5 Tips for Designing a Catalog or other Printed Material

Well, after spending the last few weeks working on the new catalog for RAVE Sports I thought it would be helpful to share some tips on catalog and print design from this experience.

First and Foremost you need to know what the objective and target audience of the work will be.  For the RAVE catalog we needed to be able to use our catalog for both end users, as well as our dealers.  We wanted a catalog that could showcase our existing products, while highlighting the new products that we are working on.  To do this we needed a simple design that would focus on a few key features or attributes of the products, give our core products extra attention, and provide detailed specifications in the catalog for our dealers.

Now that we have a clear objective, the next step is to gather product photos and product copy that can be used to enrich our catalog.  For the RAVE Sports catalog we already had some great product photos, but we also had many new products that required a new photo shoot to add to our image library.  This is one place that you DO NOT want to skimp on in your catalog.  Make sure you have plenty of high resolution (300 dpi or more) product photos, in CMYK color (not the RGB used on your comptuer screen), and make sure that if you used a professional photographer that you have all of the rights you need to use the photos in your catalog.  Product photos can make or break your design, and if your photos look cheap, or tacky (especially supplier photos), they can reflect poorly on your company and brand.

Right, so we have our objective, our product copy, and our product photos, time to go to work right?  Wrong!  This next step is one of the most important parts in designing your catalog, the layout and design.  Before you jump into your computer and program of choice, step back and sketch out a few ideas on paper.  Try to keep a consistent layout for your pages to make the reader more comfortable and to make it easier to find what they are looking for.  Another thing to keep in mind when designing your layout is that readers usually look towards the outside corners of the pages first, and this is where you want your strongest and most important products to be showcased.  Last, but definitely no where near least, is your type and product copy.  It may be a little early to be thinking about fonts and type, but this is the perfect opportunity to lay down some ground rules, such as:

-limit yourself to no more than 2 or 3 fonts

-always be consistent in style, size and spacing of your type

-always remember to use type to enhance the content you already have (product photos!).

One last thing, always try and stick with standard formats and layouts for your print work, as it makes it much easier on your printer, saves you money, and allows you to focus much more on your content, layout, and style, instead of crazy media sizes and styles.

Now is the time to decide what goes in the catalog, and where.  Sketch out a rough table of contents and storyboard the different products and pages that you will need to have in your design, and stick with this order to make it easier on everyone involved in the design process.  This is also the time to decide how many pages you will need for your catalog and gives you the opportunity to start shopping around for price quotes from different printers to make sure that you get the best deal.  Three things that you will also want to think about are this:

-Heat-set web presses print in signatures of 16 pages. Printing in even signature page quantities, such as 16, 32, 48, 64, etc., will provide the most pages for the dollar. If you can’t hit increments of 16, then the next best option is increments of 8 pages.

-With Postal rates on the rise, this is the time to also work with your Post Office to find the “sweet spot” of size and format to keep mailing costs down. Rates for standard catalogs are much higher than standard letter rates, and this can be a major factor when designing, and sizing your catalog.

-This is also the time when you need to start thinking and researching to find out just how many copies of the catalog you really need.  If you can, go back and look at catalogs or other printed material that has been done in the past and use that as a guide to how many copies of the new catalog will be needed from your printer.  Also check with your printer to see if there is a price break on reprints of your catalog and be sure to break down the price quotes per catalog, so you can compare apples to apples with different printers and quantities.

One last thing to think about before you jump in to your next catalog is branding.  Make sure that your logo and business name are prominently displayed in your catalog, and that you offer the reader different options to make it easy to contact your, such as a phone number, website, fax, email, and even an order form.  Many readers still love to be able to order straight out of a catalog, and even though they may not use the order form, it helps create a trusting relationship with the reader and let them know that you are open and ready for business.

4 Replies to “5 Tips for Designing a Catalog or other Printed Material”

  1. I have seen many catalogs with poor quality design and poor product photos(some just taken from the internet). If you want your catalog to look professional, hire a professional graphic designer and photographer to get the best results for your money. It is expensive to print catalogs so giving your products a higher perceived value will only benefit you in the long run.

  2. This guy Jon is giving great pro advice! Many young designers start the job before lining up all the assets (images,logos, copy etc) and before planning size/pages/paper backwards from the printing specs. Many expensive antics ensue, spoiling the client/designer relationship and giving a bad name to graphic designers.

    Listen to this guy.

  3. this info is great, am an aspiring web developer with a great liking for photography .. i am greatly impressed by ur contribution.this info will be very helpful esp now that i want to start out on graphics design.

    thanks

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