Weigh Your Paper Options
Why Limit Reductions?
So why aren’t all catalogs running on the lightest and cheapest paper possible?
First, for the same reason discount catalogs don’t want to be perceived as having high production costs, catalogs with high quality as part of their brand images can’t afford to appear cheap.
“Catalogs that are trying to promote a luxury brand are the most reluctant to reduce basis weight. If the high-end catalog feels the same as the one that’s selling batteries, then it’s not going to stick out,” says Schneider.
In addition, for smaller catalogs, lowering basis weight doesn’t save money at the post office. Until the catalog weighs more than 3.3 ounces, catalogers pay a flat postage rate, so many of them choose to go with heavier paper for higher quality.
Schneider indicates that these same smaller catalogs have to meet certain standards of paper stiffness in order to navigate the postal machinery. Catalogs that are too flimsy will not meet Standard A mail requirements.
Another thing to consider is how the product will look when it reaches its final destination: the customer. A catalog printed on light, low-quality paper may be beaten up by the time it gets on a potential buyer’s coffee table, says Downey.
The Effect on Creativity
McAdow says, “A lot of catalogers aren’t taking basis weight change all the way to the creative department. Going from 40# to 38# probably isn’t super significant. However, opacity can become a big factor, especially if you’re dropping 10 or 15 pounds in basis weight. Two heavy images backed up to one another can engender subtle hue changes and optical issues that affect the look of your catalog. Even small drops in basis weight in the 5- to 10-pound range result in some dot gain and density changes.”
Giesmann places the lower limit for the Plow & Hearth catalog’s basis weight at 30#. “Any less than that and you begin to have too much show-through,” she says.