Paper Raven: How to Design a Product Catalog & Lookbook in One

Paper Raven: How to Design a Product Catalog & Lookbook in One

Stationery and product designer Erin McManness launched a greeting card line called Paper Raven in 2014 among the magnolia and peach trees of Atlanta, Georgia. Today, her stylish pen-to-paper designs include fabric and home decor as well as the greeting cards that put Paper Raven on the map. Her next endeavor? Figuring out how to design a product catalog that’s also a lookbook.

Two hands holding open a product catalog to an image of custom stationery and brand information.

The catalog doubles as a lookbook and helps tell the brand story

Finding Focus

“I’ve always loved to draw and I knew at some point I wanted to go into business for myself,” McManness said. “When I finally figured out how to make the two mesh by focusing on greeting cards, I knew I was on my way.” To promote the new line, Erin created a product catalog that could double as a custom lookbook to help tell the Paper Raven story and sell the brand. And she did it all with Smartpress’ online printing services.

Two hands holding open a product catalog with images of and details for greeting cards.

The print catalog breaks through a crowded marketplace

Cutting Through

“I wanted prospective retailers to sense the quality of my line the minute they were introduced to it,” she said. McManness knew that she needed them to feel the difference the minute they picked up the catalog, breaking through a crowded marketplace. “And because I was a small business starting out,” she continued, “pricing was really important.”

Luckily for McManness, catalog printing with an online printer like Smartpress takes the stress out of sticking to you budget. Customizing Saddle Stitch Booklets, McManness was able to take advantage of options like paper stocks, full-color ink, cover and text weights, UV coatings and more.

A marketing catalog laying open to wrapping paper products and details.

Organic florals, intricate patterns, and flowing symmetry

Gathering Inspiration

“Nature is my muse,” McManness said. “I love to go on hikes with my dog and spend time gathering inspiration for my designs outdoors.” For Erin, nature is a positive influence where she goes to find her creative spark.

“I find higher meaning in nature, in its symmetry and cyclical nature and I try to bring that into my artwork,” she says. It shows in the organic florals, intricate patterns, and flowing symmetry that fill page after page of her sketchbook and catalog lookbook.

Two hands holding a printed brand lookbook with a floral design.

The cover features Night Floral, the brand’s best selling print

A branded lookbook with a floor design in dark blue, light pink and orange.

Inking in the Details

“I start every design the same way,” McManness says. “With my sketchbook, pencil and pen.” Once she has it down in black and white, she layers in the color with watercolor and ink, then finalizes the piece in Photoshop.


“Believe it or not, I always have an idea of the final piece in my head,” she says. “That’s true of every piece I create.” Case in point, Paper Raven’s card-sized catalog features McManness’ best-selling print, Night Floral. “I drew the pattern, cut it up and reordered it. I knew from the beginning that I wanted a dark background so the colors would pop. An uncoated, 80# stock gave it a vintage vibe,” she details.


She went on to say, “Inside, my line sheets structure the pagination so love and friendship cards were grouped together, followed by thank you notes, birthday cards, wrapping paper, boxed sets, and art prints.” McManness considered a pace for the catalog that would make Paper Raven products easy to view and buy.

A custom lookbook laying open to images of stationery, a cup of tea and a plate of cookies.

Greeting the Future

“It’s been five years since I took on the business full time and there’s been a lot of growth,” said McManness. Licensing and product collaborations are taking up more and more time, but the catalog remains a key part of the Paper Raven offering. “After all, we are all about paper here.”


Hint: Now that you know how to design a product catalog, get more booklet inspo:

Print Details

Saddle Stitch Booklet

80# Uncoated Smooth White Cover, 80# Text Uncoated Smooth White Pages, 5.5 x 8.5, Portrait Format

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