I just finished the final draft of what was one of the largest projects I’ve ever worked on outside of business. The project was the annual yearbook for the pee-week tackle football league Antonio and Marco have been in for four years, The Long Island Broncos, aka The Seaford Broncos.
Why was the project large?
- photo collection of 1300+ photos
- 132 pages of layout
- 70+ child appreciation pages
- 40+ financial backers/sponsors
- 20+ team pages with detailed rosters and coach letters
And I did the whole thing myself. At least the layout, photo organization, etc. I had some great help from the Broncos Board of directors, they did a lot of proofreading, related requirements from previous years, and helped me with soliciting photos, coach letters, etc.
This is the first time I did something like this. Not just a big layout project, but a project for the community. It was very rewarding and I got a lot of exposure to the players, parents, and coaches for all of the age groups.
My methodology mainly involved two main activities:
- Soliciting photos, sponsor logos and contact info, child appreciation dedications from the parents, etc.
- Physically laying out the book, based on the format of previous yearbooks
The first activity all happened by Dec 30 and the latter until a few days ago.
To solicit photos, I created a web page that had instructions on how to submit photos and CAPS and had a collection of thumbnails for all photos submitted so far. I got the majority of photos via e-mail and few from pictures that I scanned.
The system I used to lay out the book was provided by schoolannual.com, a company dedicated to the creation of yearbooks. Coming from a Pro/Adobe-based background, the flash-based web interface initially frightened me. I thought it would be buggy and have a dearth of features that I needed. I was pleasantly surprised that none of this was true. While the system lacked some basic things I would expect from a page layout tool, such as grouping and alignment functions, it excelled in other areas.
First, the site was very responsive and stable. I never had a strange bug or error. The site worked as advertised and that was honestly the best feature! Stability, who would think?
Second, they had very solid photo manipulation features. In terms of sizing an cropping photos, the interface was dead-simple and productive. I got around the alignment tools by making sure align-to-grid was turned on. So, without much effort, everything got aligned and spacing objects wasn’t a big deal. They also had a solid model for how your content reacted to the edges of the page. There were good snap functions to make sure you didn’t place a photo where it wouldn’t look like you may think it would look. They seem to allow full-bleed layout of photos, too, but I won’t know how good that works until I get the book.
Third, they had really good photo management and search functions. They made it easy to see which photos were used and which had yet to be used. That’s great when you’re trying to get every kid in a photo.
Fourth, they had a nice PDF export facility. I needed this since I wold typically generate a PDF of a page and send it to the parent to make sure they liked the way their Child Appreciation Page (CAP) looked. This whole thing made me nervous because on the forms the parents submitted to me, they wrote notes like, “Please don’t spell my kids wrong again this year.” Jeepers!
In the end, the project took me 4 weeks of light work as I gathered content and 5 or so weeks of pretty intense layout work where I was doing 2-3 hours a night, 5 nights a week.
Here is a sample full-bleed photo layout:
And here is an example of a CAP page:
Well, the book hasn’t been submitted yet as I have minor corrections to make based on feedback from the board, but I should be able to submit the final draft this weekend.
Next year, I have two ideas to make creation of the yearbook better. In years past, the yearbook has been done by an individual who did the whole thing himself like I did this year. After experiencing the amount of work involved, I can admit that it’s not sustainable to work like that indefinitely. The two ideas to make this a sustainable project even after I am gone are to a) recruit some of the broncos and cheerleaders to help with the book and have them sign on not only next year but also for the following year so they can mentor new volunteers. Or b) create an adult yearbook committee. And don’t forget c) which is both a and b!
I was thinking of contacting our public library to see if I could get access to their computers for 1 hour a week from October until January so I could host a meeting with broncos and cheerleaders who wanted to learn how to tackle a project like this.
Also, there are a lot of activities that would be best done earlier in the season. Electronic submission for everything would also be ideal. It’s error-prone and slow for me to manually type-in handwritten dedicates made my parents.
So, my goal next year is to create a process and collective mind-share around the yearbook that can be persisted easily even without my direct involvement.
Until next time.