As you are coming down the home stretch preparing your final Holiday catalogs, and approving those final designs, keep this story in mind.
There’s a controversy growing in Washington DC that you may have missed. Here’s the short story – in 1999, Congress created the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, to locate, design and fund the creation of a lasting memorial in Washington DC to Dwight D. Eisenhower. After 15 years, and spending over $41 million, the Commission is coming under heavy criticism because they have chosen a design for the memorial that no one likes. The final design depicts Eisenhower as a young boy from Kansas, and features gigantic, eight-story metal screens of Kansas corn fields.
This is supposed to be our nation’s tribute to WWII’s Supreme Allied Commander, and our 34th President. The Eisenhower family doesn’t like it, Congress doesn’t like it, and most people that have seen the design (click here) don’t like it. About the only group that has endorsed it is the City Council of Eisenhower’s boyhood home town of Abilene, KS. But the Commission is sticking by their design. How did we get here?
We got here because no one was willing to say anywhere along the line “I hate this”. To me, the design is not only ugly, stupid, and disrespectful to the memory of Eisenhower, it symbolizes a problem that I see in many catalogs. No one is ever willing to say “this stinks, it’s going in the wrong direction, stop now and let’s see something else”. Instead, people offer constructive criticism, hoping that the designer will intuitively know, maybe through osmosis or mind reading, what the other person really wants. The designer doesn’t realize that they are being told that their design “doesn’t work” because no one tells them such in so many words. The sugar-coated comments offered simply avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. And then you are stuck.
So, a bad catalog design simply gets reworked a little, and usually becomes even worse. Products that should not even be in the book get prominence on a page. Propping that is completely inappropriate to the products and overall design get emphasized. Product density is either too high or too low.
Remember, it’s hard to miss the message in “I hate it.” Yes, it will stop conversation. It may even ruffle some feathers. But you have merchanside to sell. Don’t allow Creative to hijack your products, or your catalog. Don’t allow a bad catalog design to move forward. In our overly-sensitive, politically correct world, we could avoid a lot of problems, and increase a lot of sales, by simply being direct and blunt with our comments, without being personal, and moving on.
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by Bill LaPierre
VP – Business Intelligence and Analytics
Datamann – 800-451-4263 x235