make your skin crawl AND your hair turn gray. It’s not that this theme is bad, it’s just that it might not be the best for your school. There are few original themes, if any, so keep in mind any theme might work for your school if you have meaningful stories to validate it.

I hope that your staff is in the middle or the final stages of its theme brainstorm for this year. Staff members either have a zillion ideas they are trying to whittle down to the best one, they are at a standstill not really sure which direction they want to go, or they have settled on one and need more refinement.

Once your staff feels that it has selected the best theme, it’s important to ask the team the following questions:

  • Why do you think this theme is best for this year?
  • How do you plan to visually depict this theme?
  • How do you plan to verbally express this theme?
  • Is this theme relevant to your student body and has mass appeal?
  • Most importantly: This will be the theme you will be working with for the rest of the year. Do you think you can love it for the duration?

If your staff can respond positively to these questions and provide samples of work to qualify this theme, then you are almost there.

The final test should be related to the way you plan on marketing and selling your book.

Does your theme lend itself to a simple marketing plan where the theme statement is the leading pitch?

“Hey, it’s been the ‘Time of Your Lives’ this year! Buy your yearbook!”

A quick response from the student body might be …

“No.”

“I hope this isn’t the time of my life. I’m only in high school”

“Isn’t that the song from that lame movie?”

“Blech. No thanks.”

But, a theme that comes from the student body, like “It’s y(our) time” might intrigue the student body.

“Our parents already had their time. It is your time to have the best year ever. Buy your yearbook to see how the students of ‘insert school name here’ made this their year.”

Pretty simple, right?

It’s not. It’s a long and involved process and there is no reason to rush it. So this summer, as you are sitting by the beach, or traveling across the ocean, make sure you consider these questions for when your kids text message you saying “We’ve finally got it!”