Art + Design

From the Design Desk: The Stories Within


If there’s anything that those of us in publishing can appreciate, it’s a good story. Over the years, Anthropologie has proven itself to be a master storyteller, particularly through their catalog. For me, receiving an Anthropologie catalog in the mail is like receiving the next installment of a very engaging story. I’m never sure exactly what format the story will take, where it will take place, and what fairytale will flutter out of its pages, but I can hardly wait for the next one to arrive.

What I’ve always appreciated about these catalogs is their willingness to push the creative boundaries of a typically quick-to-the-recycling-bin medium. While certainly in the business of selling fashion and housewares, Anthropologie also understands the significance of story as commodity. Think of that apple tart you bought because it smells like Fall and childhood trips to the orchard. Or the song you downloaded because it’s the song that was playing when you received your first kiss. Anthropologie’s catalogs are evocative and romantic, and take the recipient to a place that exists in one’s dreams. A place where wild spotted mushrooms grow from floorboards, where fabled characters step into knee-high leather boots you, too, can wear.

What makes the stories so strong are the bold creative visions and attention to detail. The photography shifts to fit the changing mood. The styling is art in itself, often transforming the simplest of materials into miniature lands, gypsy caravans, explosions of butterflies and grass. Scale shifts take you down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. And like many a good story, there are new twists and turns in every telling, whether it be a change in trim or paper stock, an international cast of real people as models, favorite artists featured, or destinations miles off the usual tourist map.

In no other retail catalog I can think of would I see the Carl Sandburg quote, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” In an Anthropologie world, they’re not only dancing, they’re throwing a masquerade ball.

Jennifer Tolo Pierce
Associate Design Director

Jennifer Tolo Pierce

Jennifer Tolo Pierce is a Design Director at Chronicle Books with a love of all things words and images, particularly as they intersect in the realm of lifestyle and children’s publishing.
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