Jane’s, 1998 Catalog

Military organizations, governmental groups, and intelligence and transportation concerns have long been familiar with Jane’s, a century-old provider of information on weaponry, law enforcement, air and ocean traffic, and international security. But for most, if not all, of the judges, this Jane’s entry into the Annual Catalog Awards is their first exposure to the catalog.

Most are intrigued by the cover-a photo montage of land, sea, and air vehicles and two head shots set against a stark blue backdrop. “Dramatic and directly tied to the product line,” comments one judge. “In line with its serious focus and deadly serious target markets, there are no selling messages on the cover.” A dissenting panelist, however, describes the cover as “a disappointment” in that it misses the chance to sell products, feature benefits, and move the reader inside.

The opening spread is almost as spare. One page is taken up with a well-organized table of contents; the other displays a simple, well-written mission statement. This simplicity and organization is evident throughout the book. “The copy is solution-based and focuses on the customer by stressing the benefits and services Jane’s offers,” says a judge. Take this lead sentence: “The in-depth technical information on the characteristics of individual mines, fuses, and booby traps, along with the mine clearance countermeasures, procedures, and organization make Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance a unique intelligence source….” While concise and straightforward, the text selling Jane’s books, software, periodicals, and consulting services doesn’t stint on providing “long, magazinelike copy to assert Jane’s role as an expert,” a judge says.

Despite the emphasis on copy, though, the catalog doesn’t resemble a deadly dull textbook. “The use of color and photographs, both of people and of ships and planes, adds excitement and energy to the design,” notes one judge. Another applauds “the attractive typefaces and the color bars that help coordinate the copy, prices, and products.” But the praise isn’t unanimous: One panelist dismisses the design as “probably okay for the product and the market. Nothing spectacular.”

If not uniformly spectacular, the Jane’s catalog certainly comes close. As one panelist puts it, “This catalog presents Jane’s as an ultimate authority, using color, photography, and a wide range of delivery options-information is available via e-mail, Internet, CD-ROM, Lotus Notes, HTML, and more-to project the company as one that has stayed up-to-date and is anything but stodgy.”