Catalogues seem to be either moving online or disappearing altogether. And let’s be honest if you are someone who deals mainly online, or would rather see the money spent elsewhere. It’s a realistic choice to not have a catalogue.
But for someone who grew up circling the toy he wanted for Christmas in either the Argos or Littlewoods catalogue. A Catalogue is something that still resonates with me and many people like me.
Even though the catalogue seems to be drifting into the past. This post is here to show you the best catalogue design that is still going strong. And some examples that are usable but not the best design wise.
No catalogue list would be complete without mentioning the Argos Catalogue. As I mentioned in the introduction, much of my childhood was spent perusing the pages. Furiously scribbling circles around what I fancied (spoilers kids, Santa isn’t real, unless he works for Argos).
Now the Argos Catalogue may not be cutting edge design by any means. But it serves a purpose and when it comes to function, it works perfectly. Argos does a brilliant job of cramming everything it has to offer into one large catalogue.
If you have a small product range with beautiful artistic product shots. Then you can afford to design a catalogue worthy of design awards. But when you need to fill the pages and make the book under 1000 pages then take a leaf out of Argos’s catalogue. Systematically splitting the pages into sections is a great way to fit products in.
The functionality is also key. To some of our younger audience. You may have no idea how a catalogue works, but for Argos’s users they know how to use it and don’t want it to change.
Ikea is a great example of a middle ground between a very high end catalogue. And something more like Argos which focuses on function. Like their products, the design is clean and minimal, allowing the images of each product do the talking.
The big difference with Ikea is they also include scene shots. They have full double page spread images that set the scene of a room. then they add big bold text telling you the price and a small snippet of information about the product.
This approach is a more visual experience. Allowing the user to get a taste of how the product could look in a room rather than cut out on a white background. We have to think, showrooms in our local B&Q or Homebase have been doing this for years in real life. And yes, as a child I did make visits to these dull places more exciting by flushing toilets that were not connected.
The fact IKEA set scenes but also makes its catalogues functional to use is very helpful for the user. Making it an easy pickup for home owners to have in the house.
Next is another homeware brand that makes use of a catalogue. Or should I say catalogues. They use them as directories and are released for different occasions. Whether that be summer, spring, homeware or Christmas.
This splitting of catalogues by categories and seasons can be costly when it comes to print and design. But it does let any customers know what is in the directory. If they are looking for homeware but not clothing then pick up the homeware directory. This also avoids the directory being unnecessarily big. For example Argos have everything in one book, but it can make it a chore finding a particular thing.
One thing I love about the Next directories is how they are printed. Normally always a hardback book, beautifully bound. And if it’s not hardback its a good quality paper. This makes the customer experience much more involved and tactile.
It has a high end and almost posh feeling to it when you flick through the pages. It oozes quality and style and in doing so attracts recurring customers time and again.
Now the Screwfix catalogue is on this list for its pretty horrific design. But it does have some redeeming qualities.
Firstly if you don’t like leafing through pictures of power tools or doing the DIY in your household. Then the Screwfix catalogue has probably never been viewed by your peepers. Much like the Argos catalogue it’s purpose is function over design.
The uninspired design has everything brightly coloured, crammed and more often than not slapped with a big red price tag. It makes it hard to read, an assault on your eyes to say the least. The product images and information are squeezed in with ruthless efficiency. Making the most of every millimetre on the page.
But… going beyond the questionable design the catalogue actually works. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to find what you are looking for. and it is pretty self explanatory how to go about purchasing something. This makes the Screwfix catalogue successful even if it is hard to look at.
Moving swiftly on from a power tool nightmare. A world leader in selling kids products, from clothing to bed sheets or nursery chairs to toys. If its to do with kids Vertbaudet will probably have it.
The Vertbaudet Catalogue is very similar to the IKEA Catalogue. Using scenic shots and in situ product placement to give the customer an idea of what a product will look like.
The catalogue doesn’t stretch so far to being incredibly high end. Which allows it to appeal to the masses rather than a specific consumer group. One thing I did notice about the Vertbaudet Catalogues is that the pricing is pretty small. When on image heavy pages it makes it very hard to pin point the product and the price.
Vertbaudet also have online versions of there catalogues along with the printed ones. With the online world not going away, catalogues have to also adjust to this. But this does pose some questions. Do you simply do what Vertbaudet do and create a online flipbook? Or do you dive into a specialised web page? Which could be costly on top of what I imagine is an already functioning online shop?
Rolex are the first super high end brand on this list. And with that high end status the brand can afford to do a few different things when it comes to catalogues. Along with having a pretty standard annual brochure of what watches are on offer. They also have a brochure design for each of their product.
This is all when and good when you are Rolex but it does raise some issues. Firstly, not everyone can afford to make catalogues for every product they have.
And secondly, for such a high end brand, the design is underwhelming. It is minimal and clean but it doesn’t seem to match the product and experience. As a consumer you are paying big bucks when you purchase a Rolex watch, so you should expect an experience to match.
The product shots and up close macro shots are stunning. But they never feel like they are used to their full potential. Restricted by either basic boxes or pretty standard page structuring.
There should be a certain element of class and status when it comes to high end. But these Rolex brochures don’t give off that feeling for me.
Rolls Royce Online Catalogues
Rolls Royce are similar to Rolex above. They are a very high end brand producing very high end products with hefty price tags. This comes with a certain standard when it comes to your catalogues and in fact all your marketing materials. It needs to look as good as the price tag on the products.
I mentioned Rolex didn’t quite succeed in doing this in my last example. Rolls Royce on the other succeed in doing so. Other than getting a catalogue in store they also have them online. Which is a downloadable PDF, which doesn’t sound like much. But the experience of getting to that downloadable PDF feels classy and exclusive. Smoothly navigating the site until you get to the catalogue.
When you are in the catalogue its very minimal. Many pages only have a title and a paragraph of content to go with it, usually centred on the page. Allowing these stark white pages to sit back and let the slick artistic images of the cars do their thing.
It is only when you get to the back of the catalogue where it gets down to the technical specifications. These pages are a little more content heavy. But structured and set out in such a way that it is tidy and looks great.
The clout of Rolls Royce as a brand is what allows it to go for this minimal approach. The consumers of this product understand what they are getting and it doesn’t need to be pushed up their noses.
Tudor Online Catalogue
As I mentioned in a previous example, the online world is what you need to crack if you are a retailer in anything. And when it comes to catalogues, do you ditch the printed version and go online?
Tudor Watches don’t seem to have an online shop and rather urge you to find a retailer. But one thing they do do is have an online catalogue that showcases all the watches they have. Giving you detailed specs about each one and the all important price.
This approach to a catalogue allows a consumer to look through the Tudor range without worry of missing a certain model. The models and all the information you want about them are all on the Tudor Website.
Using your site almost as your online catalogue is a great way to have a catalogue on the web without having your own online shop. The design of the webpage has not won Tudor any design awards but its clean and easy to use.
No doubt Tudor do printed materials but the online presence is key in today’s world. And this is an easy way to get all your products in one place.
Tui River Cruises Online Catalogue
Online flipbooks are not my cup of tea, but that is normally because they don’t offer much in terms of tools and helpful ways to view the brochure. TUI have a river cruises catalogue online in a flipbook format which seems to break the mould.
The one difference is that as you load the page it gives you a nice run through of all the tools on the page. Making it very easy to navigate through the brochure and get to the content you are after.
These aren’t just simple tools for flipping pages. You can navigate through sections of the catalogue and create clippings of the information you want to keep. It is also optimised for touchscreen computers which is definitely a good thing.
TUI have went the extra mile to make the online experience of an online catalogue slicker and cleaner. It’s a great example of investing in something now for a longer lasting advantage.
Thomas Sabo Charm Club Catalogue
I have mentioned Thomas Sabo below as well but with good reason. Much like the NEXT catalogues I mentioned earlier, Thomas Sabo have a few different catalogues.
The Charm Club catalogue is used for just this one offering, which gives it a sense of exclusivity. Allowing the user to feel like they are being treated personally, being part of an exclusive “club”.
Along with the users feeling part of a club. Thomas Sabo have been experimental with print over the years. Although the content stays similar year after year, making it easy to recognise and use. The experimentation with print allows a certain character come out. From folded up leaflets to bounded books.
Thomas Sabo Catalogue
Along with the Charm Club catalogue. Thomas Sabo also have multiple catalogues that showcase the full range of products.
They have a very minimalist approach. Limiting everything to soft tones and colour palettes, letting the jewellery bring the bright vibrant colours to the page. This is a nice technique to let your products stand out. Look in any catalogue or online shop, more often than not the background the products sit on is a soft neutral tone.
Like most jewellery brands the photography used is vivid and stylish. But Thomas Sabo also colour theme there pages. Which is another nice touch for potential customers trying to match outfits with jewellery.
So with their double punch of product catalogues and the Charm Club catalogues. Thomas Sabo do a great job of feeling high end and exclusive but also accessible for customers.
Barker and Stonehouse 70th Anniversary Catalogue
Catalogues can be an annual or a seasonal print order but it doesn’t have to stop there. Barker and Stonehouse do plenty of nice catalogues year on year but have also done a 70th Anniversary brochure in 2016. Yes 2016 does feel like a lifetime ago but it does allow me to get across a nice point.
Catalogues can be pretty versatile things. Bringing out a printed document for a particular event can shake things up and make the customers experience better. If you’re like me, something physical that you can flick through is much better than an online PDF.
Although I love web design and designing documents for the web. A printed document will always win me over. Its real, tactile and gives you the idea that someone has spent time on this catalogue just for you. Whereas something online can sometimes feel like it has been put together to appease the masses.
EasyJet Traveller Magazine
The last catalogue in this post isn’t so much a catalogue, but more a magazine. On our travels as a business we frequently come across the EasyJet Traveller Magazine. And for something that is supposed to be a no frills budget airline, It’s a nicely put together magazine.
Doing a little research they are actually award winning magazines and definitely not a budget driven production. The magazines have beautiful imagery, vibrant use of colour and a modern design.
Adding all this up it makes the magazine “easy” pardon the pun, and a joy to read. Especially when you are on your second 4 hour flight of the day, coming back from a holiday that was so good, life will only go downhill from there.
Considering I rarely used to pick up the safety card out of the seat pocket on flights. I actually look forward to picking up the Traveller Magazine for both its content and design aspects.
The EasyJet Traveller Magazine is a great example of opportunity and making the most of it. If it didn’t look great, people would probably still read it. Unless they bring their own reading material, its not like you can just pop out the plane to grab your favourite magazine. But the fact EasyJet have took this opportunity to really nail the magazine makes the user experience so much better. The user is then looking in this magazine for their next travel destination. And they are most likely going to get there with EasyJet because of its magazine.
Conclusion:Creative Catalogue Design Curated
Ordering from catalogues, like days gone by maybe becoming a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean that catalogues are drifting into the past as well. I love getting something that is physical and printed. It has a more impressive user experience in my opinion.
But with the knowledge that the online world isn’t going away. It is vital that you look to move your catalogues online to service that demographic of customers. This could be as simple as an online PDF or something more creative like a dedicated webpage or site. Either way it needs to be in the back of you mind.
Once you have that in the bag you can start to make your catalogues work for you full time. Whether that be trying to hit every market, or specifically looking to target a high end market. The design and the way you use them matters depending on who you are targeting.
If you need any help with a catalogue design? Or just want to ask us a few questions, get in touch and we look forward to hearing from you.
reading time: 14 minutes