Digital vs Print Catalog Design: 7 Things to Consider

Catalogs are a key piece of any promotional product supplier’s marketing arsenal, but the way they’re designed and deployed is evolving. Print catalogs are useful for personal sales calls, trade shows, and direct mail, however, a massive amount of marketing now takes place online and requires modern, digital tools.

Due to a global pandemic and the rapid advancement of digital technology, our industry has been thrust into a new world of selling in a virtual marketplace. That brings us to our goal with this article. We’re here to help you get more out of your digital catalogs.

Consider these 7 Quick Tips To Improve Your Digital Catalog Design: 

1. Fonts: Make sure you have the proper font for both desktop and mobile experiences.

With over half of worldwide internet traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s obvious that mobile experiences need to be a priority for suppliers. This means picking fonts that are both legible and sized correctly for each device where it will be consumed. Don’t try jamming 7 lines of copy at 12 point Times New Roman font on one single page—if the user is on a phone, they might as well get a pair of binoculars to see the content at that point.

Keep it simple and clear. We recommend a sans serif size 16 font to start.

2. Page Dimensions: The standard 8.5×11 layout is ideal for both print and digital. 

Why 8.5×11? A ZOOMcatalog displays one page at a time on mobile, optimizing the screen space. On a computer, they display as a double-page spread, again optimizing the screen space.

Other sizes (like square for instance) may look good on your computer, but you’ll be left with substantial dead space on your phone above and below each page. An 8.5 x 11 layout checks the most boxes across all devices. 

3. Page Count: Designers have to be cognizant of page count when designing for print. 

That’s not an issue with digital. You can let the user experience dictate the design rather than the printing budget. Considering this, rethink your page layouts, increase the size of elements, use more empty space for a cleaner design, and do what’s best for displaying your products.

4. Double Page Spreads: Spreads are beautiful, but they need to be thoughtful and flexible. 

Be careful here. On phones, catalogs show one page at a time, which will split a spread. If you have a large headline run across the entire spread, it’s going to be cut in half on your phone. Use spreads to your advantage, just make sure each side can stand alone.

5. Imagery: Use bigger images. 

Back to the idea that pages will be rather small on phones and devices. Don’t use tiny images, or images with fine details that will be difficult to consume on a phone. Consider how images will appear on all devices—and when in doubt—go bigger with your images. 

6. Product Information: Less copy + more space = better viewing experience. 

That’s the magic formula. The key to an amazing catalog is less copy and more images. With digital, you can use external links to show more info. Take advantage of everything digital has to offer and link out when you need to go deep on specifics. Using external links is a 2021 catalog design trend – which you can read about here.

7. RGB vs. CMYK: Export your catalog in RGB. 

Traditionally, print catalogs are exported in CMYK to ensure the highest print color quality, but when you move online, RGB is the name of the game. 

Each computer has hundreds of thousands of pixels displaying on the screen at one time and showcasing those colors accurately is important in producing a high-quality catalog. With 256 levels of Red, Green, and Blue that can be combined into 16 million different options, RGB gives you the most variety when it comes to digital displays. 

Create New Catalog Habits

Traditional print catalog design practices are not always suitable for digital. You need to adjust your approach to capitalize on everything digital has to offer. Let’s recap…

  1. Make sure you have the proper font and font size for both desktop and mobile experiences. 
  2. The standard 8.5×11 layout is ideal for both print and digital.
  3. Let the user experience dictate the design, not page counts for print expense. 
  4. Spreads are beautiful, but they need to be thoughtful and flexible. 
  5. Use bigger, bolder images. 
  6. Less copy + more space = better viewing experience.
  7. Export your catalog in RGB. 

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a high-performing digital catalog. If you have more questions about digital catalog design, schedule a consultation with one of our ZOOMcatalog representatives and we will have you ready to succeed this year.