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It is not creative unless it sells. Above all the design must facilitate and help generate sales. The marketing, merchandising and creative teams must work together with the same goals, which are to maximize sales and profits and contribute to the long term growth of the business.
As you work on designing your catalog, keep in mind that catalogs are perceived by spreads. Spacing for product does not have to be equal. Drama on the pages comes from variation. The spreads should have a pleasing placement and arrangement of products and you should use white space as an element on the pages and spreads. Pacing and pagination of products should be varied throughout the catalog and you should develop differing spreads so that everything doesn't look the same.
Your catalog format will be influenced by your marketing plan, the overall economics of the project, the range of formats, order form formats, your merchandise, the intended image you want to convey, and the theme of the catalog. To go into more detail about each of these factors, review the lists below that you should consider when developing your catalog creative plans:
Overall Catalog Marketing Plan
Who is your customer? How did you identify this customer? Are you satisfied that your definition is the result of a disciplined inquiry not simply impressions or a “gut feeling”? What type of market have you targeted? How did you arrive at this decision? Have you checked results of competitors in this market?
What are your products? How did you make your choices? How does your selection fit your target market?
What specific personality/image do you wish to convey? Are you making a change in the way customers have previously perceived you? And, if you are, how carefully have you considered breaking the mold?
Economics of a Catalog Project
A budget will clearly influence catalog format, and the format and size will, in turn, affect printing costs and paper quantity- significant factors in total investment. The complexity of photography and graphics also will influence decisions about format choices and the costs of these items must be tightly calculated as you organize your budget.
The quality of paper must be carefully considered. Do you intend to use a different quality and or weight for the cover than for the body of the catalog?
The mailing costs of the catalog must be considered. Injecting special and personalized messages on the cover the catalog will increase costs of production. The size and the weight of the catalog will affect postage costs.
The printing costs of the catalog must be considered. It’s nice to offer more than four ink colors and special inks like metallic, but doing so does increase the cost of production in a couple of ways. More colors means larger or specialized presses that can handle more color inks and these cost more to run. Specialized inks and including product samples can slow the production process. More time on the press means more costs.
The industry standard is 8 ½ by 11 inches – vertical or horizontal. It considered standard size because most printers are equipped to handle the size. And, it’s versatile, vertically or horizontally, offering opportunities for a good layout treatment for most types of merchandise. But there are lots of other formats to choose from depending on factors such as merchandise, mailing costs, production costs, etc. Other formats include slim jim, digest, tabloid and custom cut sizes if you are Neiman Marcus and making a statement with your Christmas catalog. 16-page increments in print signatures is pretty much the standard, printing in even signatures such as 16, 32, 48, 64, etc. The next best print signature is increments of 8 pages.
Catalog Order Form Formats
Now, you're probably saying "who uses an order form in this digital, immediate gratifiation, age that we live in, where the catalog is primarily used to drive traffic to a webste for online ordering. Well, it's definitely something you should test; because, the use of an order form has been proven to not only increase response rates, but also the size of the average order. Potential buyers may not mail in the form anymore, but in some cases they use it as a shopping list for products they might want to buy immmediately or in the future. So, it's something that smart marketers will test to determine if the cost of adding it will be offset or surpassed by the addtional revenue generated.
The primary concerns in creating an order form, to the exclusion of all other considerations, are simplicity and readability, for both customer ease and for efficiency in order fulfillment. Order form formats can vary from a simple, inserted business reply card to a complex, multi-fold unit. You must determine which is needed for your catalog. This may, in large measure, be dictated by the amount of information that you intend to communicate. You can choose between 1-color, 2-color or 4-color order forms depending on your needs. If you intend to merchandise the order form, the form is usually printed 4-color. 1-color is the least expensive while 4-color is the most expensive.
The type(s) of merchandise selected for the catalog will influence its format. Fashion merchandise seems more compatible to a vertical format. Furniture and room settings lend themselves to a wide format. Smaller products can be showcased in a variety of formats. The type(s) of merchandise can also influence paper selection and printing. Fashion, jewelry and home furnishings are reproduced better on coated paper stock.
The intended image is impacted by the photography, the spread and layouts, the paper, the graphics and the printing.
What’s the story line? Every catalog should tell a story. It should have a theme or thread of continuity running through the format.
A theme is not difficult to develop. It can be as simple as you wish, or an elaborate situation involving location photography. It can involve the full spectrum of products from fashion to table settings. If handled correctly, the merchandise itself can carry the theme.
The theme can be crucial to the format and to the image you intend to convey.