Catalog covers tell a story

Design/Art Direction: Gale Peck, Client: Hallmark

Design/Art Direction: Gale Peck, Client: Hallmark

As Daniel Pink, best-selling author and business thinker says,  “A story is not just logic. It’s the narrative.”

We all know logic is a very good thing.  But do you ever wonder why you just appreciate some things and then really connect with other things?

Any catalog design worth its salt is based on logic. But if you really want to engage someone and make a meaningful connection, tell a story.

I know what you’re thinking: “But I sell widgets. You can’t tell a story about that.”

Telling a story is just adding a an additional layer of depth. Even the simplest of  catalog covers can tell a story. That emotional connection can make all the difference between your catalog capturing someone’s eye or going unnoticed.

Don't blink or you'll miss it

old adYou may have heard of the 6-second rule when it comes to how much time we have to spend looking at an advertising billboard while driving by. Or the fact that you should stick to 7 words or less. At 55 mph that’s all the time you have! Back in 1835, when billboards began to appear on our roadways, the average vehicle speed was about 8 to 10 mph. Which ups the word limit to about 60, or enough to tell a pretty good story.

What do you notice first?

Art direction: Gale Peck. Client: PacBell

Design and Art Direction: Gale Peck. Client: Pacific Bell, La Estrella Catalog

When looking at all kinds of advertising, our eyes notice color first. Then shape. And on through a complex sorting hierarchy that we aren’t even consciously aware of. But we all do it, and it all happens in a fraction of a second.

With all the intense competition for your attention, it’s important to understand how we interpret all that visual information we’re bombarded with each and every day. A successful catalog or any graphic design incorporates these insights into a seemingly effortless resolution that gets attention.

We may not be aware of all the complex calculating that goes on subconsciously, but we instantly know when we see something whether or not it’s worth our consideration.

Sir Isaac Newton doesn't work here any more

512px-Newton_portrait_with_apple_tree.svg copyWe’re all familiar with the iconic Apple logo, which has undergone many changes over the years. But did you know that the original logo looked very different?

The original logo from 1976 has an elaborate illustration depicting Isaac Newton sitting under a tree with an apple hanging over his head (just moments away from his law of gravity epiphany). The original logo had too much going on, however. Eventually it was simplified to just one of its elements, the apple. At a glance the apple was easy to recognize and it was easy to reproduce in all kinds of media. It’s no surprise these two criteria are at the heart of good basic logo design.

A logo doesn’t tell you the whole story of a business or everything they do. Primarily it differentiates one company from another at a glance. No matter how simple (and effortless) a successful logo may appear, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.


Advertising: my, how it's changed!


Cowgirl left: Gale Peck. Cowgirl right: Gale's cousin Patty

Cowgirl left: Gale Peck. Cowgirl right: Gale’s cousin Patty Ann

In the earlier days of advertising, it was simply enough to let someone know what you had for sale. It was nice to talk about the product’s benefits and all, but in the days of far less competition, sometimes you just had to let someone know you had something for sale and they would come…

In the “golden age of advertising”, often all you had to do was come up with a catchy jingle or bring in some tap dancers. Or depict Fred and Wilma Flintstone lighting up a Winston cigarette (the lighter was a clamshell that popped open). Like what you see? You can buy it! In today’s extremely segmented marketplace, customers are used to personalized messages and expect you to know what they want. That’s why really understanding your target audience and making sure your branding is spot-on  is so absolutely essential.

A little wine bottle history

Wine Label Design: Gale Peck. Client: Lynmar Estate Winery

Wine Label Design: Gale Peck. Client: Lynmar Estate Winery

In Roman times, wine used to be stored in clay pots because glass was fragile and didn’t travel well. Wine couldn’t be legally sold by the bottle in England until 1860; up till then, it could only be purchased by the barrel. Once you got it home, it was poured into any size or shape bottle you happened to have (if you were lucky enough to have one).

The first glass bottles used for shipping wine had a rounded bottom. They were wrapped in straw to hold them upright and prevent them from breaking. We still see this reflected in the classic bulb-shaped, straw-wrapped Chianti bottle.

And the ubiquitous green bottle we use today? Wine bottles were originally green by default, due to impurities in the glass-making process.

Advertising: small changes, big results

Design and art direction: Gale Peck. Client: Viansa Winery.

Design and art direction: Gale Peck. Client: Viansa Winery.

Here is a page from a catalog designed for Viansa Winery. The same products on this page were featured in the catalog the year before, but because of small but important changes that were made, this page performed over 30% better than the previous one.

Whether it’s wine or widgets, it’s all about delivering what your customers want, and not what you necessarily want them to know! Today, more than ever, your target customers are expecting you to know just what they want. And then deliver. That’s the power of understanding effective brand marketing.

Logo trends: proceed with caution

Menu design: Gale Peck. Client: Cucina Viansa.

Menu design: Gale Peck. Client: Cucina Viansa.

One of the current trends in logo design is for a much more simplified design.

Good for airports.

Good for airports.







But here’s the caveat: while simplicity can be a good thing, don’t let your logo get so minimal that it feels generic. Some well-known companies have recently taken this trend too far and lost a good amount of their personality in the process. Knowing what to leave in and what to take out is where in-depth logo design experience comes into play.

The international symbols we see at airports all over the world are good examples of isotypes, or symbols that are reduced to just minimal elements. These are helpful for travelers who speak don’t speak the language.

Good for international airports. Not so much for differentiating your brand. Just the right balance of simplicity and personality isn’t easy to achieve, but it’s solid gold when you get it just right.

Are you speaking like you?

Design: Gale Peck. Client: AD-Vantage Marketing.

Design: Gale Peck. Client: AD-Vantage Marketing.

Years ago I first heard the term “copy voice” as in  “the copywriter wrote this catalog in the voice of Eddie Bauer.”  Since then I have heard of it in reference to Harry and David, The Nature Company, and so on.  They all have their own copy voices, and it’s an essential part of their brand identity.

Branding goes beyond just your logo. It’s the sounds, how your employees treat your customers, the aromas wafting through the store, the soft (or harsh) lighting…think of standing in your favorite coffee shop and what your experience is like. Your brand is the total experience of what you stand for; this is based on what you do and not just what you say.

Are you seeing what you’re looking at?

Photo direction: Gale Peck. Client: Hallmark Gold Crown.

Photo direction: Gale Peck. Client: Hallmark Gold Crown.

When I was a kid, I remember hearing  “Take a picture–it’ll last longer!” if I stared at something too long.

Today taking a photo has never been easier. Because of this we are taking more photos than ever. And filing away a lot more images never to be seen again.

The truth of the matter is that when we click the shutter, we tend to pay less attention to what it is we are actually seeing. We tend to let the camera do all the work for us.

Next time, take a mental snapshot. Enjoy being in the moment. And you’ll have a more lasting memory to enjoy later on, too.