Style Guide Lesson

In the last lesson, Compton Junior High School yearbook students completed their first Basic Layout. Mind you, we have been studying graphic design since November. Before that we focused on photography and caption writing.

This week our goal was to collect ideas for a Style Guide. We want our Google Slides yearbook to be cohesive and uniform.  A complete style guide will include not only the theme, font pairs, and colors, but also font size, image size, and standard written conventions. For the purpose of this lesson, we are focusing only on theme, mood, font pairs, and colors.


The first step is to research Style Guides and theme ideas. Located on the Style Guide page of this website are links to multiple articles and resources. Each group of 3-4 students researched one of these sites website and added ideas to a group Google Doc.

To be honest, this is the first time our yearbook class has used a Style Guide. Last year, each group created a sample yearbook and we chose the best design from there. Yes, each section had its own color and borders, but it felt limiting - as though we using a template rather than embracing individual creativity. The elementary school next door did the opposite. Each section was different but tied to the others using a color palette and font choice.

Researching style guides and locating resources encouraged students to brainstorm ideas for our style guide.

Brainstorm Ideas

Brainstorming took three days with an emphasis on a different resource each day.  Each day we streamlined the process due to success and failure.

Once again, we used Roster to Slides so that every student had space to work and the teacher (me) could give quality feedback with encouragement. I will be honest by saying that some students did well as they generate ideas. The students who did not choose this elective needed a little encouragement. Their voice needs to be heard and valued too. We are a team.

Positive Reflection Brainstorm Day 1

I was pleased with the ideas students generated as they researched theme ideas and selected font pairs and colors. The theme is the overarching idea for the yearbook that influences the font choice and colors.

Theme - For my example, I used a student's suggestion for confetti as the theme. Different, but I went with it.

Font pairs - I explained that confetti reminded me of bubbles and lightness, which is why I used Bubblegum Sans with Lato as a font pair.

Color palette - I then chose Canva's color combination .09 called Refreshing and Pretty

Room for Growth Reflection Brainstorm Day 1

As I taught the students to brainstorm ideas for the Style Guide, I intuitively focused on three elements. I had planned to include mood and identify the number of colors, but students were confused.

Bad Idea Style Guide

Mood requires a separate lesson. I could have spent 20 minutes explaining how design choices (image placement, color choices, and fonts/music) change Mary Poppin's Spoonful of Sugar to Scary Mary Poppins. I could have pointed out that the mood changes from light, upbeat and magical to dark and sinister simply by changing the graphic design. I could have taught this, but it would have been overkill right at this point.

As for requiring that the student write the number of colors - that was just silly of me. My students needed to focus on three items - theme, font pairs, and color combinations. That evening, I streamlined the style guide based on Tuesday's success. This included removing my color choices. The students need an blank slate and . . . .

Simple is better. Less is more.

Positive Reflection Brainstorm Day 2

As we only had three items to focus on, more students were able to complete their brainstorm. This time instead of using Canva's 100 Color Combinations list, students found a Google Search image that reflected their new theme and imported it into the Adobe Color Wheel.

Room for Growth Brainstorm Day 2

Not every student was inspired to complete the activity. Maybe the lesson wasn't inspiring . . .  Maybe junior high school students wanted Winter Break to happen that day instead of 3 days from then . . . Maybe I was forcing creativity . . .

Positive Reflection for Day 3

On Thursday, we started with font pairs using a compilation of SlidesCarnival presentation guides (Typically Slide 25 of the free template). This slide details font pair choices, resources, and, most of the time, the hex codes for the color palette.

My students used the compilation of presentation guides that I created as part of the Create a Yearbook in Google Slides Course.  By exploring high-quality graphic design ideas, the students saw how theme, font pairs, and color choices work together.

Once the font pair was selected, students could focus on color combinations and then theme. While I introduced a new resource each day, some students hade already found their favorite resources and used them. Raul just loves using the Adobe Color Wheel import feature.

Room for Growth Day 3

Today went well. I have since revised the Style Guide one more time so that it makes sense to the students, myself, and anyone new to yearbook design. The first image is a screenshot of completed and almost completed brainstorm ideas.

Gallery Walk

A timer was set on the third day of brainstorming so that we would have time to select our favorite designs. The idea was to narrow the best designs to see what we liked as a class.

Starting with their name in the group slides, students typed comments such as "I like this" to identify their favorite designs.

Examples of Student-Created Style Guides

Each of the following examples had at least 4 peer votes.


The 4-day lesson went very well. The key to teaching is modifying the lesson to meet the needs of the students in your class. As a junior high school yearbook class, we will refer back to this lesson and revise our designs as finalize this year's yearbook graphic design. I learn just as much from my students are they learn from me.

I will leave you with our newest version of the theme, font pair, and color palette style guide.