4 Steps To Help Create An Award-Winning Catalog

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One of the keys to branding for any business is updated print materials. Keeping your brand image fresh is helpful for the sales team, displays at trade shows, and gives the feeling that your brand is moving forward. This especially holds true with a catalog design. You want beautiful imagery, well written copy, and a solid layout. Is that it? Not by a long shot. That’s why I’ve put together this list for designers featuring 4 steps to help you create an award winning catalog.

1. Planning Ahead

When you begin planning your catalog, you’ll have several kickoff meetings where you decide on a clear cut direction for the book. Make sure everyone is on the same page from the supervisors to the product managers. They’ll play a key role in the success of your catalog, since they control where the product is, and if it’s ready. You’ll also want to map out the page count, any special features, and then you’ll start conversations about pricing & stock samples. One of the biggest decisions for any catalog is budget. You might want a text stock at a lower price, so you can afford an amazing cover stock. All of these decisions are key before starting to put together your book.

2. Know Your Market

No matter what your company produces, you should know exactly what your region is looking for. Whether it’s designer watches or high end audio equipment, being a top seller in the US doesn’t mean the same items will be needed in a foreign version of the catalog. Be sure your sales team is closely involved so they can determine the best content. After all, it will be one of their best sales tools. Often times, you may end up creating a smaller version of the catalog for different regions, or to fit in a specific bag at trade shows.

3. Beautiful Imagery

Gemini Catalog

This can easily turn into one of the hardest, but most rewarding areas when producing a catalog. Remember, a single image can make or break your book. No matter how many shoots I’ve been on, I still get butterflies on shoot day. It’s fun, but it can be nerve wracking. Be sure to create a checklist before each shoot to limit chaotic situations. Here are a few questions I always start with on my check list:

Are we using models? – Who looks best with each product?

Do we need to scout a location, or are we shooting in house?

What products are needed? – Will the products be ready for the shoot?

How many single spread images? How many double spread images?

Always be sure your focus is on the look of the final product. Keep your inspiration close by. Images of models, paper stocks, and a design book are a few examples of things on my desk while producing a catalog. Keep your eyes open during the shoot. Sometimes there is a picture within a picture that could be useful. Remember, if an image doesn’t make it into the catalog, that doesn’t mean it can’t have a life of its own. You could create a separate unique ad campaign that reflects the vibe from your catalog. Your boss will probably love your ambition.

4. Less Is More

Now comes the daunting task of putting the pages together with a fluid design. You don’t want pages looking crowded, even though sales team members might want too much text, or perhaps an image that doesn’t fit. You as the designer want to focus on the beauty of each shot. So what do you do? Here’s a trick I often use: Start with a stripped down version of the page. You need the image(s) and the model name & number, so put those on first. Get a simple layout done with those elements, then slowly add a description and any secondary info. As the page builds, print out several copies, and let the sales team review it. They might not realize the limited real estate available on each page. The more you can involve them in this process, the less likely you are to run into problems later on.

I hope these tips help you on your catalog journey. Expect to hit some bumps along the way, but be prepared and have those checklists ready! If you have any questions, comments, or just wanna chat about your brand, feel free to send me an email: timw@elevenninestudios.com

Keep on keepin’ on
Tim

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