Mailed sparingly and crafted with intention, a catalog is still a useful way to reach customers. When it's made beautifully, it can hold a reader's attention longer than a digital experience and convey the "why" behind what you do.
A story with heart
Patagonia catalogs are unique; mostly treasured by collectors because of the stunning photography. But the stories behind the photos are equally compelling, and some are deserving of more than a caption.
How could we highlight and celebrate one of these stories — the inspiring voyage of the Polynesian vessel named Hōkūleʻa — and give it the "real estate" (pages) it deserves?
The mission of Hōkūleʻa was to circumnavigate the globe using traditional noninstrument wayfinding and to grow the global movement toward living more responsibly.
Seemed like a story worth telling in-depth.
Breaking the rules to share it
Realizing that Patagonia product merchandisers need to sell enough products to warrant printing a catalog, my team and I were able to negotiate a few more pages for branding and storytelling in this summer catalog.
I tracked down a female apprentice navigator on the journey of Hōkūleʻa, and as her editor, helped her write her first story. She wrote beautifully about guiding the crew using the almost-lost art of navigating by the stars.
I also worked with Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. His essay explained the purpose of the worldwide voyage and invited others to consider living more simply on the earth.
The catalog designer and I also worked with a mapmaker to illustrate how Polynesian voyagers use constellations to sail across vast oceans, and pulled excepts from the book, Malama Honua: Hokule'a — A Voyage of Hope, with permission from the author.
The result was a catalog that celebrated and honored a culture kept alive by stories and traditions that are passed on from generation to generation.
Sometimes it's good to do something unexpected. Beautiful prose + stunning photography = a nod to beauty. People noticed.
“We know where we are only because we know where we’ve come from. Hōkūleʻa swiftly guides over wave peaks and troughs, sensing the islands are near.” — Kaʻiulani Murphy
This IKEA catalog was unique in that IKEA Marketing and Communications (the in-house creative agency) brought in myself as senior managing editor and McCann, a global advertising agency, to work together on it.
The IKEA team had never collaborated with an external agency on a catalog before so there was a lot of uncertainty in the air as we plotted out the content for this iconic catalog.
A cross-cultural collaboration
Learning the IKEA way of producing a catalog (six months for creative development and production; 30,000 total labor hours) and negotiating creative strategy/execution between an external NYC agency and seasoned in-house Swedish co-workers was culturally complex, challenging and rewarding.
The result was a couple hundred pages of home furnishing solutions, with an emphasis on small-space living, whether you live in Stockholm or Brooklyn.