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Yearbook Judging Comments 2019

Sports Spread

What set the winners apart were the depth and uniqueness of stories they told on their spreads. They also included many quotes from players and coaches, in the story and in their captions. I was looking for a variety of photos, pages become more interesting when the photos don't all look the same and have long captions with quotes accompanying them. I was also looking for designs that were easy to navigate, not to cluttered but also included good photos, quotes and a story. I also looked for captions that included quotes and were easy to determine what photo they went with by the use of numbers or directions like "above right." I was surprised by one of the stories I read, it went beyond the sport and provided a personal story about one of the players that others can relate to. That stood out to me, while the spreads are about the sport they also are about the players and I like that a players story was told.


Student Life Spread

What set the winners apart was definitely how clean and readable the designs were, the strength of the concepts and/or storytelling and the photos.

With the first place entry, what really set it apart was the story, which was lovely and full of wonderful quotes that brought color to the story and helped develop Hunter Vinson as a person to the reader. Also, it was a good choice with the simple design and the serif font for the body text. The serif font made the story readable and the design was clean and let the story shine for itself without overwhelming the spread with clutter. One suggestion would be that the headline could be a bit cleaner and use a simpler font; it's a bit difficult to read and doesn't necessarily go with the rest of the spread or the mood of the piece due to its colors and design. Another suggestion I have would be to use a stronger image. Especially for a profile, a portrait is fine, but Vinson's eyes are difficult to see and the lighting is a bit harsh. Also, there isn't a byline on the spread; it's important to give credit to who wrote the piece, took the photos, etc.

With the second place entry, what set it apart was the photo. It was a nice moment, seeing the wonder in the actors' eyes and the placement of the shadow in the photo. The wide shot was a good choice and the composition is nice. The elements of the photo also help direct readers' eyes to the text. As far as the story goes, it was also nice. It had a good balance of quotes from the students and an explanation of the performance. As far as design, the text is readable; the serif font was a good choice for the large amount of body text because serif fonts are the most readable. The title and subtitle have good contrast from the font of the body text is good, but the headline is a bit difficult to read.

With the third place entry what set it apart was the concept. The A-Z idea with the students' names allowed for a large number of students to be represented in a concise way, and it was a creative idea. The design was also clean overall; there wasn't a lot of clutter, which is good, and the elements of the spread are allowed to stand by themselves. My suggestion for improvement is simply to choose more readable fonts. The script font is very difficult to read and doesn't go with the simple design of the spread, and I suggest a non-italicized serif font instead of an italicized sans serif font for the quotes because generally, italics are harder to read, and serif fonts are easier to read than sans serif fonts.


Academic Spread

What set the winners apart: clean design, consistency, interesting anecdotes and information about the academics featured, color schemes and clear photos of the students!
I was looking for clean spreads that weren't extremely busy and distracting; great photos of the students/staff involved with their academics; captions that made sense with each photo and consistency!

I was surprised by how many great photos there were, but I specifically loved the spreads that were consistent in their use of fonts and colors. I loved the spreads that included information about the academics featured, such as student opinion and data — great information that is actually showing the differences made in their school!


Organizations Spread

While judging each of these spreads, I was looking for what set spreads apart based on design layout, creativity, photography and editing qualities. What set the winners apart was their creative design elements and ultimately the readability of the spread, including the white space and consistent spacing between photo and body text. I was looking for the use of quality images that show emotion and were taken technically well. As a photojournalism student, I have learned about the importance of having different types of photos (detail, a moment, establishment shot, portraits, etc.), and this is something I would encourage each staff to practice... this is good practice for the real world! I was surprised by the creativity of the headlines and how they hooked the viewer into looking at the rest of the spread. The design and wording of the headline both played a role in grabbing my attention. It can be difficult to put multiple clubs or organizations on one spread, thus it is important to have consistent design aspects throughout the piece. As a reminder, please do a spell check and check for consistency in spacing before you sending it to editors - don't let these easily avoidable errors ruin your spread!


Division Page Spread

First place had the cleanest design with the clearest communication as to what was to be included in the pages to come and to what the reader was going to turn to next. I found the design to be seamless, the most eye catching, best body text typography, and best visual contrast. Second place is close with the large ampersand as a visual element, but I would have liked to have seen a bit of transparency in it so that the background photo wasn't fully covered. Third place was well produced as well. I found the design to be clear and effective, but also I thought it was just a little bit predictable. Great job to all three pieces!


Candid Feature Photo

I chose first place due to the moment and composition of the photo. It also complemented the colors of the spread very well. I chose second place due to the lighting of the photograph and how tight the frame is. Third place was chosen because there is a strong interaction between the woman and the little girl, but it's also an interesting moment of student athletic life. It would be a stronger moment if the little girl and the woman were making eye contact.

What set the winners apart was how striking the images were compositionally and technically. I was looking for photos that represent high school student life, but also represent the stories or spreads that they accompanied.

The design of the spreads definitely affected the effect the photos had on the story.


Sports Action Photo

Each of these photos was technically sound with great faces and moments. I appreciate that the photographers put themselves in the correct place at the right time to get the photo that succeeded. I was looking for great moments and clean images, two of the most important things.  A couple of notes specifically--

First place: This image is stellar. Wrestling is a difficult sport to shoot, so congrats on doing it well. This is an almost perfect photo, you could've done two things to make it absolutely perfect. Either get up just a bit higher to clean up the background by shooting downwards a little bit more to clean up that background, or crop in the top and make it a more narrow crop. The feet at the top are the only thing wrong with this, I think.

Second place: This is SUCH a great moment that's hard to catch, so congrats on nailing it! The focus is caught on the ref, which is unfortunate because this is a great moment with great light. Try pre-focusing on home plate when you see someone coming in hot, it's difficult but with practice you can make this photo again and make it better.

Third place: You tried something different and it paid off! I wish this photo was taken of him in uniform during a game, that would make it just that much better. I appreciate that you tried something different and unique, that will get you far. Set your images a part from the rest. Try this photo again and again until you get it perfect.


Feature Story

In this contest, I based my decisions on stories that had the most interesting or unique topics (unique in that the story would not necessarily appear in every yearbook, like a spread on a sport or club). The top three stories each had interesting sources and perspectives, and provided specific, necessary details in order to drive their respective stories forward. Overall, the flow and content of the stories influenced most of the decision-making on my end.

The first place "Wear Your Story" piece tackled an interesting social issue with tattoos in the workplace and schools, and focused on how the mindset is changing. The story provided various perspectives on the issue, and although at times appeared a bit biased, did provide interesting thoughts and ideas. This story allows the reader to think about their own beliefs with tattoos in professional environments. Furthermore, the images of people's tattoos and captions with those helped guide the story, and the design helped the reader navigate through the story.

The second place "Your Regular Iron Man" piece was a touching story on a student's serious health battles. The story does an excellent job of explaining the situation and comparing it to other people's lives, and the quotes from the subject do a good job of guiding the reader through his perspective. This story could have benefitted from including other sources to speak about his struggles, whether that be his family or friends at the school who could be included in this yearbook spread. Also, a portrait of the subject is fine, but should not be the only picture included on the spread. Dig for old family pictures from when he was going through the surgeries, or find him doing an activity he is involved with now. Otherwise, this emotional story was written in a clean way that's not easy to achieve.

The third place "Archbishop Blesses Courtyard" piece is a well-written journalistic article that accomplishes what it needs to accomplish. The fact that arches were installed is not particularly interesting on its own, but the writer found an interesting angle with the reason for why the arches were installed. The main issue with the story was its length. Although the angle was interesting, some elements of the story could certainly be cut or condensed to make it much more readable. Overall good job at storytelling through facts and sources.


Cover Design

First Place: I liked how they used the raised text that matched the base color since they incorporated a lot of color into the deign. The shapes in the cover composition draw the eye to the text, so even though the text is not colored differently than the base, it does not get lost and is not hard to find. I think the font choice and the colors give a nice introduction to their theme, and the title being a question is inviting.

Second place: I think the images on the front and back covers are fitting for it being the 100th anniversary edition, especially the use of black and white. I like how the blue metallic font stands out on the black and white photo. Using the letterman jackets on the back showing the year '19 is clever since it is the 100th anniversary.

Third place: I like the simplicity of this one. the use of the "&" on the back is very aesthetically pleasing as well. I like that they ties black into the back instead of it just being on the front.


Overall Layout/Design

The yearbooks with the best design followed the mantra "less is more." They allowed the best photographs and other visuals to run larger and created a hierarchy with photos, headlines and other elements to guide the viewer through each spread, rather than cramming so much onto a page that the reader doesn't know where to look. The use of color elements was purposeful, limited and consistent throughout the book. The best design also used clean, compelling infographics to tell select stories through design.


Theme Development

In the winning entries, theme development came through in more ways than just cover design, intro pages or division spread. The theme influenced the story angles chosen and the questions asked of students. The winners deployed their themes in ways that were clear and consistent without being overbearing. Their use of a theme added to the book's storytelling power, rather than distracting from it.



The entries that stood out showed consistency throughout their senior ads. Using a consistent selection of fonts, colors and overall layout made for cohesive advertising packages that were visually pleasing while still allowing for variation in each unique individual ad. Winners also published business ads that were of high quality, still paying attention to content and image resolution when materials were submitted by businesses, so as to best serve the external clients.


Overall Yearbook

The best books caught our attention with clean design and captivating photos, then held it by telling unique, interesting stories in a variety of formats.





Sam Oldenburg, KHSMI Coordinator | samual.oldenburg@wku.edu | 270-745-3055

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 Last Modified 11/16/19