Yearbook was one of the biggest adventures of my life. Twelve years of proofing spreads, editing photos, and catching typos didn't just add up to amazing books, but to unforgettable memories. My time on yearbook has given me so much: a chance to be a leader and face exceptional challenges; a passion for journalism, photography, and design; an admiration for business operations; an appreciation for living in the moment; and the friendship of many incredible, incomparable people.
I spent six years with The Big T, Caltech's official yearbook. As a graduate student, my role was amorphous: editorial consultant, design guru, cheerleader, writer-in-a-pinch, photographer at large. During my time on staff, the yearbook transformed from a low-quality, black-and-white photo scrapbook that was completely designed out-of-house to a journalistic production that was built, cover-to-cover, by students at Caltech.
The Blue & Gold is UC Berkeley's award-winning yearbook, and I am proud to have served as its Editor-in-Chief (twice), Managing Editor, and Copy Editor during my college years. It was an enormous privilege to have been a steward of this tradition of journalistic excellence; it was an even greater honor to have played a role in keeping the organization viable during tumultuous times. Few things make me happier than knowing that this fully student-run organization is thriving, now more than ever, by the Bay.
Almost everything I know about photography, I acquired from yearbook. I learned about camera capabilities from my peers at meetings, then went out and tried to reproduce their beautiful images out in the field. Yearbook photography has taken me to amazing places: field level in booming football stadiums, the thick of campus protests, and the most solitary of nighttime walks. I find photography intuitive, powerful, and diverse. There is a cosmic beauty in painting with light, capturing photons, and stopping time that makes photography my favorite form of art.
Though a picture is worth a thousand words, it can't capture an entire story alone. Journalistic yearbooks utilize the power of prose to record moments beyond the visual dimension. What was the atmosphere of the event like? What was the history, the context? What did it feel like to be there? I started out on yearbook doing reporting work: interviewing, quoting, and storytelling. Writing is an essential part for solidifying the memory of a year and an equally essential part of my heart and soul.
I've always been fascinated by typography, but it was through yearbook that I was exposed to the wide world of graphic design. Design was the last of the three canonical production disciplines that I picked up. It more or less diffused into me through having to edit spread after spread of content. Now I have a voracious appetite for design. I am still a sucker for good fonts.
"I didn't sign up for this!" I would yell, but sometimes not getting what you want is a gift. Through the business aspect of yearbook, I learned how to deal with crying customers and angry emails, how to convince people to join our staff and buy our books, and how to negotiate contracts with photography studios and policy makers. Business is a wild, wild world.
My first yearbook adventure—coming soon!
© 2021 :: michael l. wong :: firstname.lastname@example.org :: follow your bliss