Originally Published November 10, 2016
Ever since I started graphic design I've tried my hardest to replicate vintage styles of art. So much of my time is spent referencing work from the 1950s, so when Halloween Horror Nights announced that there was going to be a 50s scarezone, I was obviously very excited. Design aspects aside, I've romanticized this decade just like so many other people have, and I've done so for as long as I can remember. I fell in love with this scarezone before I even saw it, and as I spent some nights sitting on a bench and soaking up the sights, sounds, and story of the zone, I imagined what a yearbook would look like for this fictional high school. The content of the zone was very easy to play off of and the yearbook wasn't the first idea I had. I sat around and designed physical education shirts and posters for the school before I landed on a yearbook. I thought it was a fun way to include the entire cast of the zone and really expand on the story.
So I started looking through old yearbooks online. Luckily, it's easy to access pdf's of entire 1950s yearbooks so I had a lot of material to go through. All I had for reference as far as the scarezone goes were the banners that hung on the lamp posts in the area, and the homecoming parade floats.
The name of the school was "Hollywood High School" (which turns out is a real high school in Hollywood, CA). The rival school was referred to as the Bats but I don't think anything more than their mascot was mentioned, which is a shame because that could've lent itself to some fun designs.
I started out by taking a yearbook cover I really liked and kind of emulating it with some different elements. After attempting to replicate the texture on the cover I ended up sampling the actual texture and tiling it. The maroon color on this yearbook matched the style of the zone perfectly, so I kept the color scheme. It's also coincidentally from the same year!
I was so taken back by the streamline script font on the cover of this book that I had to trace it out in Illustrator and include it on the cover of the book. Most 50s yearbooks had a clever name usually based off of their mascot or their name. Mars High School had "The Planet", the Northwest School of Agriculture had "The Aggie" so I called this one "The Sun"
I took the banner from the lamp posts and traced the sun, but decided to replace the word "suns" inside because it already says sun once on the cover, and doesn't state the high school name anywhere.
All of the text was sent through Retro Supply Co.'s Ink Champ action to give it a little rugged feel. The font used for "1955" and "Sun" is called Pilsner. I stretched it vertically up to about 130% I think.
Here's a WITH and WITHOUT texture comparison on a very small part of the cover. Just to show how even a little weathering can make a big difference.
Once I got to the interior pages I had the challenge of replicating the kind of paper that these books were printing on.
I used this as my blank page format. It's just three simple layers.
A plain color background. Paper texture. And a little weathering around the edges with a simple feathered photoshop brush and a darker color.
I started it off with a classic title page and included a photo of the actual Hollywood High School.
Here I used Filmotype Leader for "1955" and "The Sun" and "Hollywood High School" is Brandon Grotesque font. Once again I used Retro Supply Co.'s Ink Champ action, this time on the gray rectangles.
I had originally planned to print this myself, so I was designing it as it would be printed. The next page I did was the last.
Every 50s yearbook I looked at had local sponsors in the back, so I decided to have some fun and put in some fictional sponsors and references to other original HHN content
I took a creative liberty by adding a business from Carey, Ohio in this Hollywood, California yearbook, but in my head Meetz Meats distributed their meats to high schools around the United States.
The quote I used was lifted from an actual yearbook, and it felt eerily appropriate.
The body of the book would've been portrait photos of the entire cast, photographed and edited just like a 50s yearbook.
I copied a format from a yearbook that listed everyones name, nickname, and a few other things. We chose "favorite saying" and "noted for".
Wanting to photograph the cast brought up a challenge, as the actors in the scarezone are outside at night, and aren't generally encouraged to stop and pose for a photo. So I got in contact with my friend that was in the zone and the actors were interested in the yearbook, so we tried to set up a time and place for photos and get approval, since we would have to do the photos in a back-of-house area at Universal. At the time of the photos the cast was split into two groups. I photographed the first group very quickly before they went out to do their set, but when I showed up to photograph the second group I was told I had to stop taking photos, and that there was miscommunication between people who told me I was allowed to take photos. So unfortunately this project fell through in the end. But some of the photos I got are incredible.
Trying to replicate the poor quality of the 50s film was hard, and I don't think this really looks anything like it, but I'm happy with the end result regardless. I turned down the clarity a lot to smooth out a lot of the details and added film grain.
I really wish this would've been made. It would've been a very cool momento for the cast, and an incredible piece of memorabilia for a fan like myself, but nonetheless I had a lot of fun playing around with this.
I can't thank the cast of Vamp '55 enough for being incredibly helpful and supportive of the idea.
And of course I have to thank the creative team at Halloween Horror Nights for building this sandbox that I was playing in.