Accelerate InDesign Production of Circulars and Catalogs – Without Sacrificing Good Design

Without a doubt, Adobe InDesign is the luxury SUV of page layout programs. First released over twenty – three years ago, Adobe’s “Project K2” replaced the venerable PageMaker and ultimately overthrew the reigning champion at the time, QuarkXPress. Today, in the minds of many, it does practically anything a designer could want, even encroaching on territory claimed by other Adobe apps and doing much more than design pages for print.

Therein lies the challenge. InDesign today does so much, in so many different ways, that a designer has their hands full keeping projects moving quickly. That is especially true with highly complex, data – driven pieces of content. Such content can put a tremendous weight on print designers whose job it is to produce visually compelling (and accurate) material for a retailer’s flagship channel – print.

The complexity of InDesign puts a tremendous burden on print designers whose job it is to produce visually compelling material.

The Catalog Conundrum

Printed catalogs and circulars are far from being a dying medium. Even formerly digital – only retail marketers are turning to print, according to RetailDive, using paper catalogs “to break through the ‘noise’ of the online world.” Consumers also trust printed catalogs (76 percent) far more than digital media such as mobile phone ads (39 percent), according to a MarketingSherpa survey. There are good, scientific reasons for this. When test subjects were exposed to advertising in either digital or physical (printed) form, “their brain activity indicated greater subconscious value and desire for products or services advertised in a physical format,” according to a joint USPS/Temple University study.

Despite their effectiveness for retailers, catalogs pose a significant challenge for designers. By definition, they include highly detailed product information. This product information includes everything from sizes to colors to prices (which vary with versioning) and an array of SKU identifiers contained in a product information management (PIM) database. Add to all that product information the terabytes of image and text data associated with millions of products—all stored in a digital asset management (DAM) system.

As a result, the designer must find several needles in that haystack of information for each product in a catalog. Then they must do so for multiple products per catalog, as directed by marketing. And by the way, they must do this while also creating a consistent, visually compelling brand experience. Oh, and one more thing, most retailers also need multiple, regional versions of each printed piece – PLUS the same content to feed their retail shopping apps. It’s exhausting.

All of this finally brings us back around to Adobe InDesign. This amazingly powerful program can produce everything a retail cataloger could want, but the cost of doing so manually is ridiculously high. To quote the familiar designer saying, “You can have this fast, cheap, or good. Pick two.”

The Automation Advantage

The answer is to automate repetitive tasks, giving designers time to do what they do best – design.

The answer to this dilemma is to automate repetitive tasks, giving designers time to do what they do best—design. Fortunately for them, such automation is possible, thanks to InDesign’s robust architecture for third – party plugins. Comosoft used that environment to create LAGO Layout – integrating the complex, specialized worlds of PIM and DAM data with the elegance and design power of InDesign.

LAGO Layout is the answer to stalled design processes, enabling fast, cost – effective, high – quality design and production. It also enables designers to integrate with any process, from campaign planning and data access to proofing, approval and final output, without compromising on good design.

On the surface, LAGO Layout is simply a plugin for InDesign, adding functionality without disrupting the designer’s hard – earned and familiar user experience. But once installed, the plugin facilitates many different tasks:

  • Workflow automation between marketing and design production teams. LAGO users on the marketing side can select the products to promote based on margin, availability, and other factors, using a whiteboarding process. These decisions are automatically conveyed to the design team as InDesign templates. Marketers can even track the results of their original campaign plans.
  • Data integration with PIM and DAM systems and the designer allows them to drag – and – drop products and all their related data into an InDesign layout. The two – way link remains live and updateable until final output.
  • Proofing and approval cycles are easy, automatic, and fully auditable.
  • Multiple versions of each piece can be generated and managed efficiently, allowing regional marketing needs to be met while maintaining the retailer’s brand image and data accuracy.
  • Digital production for online e-commerce and mobile apps is automatic, ensuring that all retail media channels contain the same content.

Of course, there is a lot more to the plugin and to the LAGO system as a whole. But for the production designer, the main benefit is time. With so much of the busy work on autopilot, the designer now has time to take full advantage of InDesign’s exceptional capabilities – and create print channel content worthy of a retailer’s brand.

In a multichannel marketing world, print is still at the top, and the need for compelling visual content has never been greater. Adobe InDesign is the best tool for the job, but it cannot handle all the variables alone for complex catalogs and circulars. Automating the process streamlines page building, preserves data accuracy, and ensures consistent branding while still allowing creative flexibility.