Catalog Design

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The Right Catalog Design Makes All the Difference

Contrary to what you may have heard, catalogs remain a solid way to boost a company’s marketing initiatives. Catalog design has evolved to meet the inspirations of 21st century marketing and design, with layouts so unique and visually stunning they are worthy of being called authentic art.

Catalog design – and its cousin, brochure design – remain two of the most powerful tools in your marketing kit for spreading the word about your products, services, and your brand.

The Long-Tail Impact of Catalog Design

Consider this: the Catalog and the brochure remain two of the most popular pieces of marketing that customers receive through the mail. People kick back to peruse a beautifully rendered catalog design the same way they page through a well-written magazine.

Consumers everywhere snatch them up as they leave their favorite stores. The catalog and brochure are often the first thing a customer sees when opening a package, enticing us to shop even at the endpoint of the initial sale.

The well-rendered Catalog design frequently finds a place on a home’s coffee table.

It sticks around for weeks – sometimes months – after the initial sale, catching the eye of the homeowner’s family and guests. When a catalog design is done right, it inspires consumer fantasies about the items on the pages. Customers say to friends and family, “Hey, look at this!” Those friends and family trade and share the catalog or brochure that most excites their imagination. It sends them scurrying to the laptop or phone to order. In other words, the beautifully crafted brochure or catalog design turns your customer into one of your best advertising tools.


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The Pitfalls of Poor Catalog Design and Layout

Here’s a little homework for you. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult or time-consuming. The next time you visit friends or family, take a peek at their recycle bins. See any catalogs? Ask them these questions:

  • When did they receive them?
  • Did they hang on to them for a while, or did they go straight from the mail into the bin?
  • If the catalog or brochure was an instant reject, why?
  • If it was kept for a while, why?

Some of the answers you get may not be very informative for researching your own company’s brochure or catalog design. The products being offered may not be relevant to that consumer’s life, for example.

Ah, but the answers you do get that can inform your company can be genuine diamonds of insight. They can reveal what works with a layout, with the setting, with color schemes…even text font.

Granted, you need to listen carefully. After all, consumers generally aren’t conscious of the cues that drive them to toss a catalog or to keep it. But there are two particular key elements that virtually every consumer can explain in layman’s terms about why one catalog design may fail to entice a buy, yet another one with essentially the same type of product(s) will excite them into clicking the purchase button.

Those are a page’s layout and the design of the graphics. When these essential components of catalog design are boring or lack direction, no matter how high-grade the quality of your product or service, customer imagination isn’t stimulated. Consumers don’t “see” your product in their own home, or visualize how it makes their lives better.

If ever there was a marketing aspect that should not be shortchanged, it is your catalog and brochure. An eye-catching design, a sharp layout, compelling and attractive images, and impeccable organization are the cornerstones to an outstanding brochure and catalog design.

Think of it this way: your catalog is like your best salesperson. It better be dressed for success and accurately represent your products’ or service’s high standard of quality.

Catalog design must be as unique and specialized as the products it represents. For example, the look of a catalog for a big box sporting goods store will be very different from that for a custom watchmaker’s business.

Feeling intimidated? You can relax. The basic “scaffolding” of a well-rendered brochure or catalog design aren’t difficult to grasp. With some basic understanding, you can jumpstart the layout and design process and get your team’s footing on firm ground.

The measure of a catalog design’s performance is inextricably attached to how well it sells your services or products. Always keep your target audience lively in your mind as you create it. Is your target customer age in the 18 to 25 category? The tone of your catalog design and layout will be by necessity vastly different from one that aims to capture the Baby Boomer set.

Have products that have appeal across a wide spectrum of target audiences? You might want to have your team create multiple aspects of design, so you can produce catalogs or brochures that are individually customized for each target’s sensibilities and buying habits.

Some Sample Work

Understanding Your Catalog’s Product Focus, Design Size, and Format

Every product you sell should be given the space they need to catch the attention of the potential buyer. When creating your catalog design, make its size is large enough to properly display all your products or services.

But your catalog design should have one or two prominent points of focus, as well. Put thought into which of your products or services are your most important. For some product or service types, a thematic thread running through your brochure or Catalog design may just the ticket.

Here, again, asking friends and family why they choose to keep one catalog over another can help you create an enticing and exciting product display. Better still, consider hiring a focus group expert to interview volunteers.

You’ll want input on topics such as page count. Does it give the overall layout a sense of being “overstuffed?” Or, conversely, is the page count thin to the point of making your catalog design bloodless and anemic? Too much and too little information are the opposing sides of the same customer-turn-off coin.

Keeping the customer in mind while working on the format may well be the most important element in catalog design. Ask yourself questions like the following:

  • Does the font type and size discourage reading? Too small? Too large?
  • Is the image of the product an accurate representation of its size and dimensions?
  • Does the placement of your featured product(s) on the page encourage the natural tracking patterns of the eye?
  • Have I left enough negative space around images and content to allow the consumer to create a visual hierarchy?

A well-rendered catalog tells a story. And an essential element in any story is it overall “mood.” It’s also one of the most subliminal elements of catalog design for the customer when they determine the quality of your product or services.

For example, a specialized business like custom watchmaking or high concept photography may want to portray the quality and elegance of their products through carefully crafted minimalism. In these cases, presenting just a few items per page to pull full attention to the exceptional detail and originality of your work can be the perfect lure.

The type of consumer that specialty businesses want to attract will notice the qualities of your paper stock, images, and color accuracy.  When a catalog design tells the product’s “story” well your target audience lingers over the pages, making a mental list that justifies the purchase rather than one that talks them out of it.

Quality, descriptive images are the centerpiece of effective catalog design. Before customers let their eyes float to the text, they choose the product candidates of interest through the images in the layout.

Your high-value products or services should have larger images in the layout than those of lesser value. Regardless of value, however, every image must have the right lighting and proper resolution for being viewed on a page. No less than 300 dpi (dots per inch) should be used

Today, catalogs are viewed virtually as well as physically. That means effective catalog design in the 21st century needs to hit the “sweet spot” of online search needs (like seo) while also creating compelling layouts for mail campaigns.

That means an experienced brochure and catalog design team in today’s market can pull all of the following together to render a layout that is as striking and enticing on a phone, tablet, or computer as it is resting physically between a customer’s fingers.

A well-formed catalog design team today will include the following expertise and specialized training:

  • Creative art direction
  • Product photography
  • Database integration
  • E-commerce integration
  • Printing and mailing

When you plan that meeting to discuss the results of your catalog campaign, some questions that you and your team will want to take into account include:

  • What product produced lights-out sales? What was its position in the catalog design?
  • Were any of the products absolute duds? If so, what were their positions in the catalog design?
  • What was the time lapse between incoming sales and the release of your catalog?
  • Ask for absolute frankness and honesty when asking the people in your sales department their thoughts on how the catalog campaign went.  Did they receive any feedback from customers?

For many businesses, it doesn’t make sense to attempt to produce a catalog in-house. And rendering a professional catalog that meets the quality and integrity of your business’s products or services cannot be done as a secondary project. For this reason, many businesses choose to outsource catalog design to a professional agency.

This makes very good sense for companies that don’t have a well-equipped brochure and catalog design department with people degreed and certified in the processes of layout, design, copywriting and production.

But we aren’t talking about the quickie-print company in your local mall that claims to be all things to all people and businesses.

Nothing says “professionally lazy” like your customers recognizing the same generic layouts and design in your catalog that they use in their own printing work! For a professional rendering that demonstrates the worth of your product(s) or services, working with a media company that has a professional department dedicated to catalog design will result in the right presentation of your company’s image.

This, after all, what these businesses do, day in and day out. So not only will the high quality of the finished product be evident, the brochures and catalogs are more likely to meet the deadline for publication, and be more cost effective to boot.

When choosing a professional company that has dedicated specialists in brochure and catalog design, look for the following:

  • A solid history in catalog design and layout
  • Creative concepts and art direction that mesh with your vision
  • Database-to-design integration
  • Experienced professionals in product and model photography
  • Proficiency in all media forms of catalog, including online and e-commerce
  • Expert copywriting
  • Solid experience in the processes and procedures of prepress
  • Expert flow management of the printing, production, mailing, and distribution processes
  • Experience in database marketing and list management
  • Expert tracking and analysis

Five Reasons Why Quality in Catalog Design is More Important Than Ever

1 Increasing Sales

Companies that choose to distribute both printed and online catalogs will see approximately 50% of their target audience buying more from that company. 75% of these consumers say that quality catalog design inspires ideas, which stimulates more purchasing.

2 Stimulating Online Buying Habits

70% of people asked report that catalogs stimulate online purchases. Additionally, a quality catalog design promotes approximately twice as much web page browsing at a company’s site. These customers also browse longer at the site.

3 Broader Reach of Prospects and Return Customers

A well-executed catalog design is a highly targeted marketing tool that has a 70% opening rate. It facilitates this through powerful marketing strategy and the use of pinpoint personalization. The physical presence of a quality catalog encourages customer return, whether immediate or even after a prolonged lapse of time. The word of mouth that a striking catalog design inspires introduces new customers to your business. It also allows for no-pressure follow-ups via mail or online campaigns that tend to be better received by customers.

4 An Increase in Brand Awareness

86% of Catalog recipients report a preference for keeping a particularly handsome or relevant catalog design in their homes. These are often prominently displayed on a table or shelf. This exposes potential new customers to your products and brand. The more striking, relevant, and impactful your catalog design, layout, and content, the more it inspires both return customers and new customers to browse its pages and buy. Unlike a website, brochures and catalogs are physically present and very often directly in someone’s line of sight.

5 Convenience and Accessibility

Even in this digital age, 63% of those surveyed say that they find it easier to browse the products displayed in a catalog that to do so online, or even in-store.

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In Conclusion

When you think about it, it comes as no surprise that a well-rendered catalog design remains a powerful marketing tool. In fact, today’s digital age has made quality catalogs more important than ever.

Lightweight, easy to use, portable, and packed full of information, the right catalog in the right consumers’ hands is a powerful and formidable sales tool. It is “soft sell” at its finest, evoking a highly tactile and pleasurable buying experience as well as promoting deep customer trust in a business.

About Streng Agency

Over 30 years ago, Streng Agency began as a scrappy startup on a shoestring budget in its founder’s basement. Since then, Streng has developed into a premier global marketing products advertising agency. Three decades of excellence qualifies Streng as an expert in brand empowerment.

Always evolving and make leaps into industry advancements, Streng’s reputation for driving business brands to new standards of nimbleness, responsiveness, and relevance is unparalleled.

Today’s consumers demand adaptability, honesty, relevancy, and customer empowerment. We make that happen by constantly finding innovating ways to show the world what our clients and their brands are all about. Whether its printed, broadcast or content in a digital space, our agency acumen places us at the crossroads where business meets creative. Brand creative and ROI comingling to produce positive results for our client base.

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