Catalog Design Handbook

8. Page building

Page-layout applications rely on combinations of visual and typographic styles that can be assembled into templates. Templates provide an assortment of master pages (like templates within the template) that address the format requirements of an individual catalog project, including product listings, product features, and introductory pages. These templates save large amounts of time and effort at the same time that they reduce the prospect of inconsistent formatting. When it comes to creating catalog layouts, you can build your pages using several templated alternatives.

  1. Purchase a template. Like the stylistic presets used for creating blogs and websites through content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla!, page-layout templates establish everything from document size and margins to typographic styles, color schemes, page organization, and the overall look of the project. Edit these preset attributes to customize a template for your use. For example, you can replace the template’s dominant colors with those used in your logo, or edit type styles to change typeface implementations.
  2. Commission a template. Instead of purchasing a prefabricated template and customizing it, define your expectations and commission a template from an expert designer who specializes in the page-layout software package you’ve chosen to use. This option enhances your control over the look of the project and minimizes the amount of time you need to spend achieving the style you want. You’ll pay more for a custom template than for a prefabricated one, but you may save valuable time by limiting the amount of tailoring and tinkering required to attain the look you want.
  3. Create a template of your own. This option presupposes that you have gained enough mastery over your chosen page-layout application to set up an efficiently constructed template that takes advantage of important best practices in document design. For example, you’ll need to create paragraph styles for dominant types of text formatting, such as headlines, subheads, and body copy, and you’ll need to understand how to construct pages with limited but correctly implemented page objects. Creating your own template provides you with the ultimate in control over customized document design without the expense of investing in an expert to assist you.

You also can combine some of these options to create a best-practice template. Create your own template and commission an expert to review and adjust it for efficiency. If you want to avoid the work involved in creating your own template, start with a prefabricated template and pay an expert to customize it for you.

Typography and “flow”

All good layouts take into consideration a list of important variables that either contribute to or detract from the viability of a catalog as a marketing and selling tool. As you begin to determine the type of page design you want, think about the flow of information on facing pages (or on a single page, if your design will present one sheet of paper at a time). Left-to-right languages tend to produce equivalently left-to-right reading tendencies. To maximize the information that the reader internalizes on looking at an individual two-page spread from your catalog, imagine the reader’s eyes traversing the pages from the top left of the left-hand page to the bottom right of the facing page. If everything on the spread is the same size, everything conveys the same level of importance.

When the sizes of text and imagery remain consistent across a two-page spread, you can use other elements of the design to add importance or focus to individual products. The use of color to make a product name or feature pop off the page can draw attention to a specific item. Adding a burst (an irregular or starburst shape filled with color and carrying superimposed text) to convey a sale message or some other highlight can add prominence to a single item on an otherwise unweighted pair of pages.

A page design that incorporates a larger featured element at the top left of the left-hand page and another at the bottom right of the right-hand page, with individual products occupying the rest of the page space, can draw attention to features, product functions, and lifestyle benefits, or convey a product story based on a real customer’s experience. This type of featured element also can cover the developmental history of a product and the ways in which customer input shaped the product offering, or profile a company staff member whose experiences or message connect the product more directly with customer need.

These are only two options out of a virtually limitless array of ways to use catalog page space in featuring your products.

One of the most-important features of some catalogs lies in leaving parts of the pages blank to increase the impact of the items depicted. Called negative space or white space, these areas help direct the reader’s eyes to product areas, and can make the pages look spacious and open.

Note on prodalist: in prodalist the flow can be arranged both in a column grid so as in a row grid -horizontal-, but can only have up to two simultaneous user-defined product templates per project.

Leaving negative space can convey a sense of luxury and opulence as well, telling the customer, “These products are so important to us that we want you to be able to focus on them without distractions. We’ll add space elsewhere for other things.”

Note on prodalist: prodalist has several function to leave empty spaces (cells), either manually defined or randomly

Tip: Test your page designs with actual product photographs and text. Will the message you need to convey fit well into the page “container” your design provides? Rather than reducing type sizes in an attempt to shoehorn more content onto the page, consider adding more pages or enlarging the page size. If these considerations don’t look as if they will provide you with enough space for your intended amount of text and visual information, reevaluate your content. Are you including too much information?

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