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Tips for Catalog design

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  • Tips for Catalog design

    Doing my first real catalog, dredging what is ahead of me in the final days. I found this great resource that describes the key elements in catalog design, hopefully someone gets some use out of this.

    Rules of good catalog design

    Rules of good catalog design

    As catalogs continue to advance in their design and strive to stand out in the crowded mail-order market, the following design principals still prove effective in producing sound catalog design and selling product. Of course, with every design rule there can be exceptions, but these generally accepted design rules will help guide you in producing a good catalog.

    1) Place a strong design element in the upper right corner of each spread.

    Generally, when we read a catalog from front to back our eyes first glance the upper right corner of a spread. Therefore, place a strong product that is visually compelling or unusual in that location to catch the reader's attention. Best selling products are not always the most visually compelling or attention-grabbing. If that's the case consider placing your best seller in another prominent position on the spread.

    2) Limit the number of typefaces you use and keep the type simple.

    Use fonts that are easy to read. That means keep the font style and size legible. Consider using text no smaller than 7.5 to 8 points no matter how much information you need to include. Try to use the same font in different weights, sizes and colors to differentiate copy points, headlines and features. A good design rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 fonts styles throughout your catalog design.

    3) A catalog should still have an order form.

    While fewer customers use the order form to mail orders, think twice before you drop the form altogether. Many customers - both business and consumer - use the form to compile their order before calling or ordering online. The order form makes it clear you are there to sell product, and the form is a good place to put your sales terms and other "fine print."

    If the ratio of mail to phone and internet orders decrease in your market, you could consider eliminating the reply envelope. Reply envelopes tend to be a fairly expensive component and requires the longest lead time within the production cycle.

    4) Develop your "brand image" by using consistent layouts and design.

    It is important to develop recognizable spreads, typographical elements, and imaging to create a consistent design associated with your catalog or company. However, if every spread follows the same layout customers will become bored and likely not browse the entire catalog. Mixing up the spread designs from time to time within the book will add surprise and variety, keeping the customer engaged in your products. You can improve pacing by creating "stopper" spreads throughout the catalog using a series of planned layout changes.

    For example you might use different layout designs - alternating from free flow to grids or vise versa, backgrounds or colors to mix up the overall catalog design. Breaking up the format will grab the customers' attention and encourage them to stop and read the whole spread.

    5) Standard catalog formats are more economical.

    Formats such as a standard full-size, slim-jim or digest-size catalog in whole signature page counts tend to be the most economical catalog designs to print and mail. Spend time with your printer and the Postal Service to determine an efficient trim size.

    Not only do standard catalog formats save money, they also tend to "fit" better. This is both a positive and a negative. A catalog design that is too unusual in format may not fit the customer's environment and may get disposed of fairly quickly. On the other hand a standard format may come across as plain and boring, not getting the notice you desire.

    6) Unique formats will attract more attention.

    Plain truth: unique catalog formats get more attention. Some catalogers use unique or oversize formats to differentiate themselves or get more focus. Such formats can add as much as 25% to your paper and production costs, however some mailers trying to present a certain image find it's worth the expense.

    Working with your printer can produce unique formats with little or no extra expense. For instance you can bend the rules and bind a standard full-size catalog along the short side creating a wide, horizontal catalog format.

    7) Individual items sell better than grouped items.

    Some catalog companies attempt to save money on photography and printing by grouping items together in a photograph. Even with careful keying or identification such a design strategy often results in poor sales. In such a photo no product stands out to draw the customer in.

    It is better to show items individually or in very small, related groups. We prefer to show most products with no background and with a subtle drop shadow. This allows the product to stand out from the clutter of the page. Then we add the occasional product shot with a subtle background to break up the design a little.

    There are always exceptions to the rule. Some items such as books or cards work fine photographed in groups and do save photography and layout time without costing sales.

    8) Four-color catalog performs better than one- or two-color catalogs.

    Products presented in full color look more attractive, grab more attention and generate more sales than a one- or two-color catalog designs. Only in some select cases are the cost savings of one- or two-color printing justified. We've seen many clients grow from one- or two-color catalogs to full color catalogs experience a 25% jump in sales with little to no change in product line and distribution.

    Bend or break

    These tried and true catalog design principles work. But as with most rules, they can occasionally be bent or broken, as long as you and your design team know what you're doing and why you're doing it. By selectively breaking the rules - and testing each time you do - you might surprise yourself with a boost in sales and profits.
    ‘Our great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately controlled. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world. No government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of men.’ - Woodrow Wilson

  • #2
    dfrag - you are a resource.

    i couldn't read all that, but i've bookmarked it for my next catalogue.



    • #3
      I did you one better, Uncle - I printed it for future reference.
      Ned Yeung, A.C.E.


      • #4
        Great tips D-Frag!

        Also remember this thread for tips:
        Viki Anderson Graphics & Design on Demand
        Through the Looking Glass


        • #5
          OH MAN, how I wish I could email that to my old employer. It's got everything I tried to tell them about catalog design, and all the stuff that they needed to know about catalog design.

          Great stuff D-Frag.
          I emailed it to them anyway.


          • #6
            Great tips :-)
            Thanks for sharing!
            Nikolay Dimitrov
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