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April 12, 2010

Paul Lessing: A Few Practical Suggestions for Catalogs

Practically every manufacturer whose business is of any extent needs at least one catalog. To those who have not had considerable experience in the work, the compilation of a catalog is a giant's task.  Some of the books that are sent out to the public show plainly that they have been written by those not familiar with the art of catalog making.

For their benefit, we give here a few suggestions. It is impossible in the space of two pages to tell all there is to say on this subject but if we can give a few hints which will be of assistance to those who are struggling in the labyrinth of catalog making, our mission will be accomplished.

In the first place, decide on the shape of your book. If the article you are selling is long, have the book open the long way; if it is high, have it open with the binding on the long edge.  Then decide whether you are going to use half-tones or zincs.  This is important because if you are going to have half tones you must use either glazed stock or a special half-tone paper.

Before fixing the size it is best to consult your printer or an advertising agency because paper cuts in certain sizes and if you make your book in an odd size you waste paper. On a long run this waste amounts to a considerable item.  Next to the size is the number of pages and you must remember that catalogs page in multiples of four.  Before deciding on the number of pages consider how much postage you can afford to spend on the catalog and then see that the dummy of the catalog together with its envelope and all enclosures you intend using does not run over this weight.

The question of type is one that no one can settle in a general article.  Each proposition requires individual treatment.  Heavy machinery should have display type which is in itself suggestive of strength while a piano catalog would require typography of a more esthetic nature.  Be sure that the book is set in a measure sufficiently short that the eye will readily move from the extreme right of one line to the left of the next without losing the focus.

In deciding these various important problems about your catalog it is important to take into consideration the question of whether your book is to be sent out hap-hazard or whether it will be sent to a list of live inquirers.  Obviously you can afford to spend more for each book if it is being sent to probable purchasers than if it being distributed to a list which contains a large percentage of waste on account of curiosity seekers.  Curiosity seekers are often avoided by sending a cheap circular to inquirer and requiring a special catalog inquiry in order to sift the list.

Another point to settle is the question of the number of colors.  While it is true that the additional make-ready and press runs cost extra yet there is no doubt but the colored views, color borders, captions, initials, etc. make a catalog look a great deal finer and make it more readable for the person into whose hands it falls. The question of color combinations is inexhaustible and cannot be treated at length in this article but here again may be said that the solution depends in a great measure on the nature of the article you are exploiting. For instance, a delicate olive would be more adaptable for a jewelry book than fiery red.

We should be very glad to give the benefit of our experience to any who may be contemplating the building of a catalog.

Author: Paul Lessing Lessing Advertising Agency Des Moines, Iowa January, 1912

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