The following is a guest post by Jon Hardy, of Hardy’s Yearbooks, producers of yearbooks for students and teachers in the UK since 2001.
I started Hardy’s Publishing as I was disenchanted with how yearbooks were being produced at the time, and the levels of service that were being offered to both teachers and students. I have always believed that using technology is the way forward for this market place, and I haven’t changed my mind about that. However, my one proviso is that the technology should deliver what we hope it will, and that we don’t have to wrestle with it to the extent that the time we take to achieve what we want outweighs the benefit.
Being one of the “Old Guard” as far as Yearbook companies are concerned, we have seen a fair few companies come and go. This is unfortunate for those that aren’t still around, but some imagined that this market place is easy, although as all those who have remained have discovered, this is sadly not the case.
In the past we made a conscious decision not to jump on the online bandwagon, believing that the technology did not deliver the conveniences and time savings that were being promised. It was only with the advent of Cloud Computing a few years ago that I saw an opportunity to truly realise an efficient, creative, flexible system that we could offer schools, allowing them to use the software and systems already have in place within the school IT environment. Schools had been presenting pages and designs in Publisher for quite some time, but having seen first-hand some of the online systems available, I realised that Microsoft Publisher is a far superior application than any of them. Offering significantly greater creative potential, ease of use and familiarity, Publisher also affords students the ability to be working across the school intranet, negating the bandwidth bottlenecks and crashes that have historically been associated with some external online experiences. Additionally, students needn’t worry about installing new applications (never popular) or learning new software, and in the case of Hardy’s Publishing, they don’t even have to design the pages.
By using Publisher we have been offering a unique method for producing yearbooks. Publisher, as some will know, is not necessarily the first choice for all commercial designers, but for me, it is not our convenience that I am interested in. Long ago we took the informed decision to be PC based rather than Mac based – the overwhelming majority of schools are PC based - and I have always strived to integrate with existing schools systems as closely as possible for many years.
We are the only company to have embraced Microsoft Publisher at this level. At present we have designed over 350 individual page layouts in Publisher, meaning that all of the artwork has been created along with all of the layout, so the only thing the students have to do is add their content - simples!! But it doesn’t end there. Because they are working within the application, if they want to change the layout because it doesn’t quite fit their criteria (for example they may want fewer image boxes), they can simply adapt the layout accordingly themselves. This has been a massive benefit for both students and teachers who have previously had a negative yearbook experience due to the restrictive nature of online fixed templates.
All of our layouts have been themed, making them very easy to choose from, and can be accessed from a memory stick or via logging in to our Cloud service. We also offer basic layout pages where all the layout has been done, image boxes and text boxes, but still giving the students the freedom to put their own stamp on things by inputting their own backgrounds, borders and so on. They can choose these from our own library of backgrounds and borders, or choose their own. And of course should they choose to design their own pages from scratch, it’s not a problem.
In this world in which the demands on our time seem to be never ceasing, many schools have said that they have found our process a great help, but without sacrificing the need for good design. Please see below what some teachers have said about us:
“Last year was the first occasion that I used the Microsoft publisher layouts designed by Hardy’s Publishing, and indeed found them very helpful in allowing the pupils to create a very professional looking document quickly and easily. The fact that there are a range of possible layouts designed for the pupils to select from allows the Year Book to take on its own identity very quickly. For us, as other schools I am sure, time is of the essence. Combining a reduction of time with a professional result is even better. I shall be using the Publisher layouts again this year and would expect this to become the norm for future Year Books.” - Simon Green, Wells Blue School
“We have used Hardy’s Publishing to create our yearbooks for many years and since Hardy’s have been able to use Microsoft Publisher it has made the whole experience of yearbook planning so much easier. Gone are the days of physically drawing out layouts onto squared paper and sticking student photo collages onto paper ready for scanning – a long, tedious and drawn out process. The new technology, presented on a very useful memory stick, has enabled students to choose what they want from the varied professionally designed layouts and backgrounds. They can easily drop photos onto these layouts and they can see the result of their work instantly, allowing them to make changes quickly if they are not happy. The use of Microsoft Publisher has meant we can produce our yearbooks much quicker and for students putting it together it allows them to develop their expertise.” - B Hatton, Woodrush School
But producing a yearbook is not just about producing the copy. There is also a significant cross curricular appeal when the task is viewed as a project based learning assignment, with disciplines and skills from many subjects being utilised in order to put together a yearbook. From Graphic Design and ICT, right through to Business Studies, the project involves marketing to their fellow students, selling the idea, collecting in the money, collating and collecting in the copy. In some educational institution yearbook projects have been used as models for students’ business competitions. Looking ever further afield, it could apply to leadership courses in PE, Computer science, experience of working with networks and with a cloud service; and of course it all has to be done to a deadline!
We have even started to market our layouts across the world, and have sold them to schools as far as Greece, U.S.A and Australia. Schools overseas have recognised that whilst it would be impractical for a UK company to produce the physical books for them, they are still able to benefit enormously from using our layouts, as they can save the most enormous amount of time and effort.
We had these comments from a Primary Headteacher in Australia:
“I love your templates for a yearbook but it would be impractical to get you to publish ours, being overseas… they are great value. I spent many hours last year formatting and fiddling around to get a mediocre result, so I am excited at the prospects using your templates.” - Stephen Logan, Caloundra State School, Queensland.
Hardy’s Publishing have been producing yearbooks for Schools in the UK since 2001, and are very proud of a 70 – 80% rebooking schedule.