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Luis A. Ireland

Some Notes on
Catalog Making

Some Notes on
Catalog Making


Samuel Graydon
Treasurer, Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co.

I 1856

Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co.

"printing headquarters"

Printers & Binders

80 Lafayette Street, New York


Copyright, 1909 and 1921, by
Samuel Graydon





Too much cannot be written or said
about making the catalog better. 'r i

It is in its place one of the most im-
portant units in the whole advertising
campaign. It is what makes effective
the direct advertising and the general
advertising. It frequently takes the
place of the traveling salesman. It is,
or ought to be, a work of reference to
be kept, filed and consulted. There-
fore it should have everything the
writer, artist, engraver and printer
can add to it to make it simple, clear,
intelligent and convenient.

Ernest Elmo Calkins
December 4, 1920




The enormous volume of printed matter of
an advertising and publicity character, of which
the catalog and booklet form a most important
part and involve a large proportion of the expen-
diture, presents a field where "live wires" in the
advertising and printing business may profitably
devote their energies in determining the best
methods to follow in order to derive the largest
and most eflfective results from the appro-
priations for catalogs and booklets.

These few pages have been written with the
hope that they may be of help to the advertiser,
and that the views expressed, drawn from ex-
perience, may tend to bring about that closer
and more confidential relation between adver-
tiser and printer conducive to the production
of catalogs and booklets with more "result-
getting" and "business-bringing" qualities.

This little volume is practically a copy of
the author's talk before the Technical Publicity
Association of New York, at the National Arts
Club on January 14, 1909.

The appreciation with which those remarks
were met, the inquiries received for copies of


them, and the recommendation that they be
published, encouraged their issuance in printed

By request of the Advertising Men's Club of
New York and of the Technical Publicity As-
sociation of New York, copies were printed at
that time and distributed to their memberships.

This present edition is a reprint in response
to the continuous demand during the past twelve

S. G.

New York, January, 1921


Some Notes on Catalog Making

Mr. Toastmaster and Gentlemen:

No doubt some of you may have noticed
a recent article in the Saturday Evening Post,
in which the author said: Why is after-dinner
speaking? Some say we got it from the English,
and the English from somebody else. Those
of you who are familiar with history, however,
will bear out the truth of the assertion that it
began with the first man. When Eve handed
Adam the apple, Adam took a few bites of it,
and then getting up on his hind legs, put his
hand on his chest where the bosom of his dress
shirt would have been — if he had had a dress
shirt — and said: "I must confess that this
is a great surprise to me. I did not expect
to be called upon this evening, and I am not
prepared. I know full well that I can say little
that would be of interest to this distinguished
company, especially in view of all the eloquence
and wit to which we have listened; but, as the
serpent was talking, I was reminded of a little
story," and so on.

That, in a general way, is how all good public
speakers begin, and then they settle down


to their subject, or rather, see how far away
they can wander from it. I am not a public
speaker, even using that term in its most elastic
sense, and will therefore try to stick to the
subject in hand.

If you members of this Association were
amateurs in the work of catalog making as a
part of your advertising campaign, I would
feel much less diffident. Realizing that many
of you have had more experience than myself,
I rather felt that whatever I might say would
savor more of platitudes than the imparting
of information of much material value. I am
enthusiastically interested in catalog making,
not merely as a bread-and-butter proposition;
and also as I have enjoyed the privilege of
meeting with you on several occasions, and
heartily believe in the get-together principle
of men in a similar calling for the exchange
of ideas, I will try to help the cause along a
bit with a few rambling but decided impres-
sions, and profit by what I hear from you.

In my library there are probably some hun-
dred or so titles relating to books, printing
and advertising, forming the nucleus of what
I hope some day will be a comprehensive cover-
ing of the field. History of printing, printing
as an art, advertising from various viewpoints,
building of books, etc., all are there, but with
the exception of slight references, relatively
nothing on catalogs, so I have not the oppor-


tunity of quoting at length from authorities
on the subject.

To begin with, catalog making is practi-
cally a business in itself, the actual mechanical
execution being second only to the conception
and format. Of necessity, I will have to talk
more along the mechanical production side,
as my experience has been mostly in that
direction. The subject is too broad and too
varied to be adequately discussed in any great
amount of detail in a few minutes on an oc-
casion of this sort, and yet generalities will
not really convey any helpful information.
The circumstances and conditions surround-
ing different propositions are so varied that
one cannot say thus and so should be the case,
or lay down any hard and fast course to follow.
The character of the product, the money
available for its exploitation, the location and
type of person to whom the catalog is to be sent —
all have their part in determining the policy.

The more one learns of the subject the more
one appreciates the difficulty of starting out
with a premise and by logical and consecutive
argument to briefly reach a concrete conclusion
that will be of any real benefit, and at the same
time without citing specific instances.

From the eight to ten billions expended
annually in the United States for publicity,
and the six hundred millions for printed matter,
more than half is for catalogs and booklets.


I believe the appropriations for catalogs and
booklets are becoming larger, in proportion,
each year than those for the other branches
of advertising, and that more attention is being
paid along educational lines.

To my mind, and I think to that of both the
experienced user and producer, the simplest
is usually the most effective. The worst catalogs
in this country to-day, as I have seen some-
where stated, "are not the trashy product of
the cheap printer, but the overdecorated, over-
printed, bescrolled and bebordered 'creation*
of the half-baked * artistic printer.' " I have
no sympathy for that type of so-called art;
neither have I for art for its own sake, in
catalog making. Art for your business* sake
is what you want in your catalog.

Printing comes in contact with so many
phases of life, and it is so impossible for per-
sons of intelligence to put themselves outside
its sphere of influence, that it is a vital factor in
our education and progress.

Some one has said that printing is ninety-
nine per cent utilitarian. The motive is utili-
tarian and not artistic. Art should be in-
voked for guidance, and in so far as it will
help to express the motif. Art and artistic
are the two most misused words in the adver-
tiser's and printer's vocabulary.

A large amount of money is uselessly spent
through the mistaken idea entertained by some


manufacturers and fostered by some printers
that a catalog to be successful must outshine
in elaborateness of scheme, decoration or ex-
pensiveness of material those of their com-

Please do not mistake me, I am not advo-
cating the use of cheap materials or severe
mechanical scheme; but the most costly mate-
rials and ornate treatment cannot make up for
the lack of horse sense used in the vital setting
forth of a proposition. Brains in the recognition
of possibilities and intelligent treatment of
materials, and a preconceived view of the effect
of something as yet unproduced, more often
result profitably, than the use of costly materials
and a multitude of colors and elaborate treatment.
Too few pay attention to the basic art principles
underlying good typography, such as proportion,
harmony, balance and tone, and, what is of great
importance, of having the printing suggest the
motif of the advertising.

Artistic publicity matter is the most effective
in returns, but without such returns there is no
excuse for its existence, no matter how beautiful
or expensive.

Decoration and treatment that tend to in-
crease confidence or create desire should be
utilized, but all "gingerbread" is superfluous
and detracts from the real efficiency of the book.
You are not trying to convince your prospective
customer of your ability to issue a magnificent


piece of printed matter, but to favorably
affect him as to your product and imbue him with
a desire to buy. Your catalog is usually intended
to exercise a definite influence as well as to give
information; and it should convey progressive-
ness, and while avoiding ultraconservatism, should
carry conviction as to your solidity, integrity
and reputation, and be so conceived as to com-
mand the attention of and appeal to the particular
class of people you wish to impress.

Competent salesmen and advertising managers
get more remuneration than operatives, because
it is more difficult to sell a thing than to make it.

Advertising is the initial and most important
feature of distribution.

A catalog to be successful from a distribution
standpoint is one which sells goods, promotes
enterprises, and wins prestige, reputation, and
good will. It is the dual function of such print-
ing to hold your present customers and hasten
belated ones. The truly effective catalog is one
in which the superficial physical features are har-
monious and blend pleasingly to the eye of the
class of person one desires to impress. Its char-
acter should create in the mind of the recipient
confidence in the sender and his product, crystal-
lize partly formed plans, create new wants, and
compel favorable action, and quickly. It should
be essentially adapted to its purpose to be com-
mercially profitable to its issuer; and it is success-
ful, from an advertising standpoint, if it accom-

plishes Its purpose, even if it is not an ultra de
luxe "thing of beauty and joy forever."

Many really good catalogs are wasted either
through being sent to unintelligently prepared
lists of those who are not possible purchasers,
or, in these days of large concerns, through not
reaching the particular individual desired; and
others fail of their mission through not being
distributed in the manner and season or time of
day calculated to be the most acceptable.

Here let me mention a case I know of. We
decided that the type of man we wanted to reach
on a certain proposition was most susceptible if
the mail brought our literature so that he found
it on his desk upon his return from lunch, when
with a cigar between his teeth he was at peace
with things generally. He then had the morning
mail out of the way, and had a little leisure to
look into our matter before taking up the routine
afternoon work. And our list being all local,
with a little trial we soon found how to have our
stuff arrive at the proper time. A year's record
showed forty-two per cent responses. It is a
watching of these details that gives the largest
proportion of returns.

While it is impossible in a discussion of this
sort to talk specifically of details, and the subject
has to be treated more or less in the abstract,
I will try to bring out in a way the features that
naturally should come up for consideration in
preparing to issue a catalog and their relation


to each other and to the finished whole. I will
have time to do little more than merely enumer-
ate the items, and will have to omit any dis-
cussion of the advantages of one form from the

All the purposes, items, details, and features
should be thought over and mapped out care-
fully before doing actual work on any one of
them, so that the whole will dovetail together
harmoniously when assembled in the finished
product. And I do not mean merely the me-
chanical features, but object, purpose, and whole
aim. Of course, some details may be advan-
tageously altered during production.

In selecting data for the catalog, besides the
body matter, argumentative and descriptive,
portraying the goods proper, the features of text
to be considered should be the policy of the
concern, its business methods, reputation, finan-
cial standing, facilities for quality and volume,
equipment for speed in production and early
delivery, views of plant or offices to convey ca-
pacity, prestige, stability; also policy of the
amount of text to give relating to any section
of the book, and as a whole.

Do not make the mistake of giving the copy
to the printer in a most imperfect condition,
with the idea of raising Cain with it and whipping
it into shape after it has been set up, as so many
do, who, lacking imagination, cannot see its
effect at all until it is put in cold type, when they

then rephrase. This all costs money to alter,
and is an unnecessary expense (and often a bone
of contention between advertiser and printer),
and can be to a very large extent obviated if
reasonable care is used in editing copy before-

The text should be written by one who is not
only familiar with the goods, but who is a student
of human nature and can so phrase and portray
the subject as to appeal to the reader. He must
have the faculty of being able to lift himself out
of the rut of stereotyped statements from the
seller's viewpoint, and put himself in the position
of the particular type of buyer he wishes to im-
press, to be truly effective. There should be a
continuity of thought and sequence of ideas,
leading to a logical conclusion.

Eliminate all matter not germane to the sub-
ject. Have some one in the sales department
write the first draft in his own language and from
his knowledge obtained from personal contact
with customers. Then take his facts, no matter
how crudely expressed, and put them in more
presentable shape for publication.

In the matter of illustrations and engravings,
select the goods to be illustrated, bearing in
mind who is to be impressed; determine the
most effective views, sectional, entire, perspec-
tive, exterior or phantom. Decide the most
practicable treatment to remove objectionable
features and make pleasing to the eye. The


style of engraving must vary according to the
subject, depending on the size of the edition,
whether to be electrotyped, kind of paper, and
amount of wear to be given the cuts. The pho-
tographer should be one who knows how to take
pictures designed for commercial reproduction,
and the viewpoint selected carefully to avoid
distortion. Solio prints of brown tone are most
advantageous to retouching. One hundred and
seventy-five screen half tones are more difficult
to print, as the mesh is apt to fill, while in one
hundred and thirty-three screen more detail is
lost in reproduction. One hundred and fifty
screen is a good average.

The profusion or scarcity of illustrations, and
their general location must be determined, and
also their size.

The size and proportions of the book come
next (if there can be any precedence of one fea-
ture over another, for all should be considered
one with another and their planning progress
side by side, in thought at least). These are
determined by the impression to be created,
by the class to whom the books are to be sent,
usage they will be given, requirements of the
illustrations, or to permit of the grouping of a
certain amount of text matter and cuts on the
same or adjoining pages. 6x9, 7/^ x 10^, and
9x12 inches are the generally accepted new
national standard sizes. On small editions con-
sider the standard sizes of paper in the market


of the character necessitated by the work in
hand, to permit of economy through the advan-
tageous cutting without waste. On the larger
runs, this need not be considered, as the paper
can be secured to order in almost any size.

Have the number of pages conform to even
forms, usually sixteen to a form. Smaller forms
are more expensive to run in proportion than
sixteens; generally speaking, an eight-page form
averaging about seventy per cent of a sixteen.

As to typography, thought should be given
to face, style, spacing, measure, and margins
for the body matter; also for the display matter.
Always bear in mind not to please one's own
personal tastes, but those of the one to whom
the book is to be sent.

Simple, dignified composition is always the
most effective. Avoid the tendency to over-
display and to emphasize unduly. Do not, in
an effort for originality or eccentricity, use a
variety of styles of type in the same book, after
the fashion of the old-time butchers' billhead,
but adhere to a single face and use it in series,
which will give harmony and balance. Have
uniformity in leading. Give good proportions
of white space. About fifty per cent for marginal
surface is good. Eight or ten point type (ten,
as a rule) is best adapted for body matter, except
in the larger size pages, when eleven or twelve
point may be used to better effect.

Many utilize marginal headings, but I have


never seen the catalog where equal emphasis
could not have been given in other ways; and
marginal headings certainly look badly.

Here it should be determined whether the
job is to be electrotyped or not (and this often
depends, too, on the size of the edition), for, if
for electrotyping, the spaces and quads should
be set high; while for letterpress, low; and in
either case costs money to alter from one to the
other after once in type. Better results in electro-
typing half tones can be obtained if blocked on
metal instead of wood. Nickeltypes, costing
about double that of electrotypes, are often
desirable on long runs, or finely vignetted half
tones, or where some inks are used which eat
into the electros, destroying them for good work.
As a rule, it is advisable to have engravings and
electros backed up with metal for patent blocks.

In selecting paper, consider the character of
your illustrations and type and the handling
the book will receive, also the durability, tone,
finish, texture, strength, weight, etc., of the paper.
Fine half tones, of course, necessitate highly
coated papers. Second-grade coated papers give
a flat effect, contrasts are lacking in the illus-
trations, owing to the fact that the solids look
grayish and the high lights dirty, instead of rich
blacks and sharply contrasting high lights on
the better grades. For type only, the nicest
results are obtainable on antique or rough-finished
papers, which are easier to the eye, and give an


effect impossible with coated paper. Always
avoid newly made paper, as it is liable to stretch
or shrink, according as climatic conditions change.
This is especially true where very close register
is required in color work.

Use stock of such proportions that when folded
to the size of your catalog the grain will run the
same way as the backbone, to prevent cracking,
assure better folding, avoid buckling when bound,
and lay flat when closed.

If your paper is antique laid, you should have
the wire marks run across the page and the chain
lines run up and down, as the latter always run
parallel with the grain.

The finished effect of a piece of printing de-
pends on the presswork. One cannot convey
quality of workmanship in a set of specifications,
so there is a wide variety in this item, which will
run from a job that is printed almost flat to one
where it is planned to so cut overlays and so
perfect the make-ready as to get out of the cuts
all there is in them.

It requires a nice judgment in the determina-
tion of what colors or shades of ink to use, the
selection often making or marring a book other-
wise well done. Some inks which give beautiful
results under some conditions produce most un-
satisfactory effects with merely a change of paper
or subject of a cut. For example, a double-tone
sepia ink gives beautiful results on an India-
toned coated stock with a half tone of exterior


foliage, etc., while if used with a portrait on white
paper the result is most disappointing.

The decorative features should be carefully
thought over, the symbolical drawings that bear
on the subject in hand, the conventional orna-
ments, tint schemes, borders, embellishments of
one sort or another, and the thousand and one
things that might be used to advantage, always
bearing in mind that they should only be used
to help the main thought. Don't let elaborate-
ness of frame detract from the picture itself.

The designing of the cover and the binding
naturally have to be considered jointly. Select
paper, cloth, or leather, in the one of the various
styles of each class that is best adapted for the
purpose, according to usage, thickness, size,
desire for impressive cover, color scheme, finish,
weight, wearing qualities, adaptability for print-
ing in inks or stamping in gold or embossing.
There is the widest variety in each, of paper,
cloth, or leather styles, as to materials and con-

The cover scheme should be most carefully
thought out, for the reason that first impressions,
whether good or bad, are lasting: the keynote,
treatment, color effects, lettering, illustrative or
decorative features. More attention should be
given to the utilization of the color of cover stock
as a factor in color scheme. I am a strong believer
in covers and decorative features that are sym-
bolic or suggestive, and, as a general rule, without


being illustrative; rather more impressionistic
than realistic. Purely decorative design has been
overdone. A cover design should tell something
and have an application to the article or adver-
tiser. Embossing often adds strength to a cover.
Where an embossing die is made, have scoring
lines cut in to save separate operation for scoring.

Then, too, the question of plain or decorative
linings and end leaves, and simple or pattern
wraps should be thought of. Fly leaves, harmo-
nizing in material, design, and color, and specially
decorated, help in many cases to put a finishing
touch to a book.

Sometimes certain kinds of work cannot be
so well or advantageously bound in some sizes
as others, which has a bearing, too. How the
books are to be distributed and the total weight
has a material bearing oftentimes on the plans
for a catalog; as also does the longer time required
for producing one style of book than another.

One more feature. Without undue haste, to
the detriment of the workmanship, get out your
catalog quickly once you decide to issue it.
Proceed steadily till it is finished, for as long
as it is in a state of incompleteness you will find
constant demands for alteration and modification,
indefinitely postponing its issuance.

There are doubtless several points I have over-
looked that have occurred to you, but I have
mentioned sufficient to show the bearing each
has on the other and the necessity of taking all


into consideration before proceeding to actual
mechanical production.

Briefly, with your initial factors to work with,
the form and details of your catalog should be
determined by your ultimate object, and not
by mechanical features.

Careful consideration of the above features
when preparing a catalog will not only mean a
more effective finished product, but save unneces-
sary expense and insure more speedy completion.
Oftentimes intuition, born of experience, helps
in the decision as to what is advisable when one
cannot do so by reasoning. The man who has
intellect will reach a conclusion, and cannot help
it; but he can no more tell why he decided than
Wordsworth could tell how he wrote one of his

I was once asked an equally inane question
by a man who said: "Mr. Graydon, tell me
briefly just how you go about trying to sell a


Online LibrarySamuel GraydonSome notes on catalog making → online text (page 1 of 2)