The 4 Most Common Catalog Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

February 20, 2020

There is a reason kitchen and bath companies seek out advertising agencies to assist with their catalog design. Good brands – regardless of their size or their budget – recognize that every collateral piece is a direct reflection of their products, quality, craft and authenticity. And when we are asked to design a catalog or brochure, it’s usually gone off the rails somewhere along the line and needs a bit of a rescue. 

For the kitchen, bath and home furnishings industry in particular, it’s important to demonstrate good design acumen. You need to speak the language of design in everything you do. Every element you produce must be in this language if it reaches the eyes or hands of a specifier (designer/architect) or affluent consumer. 

Let’s grab your latest collateral and see if it passes the “good design” test.

The Four Most Common Catalog Mistakes

1. The Big Squeeze

Don’t try to squeeze too much on a page/spread. The denser the page is with information, the more organized it needs to be. 

2. The Glaze Over

Too many fonts or typefaces can give your potential customer visual overload. They don’t know where to look first, so they just glaze at the page and move on. 

3. Bigger not Better

Type that is too big cheapens the feel. You have to step back and assess the page/spread and realize that everything cannot be of equal importance. There needs to be a hierarchy to the information, and usually that means the logo is not the most important thing on the page.

4. Poor Photography

Your brand image is reflected by your photos. Without good, strong visuals – properly lit and cropped – you can’t get the viewer emotionally involved in the product. Photography has stopping power. 

Before you take the photos, think through how you will use the images so the correct format and size shots can be taken. For example, a vertical shot for a print ad is not going to work on the home page of a website. 

There are two photographic trends, and they are on opposite sides of the spectrum! One is to have a more modern format and simpler, cleaner images that allow the product room to breathe in a sense. This provides the reader space psychologically to fill in their perceptions and aspirations as how the product fits their needs. The other trend is a maximalism approach, lots of saturated colors and different patterns and textures. The irony with this is that it takes just as much – if not more – organization and attention to detail to pull this look off correctly. If either is done poorly, it is quite evident.  

Illustration of poor catalog photography
Illustration of improved catalog photography


Keeping Catalogs User-Friendly

Layout the entire book in a small “thumbnail” format so you can see how the information will flow. It’s much easier to assess the content of the book and make changes to the overall order in this size. It will also enable you to identify where the holes are, e.g., where info, images, stories are needed. Once you have the rough thumbnail, you’ll want to designate within each section or collection an opening “beauty” page or ideally a spread. The beauty page will typically use a lifestyle or specialty shot of the product with more of a focus on aesthetics rather than function. Beauty pages serve two purposes: first as a resting point for the eyes from the denser product information and second as subtle organization tool. 

Use Copy to Make an Emotional Connection

Strong, emotive copy creates the feel and encapsulates what the brand stands for. People buy based on emotion, then they rationalize it with facts. This is regardless of whether the audience is trade or consumer.

Lori Dolnick is a senior vice president at Frank Advertising — a marketing, PR, Social Media and web development firm that’s 100 percent focused on building brands in the kitchen, bath and design industry. Dolnick has generated millions of dollars in public relations for her clients and has been quoted as an industry expert in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe. She can be reached at www.frankadvertisingus.com and ldolnick@frankadvertisingus.com.