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The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
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‘Tis the Season for Catalog Design

We receive so much bad design in the mail everyday, especially this time of year. After working with a company for the past year that produces much of their revenue through catalog sales, I can see why so much of what we receive in the mail seems to be thrown together with what seems to be little thought or focus. I think the credo for catalog companys over the years has been fill the page with as much merchandise as possible.

For discussion, which catalogs pull you in and keep you in? Which

make you want to buy? Is it the catalog or product or both? Which catalog

uses really good information design?

Additional reading: Heller on Ladislav Sutnar, author of “Catalog Design Process” and a pioneer of information design.

Also with pictures: Another Sutnar article.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
Armin’s comment is:

The Veer catalogs are one of my favorite stock house catalogs. The square format is really cool. And I love how they use the fonts they sell to set the copy throughout the catalog.

Another catalog I enjoy reading is from Williams-Sonoma. Too expensive for my salary, but it's just a joy to look at.

I just received a special catalog from Tiffany's and it's just beautiful. Great photography, clean layouts and a nice uncoated paper.

Another one worth mentioning is the catalog from MacZones (I'm not 100% sure it's them) but they redesigned it and it is much easier to browse.

PS. Welcome Tom.

On Nov.26.2002 at 03:00 PM
pnk’s comment is:

As far as design focused stuff goes, I love the F-stop catalog. It shows pretty dramatically how "stock photo" does not have to mean "cliche." On the flipside, it has so much personality that using images from it would almost feel like plagiarism...

On the other end of the spectrum (in almost every sense), I've always loved those little newsprint Campmor catalogs. The sheer quantity and uniformity of the line art, and all that dense copy make for a really fun read. Like the activites for which its products are designed, the journey and the destination are equal.



On Nov.26.2002 at 03:18 PM
Jon’s comment is:

I remember the J.Peterman catalogs (no, it's not just a Seinfeld gag...) were interesting - for the writing, which was a bit odd, to the painted illustrations of the products in place of photography.

The Banana Republic catalog had a rather useless section (haven't seen one in awhile, so I don't know if they still do this). There was a page or two that had of tiny (maybe 1.5 " square) pictures of every item in the catalog. You could barely make out fabric texture and whether it was a sweater or a shirt. Otherwise, it is a nicely designed catalog.

On Nov.26.2002 at 03:24 PM
KM’s comment is:

I really enjoy the Restoration Hardware catalog. Really nice photography and type. I don't purchase from it since we have one down the street - but it's nice to look at.

On Nov.26.2002 at 03:36 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Ok. I'm going to objectify women, so watch out. The Victoria's Secret catalog RULES!

Saying I read the VS catalog for the products would be like the men who say they read Playboy for the articles.

Man! I'm not gonna hear the end of this at home!

On Nov.26.2002 at 04:43 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I'm just kidding. It's actually a poorly designed catalog. It's not poor poor, but it's kind of lame.

On Nov.26.2002 at 04:46 PM
Don Clark’s comment is:

I'm digging the West Elm catalog. I've ordered a few things already - great photography, great design. Kinda makes you wish you lived in the catalog :)

On Nov.26.2002 at 05:16 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>I'm digging the West Elm catalog

That one is nice. Talking furniture, Design WIthin Reach is pretty good too. It's simple but easy to relate pictures with their info. Plus, they haven't changed their catalog in ages, I think I have it memorized and that's why it's so easy to read.

On Nov.26.2002 at 05:24 PM
gw’s comment is:

Design Within Reach. All the great furniture I will someday own along with designer biographies. Very smart typography and clean layout. I look forward to this one each month.

On Nov.26.2002 at 05:35 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Ditto for DWR and Tiffany's.

I like Taschen's catalog very much. Their website is great too, not to mention their books. Witnessed a bum steal some adult books from the store in Paris once!

Fox Racing uses photography exceptionally well (get a taste of it on their site), pays attention to white space and sets their type quite nicely. Their paper stock and print quality is a joy to hold and look at.

These catalogs, plus MacWarehouse, keeps me hooked and makes me buy stuff I usually don't need.

On Nov.26.2002 at 09:14 PM
Tom’s comment is:

Since I've been researching this for a little while now, below are some of my current favorites:

Burton Snow Board Trade Catalogs by Jaeger DePaula Kemp

pottery barn kids by Cahan As a parent, makes you want to be the kid again.

See Neiman Marcus' The Book and the Interface brand catalog at The Valentine Group

See the Harley-Davidson Catalog at VSA Partners

The Habitat catalog from London is incredible but I couldn't find a web shot of it. Here is their site Habitat

One of my real favorites is the Takashimaya New York product and brand image catalogs by Design: M/W and also.

Also a great book on the subject is "Catalog Design - The Art of Creating Desire" published by Rockport.

I whole heartedly agree with the Design Within Reach comment. It is a spectacular example of creating and directing eye movement within a catalog.

On Nov.27.2002 at 09:30 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Oh! one more I forgot to mention, the new, totally redesigned, larger than thou Emigre font catalog. For the first time in years I found myself again watching each and every typeface. If you haven't received it yet, order a copy. It's a beautiful thing. The type is so perfectly set it makes wanna weep.Ok not so much. But I was glad to see such attention to detail in this catalog.

On Nov.27.2002 at 12:03 PM
Todd’s comment is:

I think including type catalogs is cheating, since their product is really incorporated into general design. Emigre, for instance, is really more akin to a magazine than a catalog. Same goes for my fave type catalog example, The Hoefler Type Foundry

On Dec.03.2002 at 11:25 AM