Gifts Under $75, Silver Award: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Holiday 2000

The bold visual on the front cover of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston catalog — a praying angel statuette — stops readers in their tracks and entices them to open the book. And once they’re inside, the assortment of art-inspired products is sure to encourage them to open their wallets.

The range of the merchandise, which includes apparel, jewelry, tabletop items, stationery, and even toys, has both breadth and depth, agreed the judges. The catalog “tailors its selection and presentation to a target audience that likes to see itself as discriminating and culturally sophisticated,” said one panelist. The book also enhances the value of its gifts by using a special logo to denote items that are “created directly from original works of art in our collection.”

The copy, which one judge described as “both historical and whimsical,” is as enjoyable as the best historical novels. For example, the description of a $72 Egyptian cascade necklace begins: “An exquisite triple-strand design similar to a piece recovered from El Kur’uw (Ethiopia) during a joint expedition with Harvard University. The original necklace is made of gold discs with alternating beads of carnelian. A string of beads, with or without pendants, was the most common type of jewelry worn in pharaonic times. Gold plate with japanese coil and red glass bead accents. Gathered with a toggle clasp….” Indeed, what could be more appealing than a beautiful gift of jewelry accompanied by a story? As one judge said, “This is a catalog that you can really read cover to cover.” The panel’s only problem with the copy? Its type size — many of the judges said it was too small.

Perhaps the cataloger’s most impressive feat is making a product assortment with an average price point of less than $75 seem high end. The judges credited the high perceived value of the merchandise largely to the sterling production values and elegant page layouts. Overall, they liked the careful balance of the grid design, typically two-thirds images and one-third copy. But some panelists thought the photography was too dark and “murky” in some places. “A lot of the mauves, browns, and greens contribute a heaviness to the book,” said one judge. Added another: “If you don’t handle some of those tricky colors well, you may need to re-examine your catalog’s color palette.”

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston makes the ordering process easy, with a clear and well-crafted order form that’s helpful whether customers mail it in or use it to organize their phone orders. Value-added features include a gift-wrapping service, wholesale programs, corporate sales programs, and a membership program that gives buyers a 10% discount on purchases.

So while the judges had a few minor criticisms of the catalog, they agreed that its superlative service, dynamic merchandise selection, and museum-quality copy earned Museum of Fine Arts, Boston a Silver Award.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
295 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
800-225-5592

www.mfa.org/shop
Director: Joe Gajda
Designer: Dawn Blaschke
Production manager: Joanna
Murphy Scott
Merchandiser: Leslie Phillips-Greco
Copywriter: Donna Sassano
Photographers: Paul Saraceno,
Glenn Scott
Marketing manager: Kelly Worrell
Printer: Quebecor World
Color separator: Color Control
List broker/manager: Millard Group
Consultant: Jim Alexander
Cover paper: 80 lb.
Text paper: 40 lb.
Number of pages: 104
Trim size: 7-7/8″ × 10-1/2″

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