Catalog Critique: Revving Up

PJ Chmiel is one of the best designers I know, and the Scooterworks USA catalog is one of the most daunting design projects known to mankind, so I was floored when I got my copy (what was it, two years ago?). When I bought my first Vespa in 1995, the Scooterworks catalog was a typed price list. It’s been redesigned several times since, but even design icon Carlos Segura’s take (circa 1996) didn’t hold a candle to P.J’s version. (P.J. also designed the Stella, Blur, Rattler, and Buddy identities for Genuine Scooters, but left Scooterworks/Genuine last fall.) Today, Trish came across a design critique of the catalog written by a couple catalog design “experts”. While they make some valid points, it’s clear they (and the catalog industry in general) have no idea about how much impact a catalog can make when it’s actually looked forward-to, enjoyed, talked-about, and kept on-hand for years by a carefully-targeted audience, rather than a by-the-numbers book full of cranberry duvet covers cluttering up the mailboxes of millions of people that didn’t even request it.

5 thoughts on “Catalog Critique: Revving Up”

  1. With a significant portion of its target market consisting of older enthusiasts — folks going through midlife crises, perhaps —

    I think these folks spent too much time reading Roman Holiday-themed Vespa fluff pieces.

  2. If either of the reviewers had ever worked at a scooter shop, or tried to figure out which parts go their their particular bike, they would appreciate 14 pages of information and ‘overwritten’ technical copy.

    i seriously want to go to each of their respective houses and punch them in the face for this obviously useless critique.

  3. One of the writers called it a cross between a catalog and a magalog. Does that mean it’s a catamagalog? 3/4 catalog 1/4 magazine?

    The color scheme doesn’t hurt my middle aged (38 years and 2 days) eyes.

  4. Ha, that’s funny that this surfaced. I actually solicited this critique from what used to be “Catalog Age” magazine, a trade rag for the catalog industry (and yes, it IS an industry unto itself!). I appreciated some of what they had to say, but like others, feel that they’re a little out of their element comparing something like the SW catalog to “lifestyle” catalogs with 1/10th the number of SKUs, that publish 6x a year, etc.

    Thanks for the kind words, there are a few things I would’ve done differently but I was under tremendous pressure and deadlines (working like 70 hours a week for the last month or two before it printed, doing photography, tracing clipping paths, writing copy, wrangling parts and spreadsheets, etc) , and it succeeded in being a much better-designed and more cohesive catalog than the previous version or two, which made me crazy to look at (and I could never find anything in). The one by Carlos Segura is a masterpiece of elegant mid-90s design (all b/w), but very rare!

    My successor at SW, Eric, has been working hard on the next version which should go to print within the next couple of weeks! I haven’t seen what he’s done with it but I believe some elements of “my” version will be retained, with lots more new parts…even denser! Take that, critics! There is supposed to be a little something about my RAMBLE trip in there too, we’ll see… Thanks for the support!

  5. When I read that I thoguht, “these people have no idea what cheapskates and oddballs scooter people are”. I’m sure these people could put together one hell of an American Girl catalog.

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