Planning a Catalog

If you are new to managing the process of making a catalog this article is for you. It will walk you through the most important step to catalog production – planning. Planning who, when and how your catalog will be produced will ensure a smoother catalog design.

Initial Design Considerations

Decide what kind of catalog you want created. Will this be a consumer catalog or a B2B (business to business) catalog? How many products do you want per page? Consumer catalogs have from 1-12 while B2B catalogs may have higher density. What other supporting elements do you want: order envelope, sales terms, table of contents, index, etc. Will the catalog cover contain products for sale, highlighted products, or no products? How many catalogs will you need to print and how many times a year?

Find a Designer

There is a vast amount of technical knowledge as well as skill required to design and prepare a catalog for printing. Your average graphic artist typically does not have the all the knowledge and skills in place to do an adequate job. Look for a company that has produced catalogs and knows what they’re doing. Also, confirm that the catalog designer has an opening in their schedule for your catalog job.

One of the most difficult things to evaluate when choosing a design firm is style. Since designers create a design that matches their client’s need, their portfolio may not show catalogs of the style you are looking for. When reviewing their past catalog designs, look at the quality of their work and not necessarily the style. A good designer will give you the style you are looking for but an unskilled catalog designer will create technical difficulties resulting in cost overruns and delays.

Set a Schedule

Producing a catalog is sort of like taking a long road trip. With both events setting out a well planned schedule will keep you on track, on time and within budget. Generally, the creation of a new catalog takes about two months for design and photography. Revised catalogs can take less time depending on the amount of changes.

Product Information and Creative Copy

This includes data such as item name, item numbers, prices, descriptions and groupings. Most native data from corporate inventory systems lack comprehensive product name and description copy. Decide whether you or your design company will write the additional copy necessary for your catalog. Keeping this in data form is important to save design time and expense. Consult with your design firm for guidelines on preparing your product information.

Product Photography and Catalog Imagery

Decide the style of imagery in your catalog. Will your products all use a standard no-background format or will there be on-location shots required? If you are unsure, consult with your designer early to come up with a style that is right for you.

To prepare for photography gather and organize samples of all your products. It helps to label them in a discrete location with their product code. That way the photographer can match the product code with the image filename for speedy inclusion by the designers. Save photography time and expense by removing packaging and labels, and cleaning/dusting the product if needed.

Selecting a Printer and Mail House

Printing catalogs is a fairly specialized printing process. If you don’t know who the correct printer ask your designer. They typically work with many printers and can refer you to the right source. Better yet, have them get the quotes for you. They speak their language and will make sure you are comparing the right numbers and specifications. You need to commit to a printer at least 4 weeks prior to printing to guarantee paper delivery. The printing, bindery and mailing will take about 2 weeks. Prepare your mailing data in advance of your print date. Your printer, mail house or catalog design company can help you with data formats and schedule.