How to pro­duce a cat­a­logue efficiently

Cat­a­logue pro­duc­tion can be a com­plex under­tak­ing requir­ing excel­lent project man­age­ment skills, graph­ic design exper­tise and foren­sic atten­tion to detail. Read our thoughts…

Planning and budgeting

First and fore­most a cat­a­logue must pro­vide its read­er with the infor­ma­tion they are seek­ing, it sounds obvi­ous, how­ev­er, it is very easy to miss adding that cru­cial bit of infor­ma­tion in the prod­uct record.

For this rea­son, we would sug­gest that the first part of the cat­a­logue work­flow process should involve research­ing your tar­get audi­ence to ascer­tain exact­ly what it is they need and what is of val­ue to them. 

The goal then is to devel­op a design and con­tent plan that best meets the reader’s require­ments with­in the avail­able budget. 

To help define this and esti­mate costs we would con­sid­er how much space per prod­uct is required, we would exper­i­ment with lay­outs to arrive at that sweet spot between aes­thet­ics, read­abil­i­ty and pro­duc­tion costs. This will help pro­duce a pag­i­na­tion (an out­line of what’s on each page of the cat­a­logue) and deter­mine the extent (num­ber of pages) of the catalogue. 

It would be at this time that we would also con­sid­er cat­a­logue nav­i­ga­tion (cat­e­go­ry struc­ture, con­tents, index, stop­per pages) and addi­tion­al con­tent such as a tech­ni­cal area or new prod­uct showcase.

Gathering and organising data

Once the infor­ma­tion required has been estab­lished it’s time to gath­er the assets required (data, copy, illus­tra­tion and imagery). If the data isn’t already avail­able in a data­base or spread­sheet form we would high­ly rec­om­mend organ­is­ing it in this way. It has three main advan­tages: 1. Con­sis­ten­cy of pre­sen­ta­tion, if data is entered into a spread­sheet is is far eas­i­er to ensure con­sis­ten­cy of style and for­mat. 2. Miss­ing or incor­rect­ly entered data is eas­i­er to spot. 3. Once com­plete the data can be linked to InDe­sign to allow auto­mat­ed cat­a­logue production.

Building and artworking

Using soft­ware that inter­faces between a data­base and InDe­sign it is pos­si­ble to build pages much more effi­cient­ly and accu­rate­ly. If the cat­a­logue is of a larg­er size and is of a reoc­cur­ring nature we would high­ly rec­om­mend this approach.

Once the data has been flowed in it is linked with the source data so not only is it much faster to build the cat­a­logue it is also much eas­i­er to edit / amend and it is free of and cut and paste errors. 

In addi­tion, if the data source is cloud-based mul­ti­ple edi­tors can review and amend the source data which can then be sim­ply synced with the InDe­sign document.

Proofing and preparing for print

Once the cat­a­logue has been com­plet­ed it is time for check­ing and proof­ing. There are many sys­tems avail­able to allow col­lab­o­ra­tive proof­ing includ­ing Adobe Acro­bat and goproof. If this is not required email proof­ing using Acro­bat is sim­ple and cost effec­tive. Many peo­ple how­ev­er find it dif­fi­cult to proof doc­u­ments onscreen, if you are one of them ask your design­er if print­ed proofs are avail­able. We also like to make a mock-up to get an accu­rate feel of the fin­ished document.

Collecting the document for print

Although InDe­sign will high­light low res or RGB files with­in the doc­u­ment as it is being cre­at­ed we would rec­om­mend that a pre-flight check is car­ried out to make sure all files and ele­ments are suit­able for print. Most print­ers these days pre­fer to receive print ready PDF files. It is impor­tant to liaise with your print­er to obtain the cor­rect set­tings and colour sync pro­file pri­or to cre­at­ing the file.

Checking printers proofs

Once the print­er has received your file it will be run through a raster image proces­sor (RIP) to cre­ate print­ers proofs and ulti­mate­ly the plates for the print­ing press. The print­ers proofs can be made avail­able online or print­ed for the client to check. To ensure all con­tent is present we use a tra­di­tion­al proofers trick of over­lay­ing our print­ed copy on top of the print­ers proofs and peel­ing the top copy back­wards and for­wards, our eyes then pick up any dif­fer­ences easily.

Press passing

These days with very reli­able pre-press sys­tems and colour sync pro­files press pass­ing is very rarely nec­es­sary. How­ev­er if the cat­a­logue con­tains colour crit­i­cal items such as cloth­ing it can be use­ful to vis­it the print­ers with swatch­es of mate­r­i­al and adjust the press to get the best pos­si­ble colour reproduction.


Cat­a­logue pro­duc­tion can seem daunt­ing, how­ev­er with prop­er plan­ning, care­ful project man­age­ment and a sprin­kling of mag­i­cal graph­ic design dust it does­n’t need to be.

Share this page

Get in touch

01869 250 806

Subscribe to our newsletter