The School Photographer: Personalized Yearbooks Are Growing a Trend

Yearbooks have been a part of the school experience for decades. While that tradition hasn’t changed, the content of the yearbook has certainly evolved. Today, students and parents can customize the yearbook with meaningful, personal content. Established companies such as Minneapolis, Minn.-based Jostens Inc., as well as newcomers such as Treering Corp., are enabling students to put personal touches on their yearbooks.

  “Not much has changed in yearbooks over the past 100-plus years other than color pages, but we think the time has come,” says Aaron Greco, CEO of Treering, Redwood City, Calif. The company launched in 2009 and began printing and shipping books this spring.

  “It’s so incredible seeing students’ custom pages with all of their personal memories from the year that currently are lost on peoples’ hard drives and flash drives,” Greco says. “Although the yearbook is an ideal memento of one’s childhood, it’s amazing how poorly the current yearbook model actually captures it.  “We certainly think personalized yearbooks will become the ‘norm’ for schools,” he adds. “It is the primary reason we founded the company.”

  At Jostens, over the past two years, the company has developed and tested proprietary technology that allows students to make their own memories a part of their yearbooks. Jostens Personal Yearbook Pages enable students to publish photos and stories of themselves, their friends, and events and add those pages to their own copy of the school yearbook.  Says Tim Larson, president and CEO of Jostens, “Enabling students to publish their own content, along with the entire school story, encourages self-expression and allows students to add their own unique personalities.  “We are ushering in an entirely new era for the timeless tradition as we introduce even more ways for students to personalize their yearbooks.”  Beginning in August, Jostens will provide online tools at to design, review, and order custom yearbook pages. The website provides an easy way to design four-page inserts that are bound into the book to personalize every student’s yearbook.

 Treering works in a similar fashion, as schools create a traditional “core” yearbook that includes the entire school. The school yearbook team assembles a collection of student headshots, faculty pictures, and images that commemorate select school events such as athletics, arts, and more. Parents and students can then customize their own pages at Treering prints each student’s custom version of the yearbook.  The company says it saves schools money by having families order online directly from Treering; so schools don’t have to place deposits for yearbooks, have no minimum purchase commitments, and have no leftover inventory at the end of the year. The company adds that due to its on-demand printing, schools have a later publication date for their yearbooks.

  The company also promotes itself as eco-friendly. Through its partnership with the nonprofit organization Trees for the Future, a tree will be planted for each yearbook purchased.  

  “We’ve had an incredible response to our product in our first year,” says Treering co-founder Kevin Zerber. “For something that has been around for as long as the school yearbook, it’s incredible how out-of-date the current publishing model is and how much technology improves the entire process.”