How to Design a Product Catalog Part 3

This is Part 3 of a three-part series dedicated to product catalog design.

Read Part 1: Layout and Functionality

Read Part 2: Section Intros and Specialty Pages

In this section, we’ll be discussing cover pages.

How to design a product catalog: Cover Pages

Outside Front Cover (OFC)

The front cover is one of the most important elements of a catalog, because it’s the first thing that the reader sees. It has to be captivating enough to get them to want to open it and see what’s inside. It also needs to stand out from the competition. Clearly,  it’s a great place to get creative.

Below are a few key elements to keep in mind when designing a front cover.

Front cover of the Wesco Solar catalog

Masthead

The masthead is the name of the catalog or brand. This is a very important element, and is usually located at the top of the cover. Make it unique so that it stands out and is easily recognizable, but make sure it doesn’t take up too much room. Front cover space is very valuable, and should be dedicated to overall design and a clear demonstration of what types of products the reader can expect to see in the book. Keep in mind that the masthead should be consistent in size and cover location in future catalogs so that, through brand awareness, your readers will become familiar with the “look” of your books at first sight.

Tagline

This brief one-line description tells the reader what your company does. It usually falls directly below the catalog masthead.

Volume Number…or Issue Number and Date or Season

Add one… or both! It’s up to you, based on how you’d like the catalog to be tracked and how often you anticipate producing subsequent editions. If you would like your catalog to have a longer shelf life, use just a volume or issue number without a specific date. If the book is seasonal, use the date or season.

New or Featured Products

The cover is a great place to feature new or “hot selling” products. Placing these on the cover will draw individual attention to them and encourages the reader to look inside for more information and to see what else you offer. Consider products featured on the cover to be a sort of “teaser” for the audience. 

Quick Reference Tabs (optional)

Reference tabs are a way to let the reader quickly see what product sections are inside. They typically run down the right side of the front cover, and are aligned with the section tabs on the inside product pages — so when the catalog is closed the reader can clearly see each section, whether he’s looking at the front or side of the book. 

Ordering Number and Web Address (optional)

You may want to add an ordering phone number (or customer service number) and web address to the front cover as well. At a glance, your readers will have a way to quickly place an order, without having to search through the entire book.

Outside Back Cover

The back cover is just as important as the front cover because there’s a 50/50 chance it will be the first thing your audience sees. Like the front cover, it also has to be captivating enough to get the reader to want to open it and see what’s inside.

Below are a few key elements to keep in mind when designing the back cover.

New or Featured Products

The back cover is also a great place to showcase new featured products. Again, it will make the reader want to look inside for more information about those products, as well as pique their interest about all the other great products you have to offer.

Mailing Area (optional)

If your catalog is going to be a self-mailer, you’ll want to leave an open area for the mailing information. This would include a return address, mailing indicia, and an area for ink jetting the readers address.

Information About Your Company (optional)

The back cover is an ideal place to add any information about your company that would be helpful to the reader. It will familiarize them with your company and give them a “warm and fuzzy”. It’s all about making the reader comfortable.

Inside Front and Back Cover

These two “hot spots” in your product catalog naturally draw in the reader. Below, I’ve listed a couple of additional ideas on how to best utilize either one or both of them.

Advertising

You can sell ad space on your covers to the same companies buying product pages in your catalog. This, in turn, can help offset some of the cost to create the catalog.  This “prime real estate” usually commands a higher price due to high demand and positioning in the catalog. 

Information About the Catalog (inside front cover)

Here’s a good place to share any unique information with your reader that will help them to use and navigate the catalog. Your goal should be to welcome them and make them feel like they are about to have a very positive experience.

Inside front cover page

Letter from the President (inside front cover)

You might also want to have your company president write a letter that addresses the audience directly, and shares any special information about your company or the catalog. Again, it’s all about making your reader comfortable.


This series has been a big hit so far! We plan on developing a PDF guide for you to download and work from of parts 1-3. If you’re interested, let us know and we’ll email you a copy. I hope you found my “How to Design a Product Catalog” series helpful and informative.

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