Catalog Design Handbook

0. Introduction

Catalogs do much more than promote products and solicit purchases. From luxury goods to practical necessities, products come to life on catalog pages that present features, functions, and benefits to target audiences.

In the early days of modern merchandising, doorstop-sized catalogs from big retailers such as Sears and Montgomery Ward delivered the promise of collections of goods to far-flung customers who otherwise would have been unable to envision, let alone obtain, the items on their pages. read more

1. Styles and types of catalogs

Catalogs differ from leaflets and brochures in several important functional and philosophical ways. First, pamphlet-style literature typically is designed to use a constrained space to convey a moderate amount of information about one product or a superficial level of detail about several related products. Because they contain more pages than simple single-sheet brochures, catalogs can give a well-rounded picture of individual products and excel at presenting entire product lines.

Second, customers read more

2. Choosing output methods

Print vs. digital

Although digital catalogs can be shared with minimal effort, attached to e-mail messages and saved in a computer folder, printed catalogs increase the likelihood that one issue of your project reaches multiple readers. One of print’s greatest strengths lies in its ability to provide lasting documents that readers share and pass on, effectively multiplying the audience for a single issue. Readers may dog ear pages to mark items of interest, insert bookmarks, or use self-adhesive notes to flag read more

3. Typography

One of the most fundamental decisions you must make in creating a catalog lies in choosing the typefaces that you’ll use to set the text content of your work. You may be accustomed to using the word “font” to refer to individual typefaces. Technically, a font consists of all the individual characters (letters, numbers, punctuation, accented characters, etc.) that are available in a typeface. The word “typeface” designates an individual typographic design.

You’re probably familiar with read more

4. Choosing colors and using them effectively

Color adds interest and emphasis. It can highlight important items and draw the reader’s eye to specific elements on the page. How you use color also depends on how you plan to output your catalog.

Some colors reproduce equally well on just about any output equipment. Others fall outside the reproduction gamut of some types of printing equipment and may be challenging to view on your computer monitor. A device’s gamut represents the range of colors and shades it can represent.

In the section read more

5. Image selection and planning

How do you plan to depict your products? The answer to this question carries significant weight in determining your overall catalog design.

Size

Regardless of whether you want to show featured images of your products or restrict their depiction to thumbnail sizes, you’ll want to capture your photos at a large size that enables you to produce multiple smaller variations. Small photographs pixel ate when you enlarge them. Large images become slightly softer in appearance when you reduce their dimensions. read more

6. Project design and page-size selection

Aside from catalogs produced in specialized shapes through the use of customized hardware and a process called die cutting, most catalogs assume some form of rectangular shape, typically with the bound edge of the project at the left side of the outside front cover.

Press printed or digitally distributed, catalogs can take on any dimensions their creators prefer, but a few considerations point the way in favor of specific sizes.

Digital distribution

Because digital catalogs “live” onscreen, they make ideal candidates read more

7. Text

Great product photography, compelling product features, and competitive pricing can transform prospects into purchasers—but only if your catalog copy conveys your product story and marketing messages effectively. As you review the text for your catalog, read it from the point of view of your likely customers, and enlist trusted colleagues to provide feedback as well.

Remember that your expert knowledge and opinion of what you sell may not reflect the same interests read more

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 read more

9. Planning for series and updates

It’s always wise to begin a project with an eye to versions, sequels, and follow-ups. Ask and answer some basic questions to help yourself plan. The answers to some of these questions affect the answers to others.

  1. How often do you add new products? Frequently? Rarely?
  2. How often do you plan to issue your catalog? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually? On an as-needed but irregular basis?
  3. How many products do you want to feature in your catalog? Everything you sell? One specific line? Only sale items and closeouts?
  4. Will your catalog appear in only one language? If not, will you incorporate multiple languages into each issue or create separate versions in individual languages? Are these languages written using alphabets, logographic or segmental scripts, or syllabaries? Are any of these languages right-to-left reading? In how many of these languages are you fluent?
  5. Will you need different catalog variations for different parts of the world, reflecting the need to avoid mentioning certain products where they clash with cultural traditions or local laws?

Products and scheduling

The number of products you want to feature, and the pace at which you update your product line, has an effect on how many pages your catalog may need and how often you issue it. Some companies issue one master catalog each year, with much-smaller updates each month or quarter to list read more

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