Your catalogs are always late and maybe it’s your fault

by Stefano Bernardi 8 minutes to read

Marketing Departments go crazy when it’s time to create a new catalog.

Stress, lots of drafts, translations. There are all the ingredients for a terrible headache lasting at least a couple of months.

Creating a catalog is a huge task. Many people take part in the project, and a big amount of data needs to be collected and handled.

If you don’t run the project correctly, you’ll waste productivity, you’ll probably make lots of mistakes, and producing the final document will require much more time than usual.

Is your process organized and smooth? Or are there downtimes?

Creating a catalog takes too long

My job at Redokun allows me to get in touch with a lot of companies from all over the world, see their struggles, and then work and learn with them.

I noticed that there are marketing departments that waste 3 months on a catalog while there are others that can get it done in a couple of weeks. And yet, many of them have similar products, they use the same tools, but the results are still very different.

Lack of organization, wrong processes, and badly used tools are usually the main issues.

The importance of organization

The difference starts with the way your project is organized.

Lots of time is wasted on dealing with many drafts, missing data, edits, and corrections.

To avoid mistakes, long sessions of proofreading and editing or discrepancies in the information presented in each product, you need to create a path, a simple workflow and focus on each step at a time.

Create a path 

I like to have a very lean approach when dealing with catalogs. I make sure to break down the creation of the document in big parts and then in small steps.

[Important] A catalog is a representation of the entire data a company produce - presented in a way understandable to the reader.

There are two main tasks handled in the creation of a catalog then:

  • collecting the data
  • presenting the data in an understandable way

These two big parts can be reduced to several steps.

Focus on each step

Each step can then be executed (some also simultaneously) and the result immediately checked to confirm the quality.

This gives you the advantage to know exactly who is the person (or the office) who did that specific operation and you’ll be quick at asking them to fix any possible issue or provide more information.

At the same time, when you move to the next step, you’ll make sure the quality is high – and you won’t have to go back to fix mistakes and errors.

Data is the foundation

How many drafts does your team generally go over before completing a catalog? How many times do you have to check and double-check each page?

Making sure that each product contains the right and complete data is extremely hard. I’ve been personally involved in the development of many catalogs, and I quickly understood the importance of collecting the data correctly.

When your data is not collected in the right way, it’s hard to use and to control – mistakes are easy.

Collect your data in a structured way

Focus on the data before looking at the graphic, and make sure to have a single source of data. Use organized Excel files. This simple tip can save weeks of work.

List what data should be presented to the target reader, and collect the data for each product in a single table. This will ensure that you are collecting the necessary information for each product and will make it easier for other people to control the data. Also, it will allow you to use InDesign’s automations like data-merge.

For complex tables that can’t be easily listed in a bi-dimensional Excel file make sure to collect all the tables for each product before moving on with the development of your document.

Check your data in Excel

Checking your data from within a simple table, without the graphic applied, makes sure that your focus is only on the data and you have no distraction.

Make sure the control is handled by a single person and make him/her responsible for the quality of the control.

Check your data when on the page

Of course, while you collect all the data, you (or the designer) can start working on the graphic your catalog should have.

When the graphic is ready, and all the data has been collected, you can use Data Merge to create a first draft of the document.

This allows you to quickly create a first preview of the document. You’ll be able to check any missing information and so go back to collect that data in the same Excel file and update the draft quickly.

Don’t waste your time with editing and graphics choices. Simply present the data and check the quality again.

Link complex tables to your layout (and avoid time-consuming copy-pasting)

Create Excel files that represent the tables you’ll be placing in InDesign, and check your data for errors before actually importing the tables in your layout.

Link the Excel tables to your InDesign file so that if you are editing the Excel file, then the changes will be applied also to the catalog. This will ensure that your data comes from a single, updated source.

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Time to focus on the layout

Only when your data is correct and placed on the page, can you focus on improving the graphic of your document.

By changing your workflow and giving higher priority to the data, instead of the graphics, you’ll make sure that the information of each product is correct and positioned on the page.

This might sound trivial, but this change of mindset can literally cut the production of your document by half, the overall quality will dramatically improve, and the likelihood of making a mistake will be significantly reduced.

Corrections

Corrections are of course a fundamental part of the project. Many teams struggle when it’s time to check their catalog, and designers go crazy with edits.

You can save lots of time by printing a few copies of your document and giving them to different people to check. Once they have checked the copies, and only then, you should import the edits in your InDesign document.

You can also evaluate the use of some software. I recently happened to use MasterPlan with a client of mine, and I must say that it shares the same easy-to-use approach of Redokun. If you struggle with drafts and corrections, you should give it a try.

Language Translations

The translation is another part of the process that generally takes a lot of time. And it’s probably the riskier step in the production of your catalog.

Once you’ve translated your InDesign document, you’ll have “your document X number of languages” to check, edit, and keep updated.

A nightmare for a designer!

Also, you might be using the wrong workflow to translate the document, and you might be wasting time and resources by simply sending the document to your translator.

Save on translations

You can cut the time and cost of translation by gaining control over the production of your translated document.

By introducing Redokun into your process, you make sure you have the tools to produce your translated catalogs in a fraction of the time and easily deal with last-minute changes.

Try Redokun for free. Start your 14-day free trial.

Pricing updates or changes

Updating prices is a tedious, time-consuming job. If your prices are in a table and you linked it to an Excel file as we’ve seen in this post, then you are just fine.

But, if you didn’t do so, you might want to use a script.

Also, if you have to exchange a thousand separators and decimal indicators, there is another script that comes to the rescue.

You can find both those scripts in this blog post under the section “Numbers, Prices, and Fractions.”

Last-minute Changes and Content Updates

Structuring your data and making sure the quality is high will drastically reduce the risk of last-minute changes, but that doesn’t exclude them completely.

The use of layers

A common practice is using different language layers to ensure that at each time you change something, you’ll remember to update all the different languages the document was translated into.

However, this is not the best way to work with multiple languages.

This practice increases the risk of placing a sentence in the wrong language in a specific layer.

Focus on the base language document

Editing all the different language versions is unbearable and the risk of making mistakes very high.

The best way to deal with last minute-changes and content updates is by editing the base language and then uploading a new revision in Redokun.

Redokun does the job for you and automatically updates all the languages assigned to that document. You’ll need to translate only new text, and that will dramatically improve the time it takes to have your documents ready.

Annual Revisions

Structured data will also create a stable base for the next year’s catalog production. With the Excel file that you used to create your catalog and the data merge feature we discussed, you’ll be able to completely revolutionize the graphic in seconds.

And then by using Redokun, you’ll be able to create all the language versions in seconds. Try Redokun for free. Start your 14-day free trial

Stefano Bernardi
Stefano Bernardi

Stefano has worked on numerous mid to large–sized InDesign projects for Alstom, DeLonghi, Philips, and many others before starting Redokun in 2015.
As Redokun’s Co-Founder, Stefano spends most of his time helping customers to optimize their InDesign work-flow. He also holds in-house InDesign courses for companies in the Venice, Italy area.

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