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NSPA 2020 Designer of the year portfolio

Zac Anderson | Minnehaha Academy

I frequently find myself asking the question, "What is "good" design?" More importantly, "How can I produce "good" design?" Good design isn't just that it looks pretty on the page. Good design is making sure that everything on the page has a purpose, a reason, a meaning. In all of my design, I want to clearly communicate a message, whether that be with the colors, how the text is layered, what font the text is in, every single design choice is made with a purpose. While developing our theme for the 2019-2020 yearbook, I wanted to make sure we could tell the story of our school and our community not only through the actually stories written, but also the visuals, the design, the symbols throughout the book. Since the August 2nd explosion, our community has been thrown many curveballs, fought many uphill battles, but Minnehaha was resilient. We perservered and Together We Rose. This year was our first year back in our new building, and so we wanted to find a theme that really represented our school, a theme that told the story of our school and it's journey. While researching, we came across this saying, it's actually a slogan for the MN Department of tourism, "True North". Our high school building that had exploded and been rebuilt was called North Campus and so we were like "It's PERFECT". With that, me being the one on our staff who does most of the design work, I was faced with the challenge of, how do I use design to enhance our theme of True North? The new north campus is a beautiful building, with stunnig architecture located right on the bank of the Mississippi River, surrounded by trees, and so trees became a huge part of our book. The cover design that I did is a beautiful silhouette of our building, with trees layered on top, to represent how our new building is just surrounded by beautiful nature and the outdoors. We also wanted to emphasize what a journey it has been to get here, to find our True North, and so I introduced the idea of compasses, and we used those throughout our book, telling the journey of Minnehaha and how we found our True North. In all of the work that I do, I want to create beautiful design that has a purpose. And maybe that design doesn't "look" beautiful, maybe it's chaotic, maybe it's distressed, maybe it's sleek, but whatever it is, if it makes you feel something, if you understand it's purpose, that's what's beautiful.

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With our cover design, I wanted to highlight our beautiful new building, but also it's beautiful surroundings. Trees were a very prominent symbol in our book, and so I felt it was important to have them be a part of the cover. On the physical book, the trees are textured, so you can actually feel them, like your feeling a leaf or tree bark on the front lawn of campus. Another prominent symbol in our book was compasses, and so in designing the logo for True North  I made the O a compass.

Section openers

For the section openers in our book, I wanted to do something a little different than in past years, it's typically just been a artistic photo with a little story and table of contents. To tie in our trees, we filled them with varios photos of students from that season, tinted to match the color we picked for that section. Unfortunatley there was no Spring section, because we had to cut it due to coronavirus. But it would have been green if we had it.


I was at a journalism conference last fall and attended several workshops, one thing that I really took away was how much having a dominant image can really enhance your page. With that, on each sports spread we featured an athlete with a partial cutout to make it feel like they were running, skiing, throwing, right onto the page. Also, we featured athletes in trees to get more students in the book and reinforce the tree symbol.

Theme Reveal Video

Due to coronavirus, we weren't able to do our theme reveal in person, so instead, our staff got tegether and shot a cinematic reveal video, and I put it all together. My idea behind it was that everyone on the staff was outside and their compass was leading them to the True North, which was our building. There they found a box of yearbooks and their destiny was fufilled! With our cover featuring the Minnehaha North Campus building, I took that and had one of our staff members hold up the yearbook so the shot would match the cover and then slowly faded into a digital version of the cover to show the idea behind the cover.

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Screens 'n style 

Our generation has a problem. We are addicted to our phones. So as a yearbook staff we decided that for our trends spread we wanted to show how much students use their phones. We paired that with the current fashion trents to create Screens 'n Style! I created the background for this spread myself, compiling all of our yearbook staff screen time pages into one giant image. The page may seem busy, but that is partially intentional. Like I said, everything in design needs to have a purpose, and so the busyness and crazineess of this spread is made to make you feel overwhelmed. Similar to how students are so busy and go go go, that they often are left feeling overwhelmed and drained.

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