Bonobos, the stylish men’s clothing company, makes one of my favorite catalogs. Not because the models are easy on the eyes, though some are. (Honestly, if you put a catalog of sewage sludges in front of me, I’d pore over it and want to keep it if it is beautifully designed.)
Anyway, Bonobos makes a great catalog because it conveys its brand at every opportunity—from the photography to the layouts and typography. It’s spunky. It’s punchy. It’s fun and fresh and youthful. It’s smart, but not pretentious or snobby. It’s irreverent and goofy, but not sloppy or crass.
Look. HOT PINK. Who goes with hot pink on the logotype of a men’s brand? Bold move.
Notice how playful the highlighted “Fit for every man” words are…there’s something musical.
Breaking typography rules is a standard. Type might run up vertically…
Or at ninety degrees (and yes, that’s hot pink unapologetically on red)…
Or down and crossing over the inner gutter.
After a series of rather traditional catalog spreads, totally crazy display type happens out of the blue. Kind of hippie-ish—comfy, flowy vibes, yo. The B and Y in “by” have “come together,” man. Totally.
The copywriting tends to veer towards generically friendly/professional, and would benefit from some voice analysis to align with the brand. But here are the two strongest bits of copy in the spring 2019 catalog:
“We’re not saying you should wear these every day, but we’re not not saying it either.” (Those are the only words I think should be italicized.) I am very much not a fan of the mixed italics and roman words, but as for voice, that first sentence sings Bonobos to me.
The second bit of excellent copy is running vertically in white. “This is the year of the baby-blue chinos. You can do it.” Those last four words say so much—”you can do it” says they know it’s out of your norm, but fashion requires confidence and you, personally you, can pull it off.
And as for those “rather traditional” spreads, the layout is crisp and clean but the photography is anything but traditional. We’ve got dance moves…
Younger bros chilling next to silver-haired gents…
Contrasts in motion and sound—from silent, stealthy tiptoes to a burst of laughter and applause…
And a variety of body types and ethnicities.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a catalog like this 20 years ago.
But for all their playfulness and design rule-breaking, Bonobos is intentional with their design—it’s clear they intend to serve the customer impeccably, and that, too, is part of their brand. Here’s one great example.
The same model is used for the first three pants: the tailored, slim, and straight fits. Bonobos has no shortage of models. This is an intentional choice. The tailored, slim, and straight fits are all options for the same body type, so it only makes sense to keep the model constant—that helps the customer see what the change in pant style looks like without changing the model (isolating the variable, in science terms). For the athletic and extended fits, we see different models, because those fits are for different body types.
Bonobos further helps the customer by reducing additional variability. Notice that each of the models is roughly the same height or scaled to be so—these pant fits are not about height differences, but about leg styles. Notice that the body positions (front and side views) are repeated so you can compare. Notice that they’re wearing the same neutral shoes and shirt to keep your focus on the pants.
Rather than being flashy with different postures, rather than trying to sell more stuff at the same time, rather than “dynamically” arranging the photos around the spread…Bonobos is conservative exactly when it helps the customer.
In a world of options, changing one variable at a time isn’t boring. It’s brilliant.