I’m a self-confessed magazine junkie but it doesn’t end there; I collect catalogs as well. Not just any old catalogs, though. There’s a handful of titles that I’ve collected for years and with good reason. My passion is editorial design and while there’s a lot of inspiration in this area online, the magazines and catalogs they come from are often truncated to only include the ‘best of the best.’ The experience of flipping through a printed piece, page by page, in its entirety tells a story with a beginning, middle and end that can never quite be replicated online.
Today I’d like to share some of my favorite catalog titles and best of all, they’re all free (see links below). These catalogs can really come in handy for designers. Three years ago, I was hired to design a fashion lookbook for a Fortune 100 company. When I was briefed on on the job, a lightbulb went off. I’d collected dozens of catalogs that were very much in line with the demographic this company was trying to reach so I hauled in my collection the next day and my art director and I got busy flipping through various issues, gathering visual cues and layout inspiration during our early explorations. Having complete catalogs at my fingertips to bookmark and sort through versus screen shots of bits and pieces of online inspiration was immensely helpful.
Books can be expensive and not every designer has the means to build their own personal library right away (I am only now amassing a decent one). But one thing you can do, no budget necessary, is to collect catalogs. They often change their theme and layouts on a monthly basis and can provide a quick dose of inspiration wrapped up in a short retail story.
As a designer, it’s good to be aware of trends and movements around you, not just online but also in print. The goal is to not lift everything you see but to rather ignite the sparks of creation. Colors, type choices, the placement of images and the copy all play a role in the finished product and may inspire your next project, as well. Get inspired and then push forward and use that inspiration to create your own vision. Remember though, inspiration is meant to be just that; inspiration. Then, it’s time to get to work! As Anna recently said, “Try to put a limit on the amount of time you spend searching for and cataloging images for the sake of inspiration. Think more about appreciating these things for what they are, and not just how you can apply them to your own work.”
Here are some of my favorite free catalogs for print inspiration:
• Urban Outfitters: Sign up for monthly catalogs; they change themes very often.
• Anthropologie: Monthly catalogs with inspiring locales and subtle type.
• Madewell: This catalog is in an oversized format and printed on matte paper with hip, lookbook worthy layouts. Definitely my favorite of the bunch!
• House Industries: This type foundry catalog is always colorful with a cheery retro vibe.
• J. Crew: They’re always sending out something new and have glossy magazine-worthy photos and type treatments.