Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Best and Worst Catalog Copy of 2015

Best, No. 4:  grandinroad

I’m including grandinroad with a qualifier. This stylish, well-written catalog may be too well-written. Really. Here’s a headline:


What’s shown is a chair against a wall on which a painting (actually, a giclee) hangs. The subhead:

with decor that will take you away to the weekend every day of the week

An outsider can be scared off by inclusions such as “Simple assembly” for wall art and “expertly dyed textured leather” for the chair positioned against the wall. For those who automatically assume a neutral point of view when skimming through a catalog, these are stoppers.

Here is where this catalog’s aficionados applaud, and it’s why the reputation is enhanced, not damaged, by descriptions that don’t clobber the reader over the head. It’s also qualification for “best,” because 99 percent of workmanlike catalogs would have settled for workmanlike lead-in.

The determining question: Were these words tailored to inspire a “Read on” reaction? Obviously the tailoring is deliberate, because in a previous catalog the headline and subhead for this item were:


 add in original leather and enjoy twice the possibilities

It’s a wing chair, and we’ll find that out by digging. (If we don’t dig, we might think it’s a streetcar, because that’s the major illustration.) If we dig directly into the text, unchanged from the previous catalog, why is this unsatisfying?

Performance fabric or custom-dyed leather, there’s a designer upholstery option for virtually any decorative scheme….

Hey, guys, brilliant writing requires another element to shift itself over to the “Best” side: that element is clarity, and we have a catalog here, with other products clamoring for equivalence. No time nor space to play with.

I’ll implement both my confession and my puzzlement: This catalog is slick and professional in every way … except … the feeling that copy is written for an in-group, one so exclusive the copywriter doesn’t belong to it. Some of the descriptions need just a few additional words to clarify for the unincluded.Pro or con? The catalog could have admitted a few more outsiders to its inner sanctum by clarifying just a trifle. Here’s a spectacular rug, whose description (again, in my opinion) is more lyrical than salesmanlike. The last words: “Nonslip Rug Grips available online.” Come on, don’t have us floundering through the website. Where online? Specifics, please. At least a landing page. Or maybe half a dozen words for ordering right here, instead of a blindsiding cross-reference. Yes. Please.

As I said, I’m including this one with a qualifier: A few added words would clarify. At least, I think they would. Try it.

NEXT PAGE: Best, No. 5…

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