Effective Catalog Design

Large catalogers have steadily refined catalog design over the years to determine how to get the most bang for the buck. We would be crazy not to take advantage of their accumulated knowledge so, with that in mind, following are a few ideas for effective catalog design. Please note that these ideas should be applicable for both business-to-business as well as consumer catalogs.

Hardest Working Pages in the Catalog Business

The front and back covers are the two most important pages of the catalog. Images should be strong and grab attention with bright colors or bold photography. A good strategy is to present best-selling or most-profitable products or categories with brief benefit statements, then pull readers inside the book with page references. Consider cover copy designed to draw the reader inside. An example might be “NEW Designs! NEW Finishes! NEW Options! And Wait ‘Til You See Our Prices!” Compare catalog covers with competitors to make sure your cover stands out.

Location, Location, Location

After the front and back covers, the most valuable real estate in a catalog is opening and closing spreads. These are logical places to present best-selling or most-profitable products or categories. The opening spread is also where most readers look first for a table of contents or index, information about the company, and customer service information.

Meat and Potatoes

The real substance of a catalog is, of course, inside spreads. This is where the really hard work of “selling off the page” is accomplished. Basic techniques for improving results include:

  1. Emphasizing the upper right hand corner of the 2-page spread. The eye naturally lands on this area so it is a good place to present best-sellers or other appealing products, or perhaps a strong design element. Most spreads should have an anchor product that is given prominent space. Not only does this bring your best products forward but it also helps to create visual interest by breaking up spreads.
  2. Catalog shoppers look at the image first, then the price. Only if they are still interested will they begin to read the copy. Attention-getters such as in-use photographs, captions, insets, illustrations and callouts can help explain the benefits and encourage readers to learn more.
  3. Help the reader with descriptions such as “good”, “better”, “best; or “new”, “sale”, “new low price”. These should include graphic elements that draw the eye, with a consistent look throughout the catalog.
  4. Look for opportunities for cross-selling and add-on’s.
  5. Keep product images, options and pricing information together. Use key codes consistently.
  6. Avoid too many typefaces, too many colors, and too much clutter. As a good rule of thumb, no more than 3 easy to read font styles is preferred. Avoid type sizes under 8 points.
  7. Avoid group photographs. Individual items sell better than grouped items.
  8. Consider including an order form. Fewer customers use the order form to mail orders but the form is often used to compile orders before phoning, faxing, or ordering online. The order form reinforces the purpose of the catalog; to sell products, and is the best place to put sales terms and similar information.
  9. Consider upgrading 1- and 2-color catalogs to 4-color. Plain and simple, color sells!
  10. Include your phone number and web address on every spread.

The Rest of the Story

What makes your company unique? What separates you from your competitors? Ideally, these questions are answered as quickly as possible for your catalog customer. Your answers to these questions should be directly reflected in your catalog, resulting in a consistent look and feel that customers identify with your business. Many catalogs include a brief branding statement on the cover something like: “Helping You Make Wood Work” or “Everything You Need to Build Incredible Cabinets.” In any event, it’s up to you to define your catalog’s personality.

Well, that wraps her up and I hope you found a nugget of information that will make your catalog more successful.