Art Catalog's Vision Shifts From Content to Product

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Online and offline cataloger Visualize, San Francisco, is expected to roll out its fall book next week with an updated look that focuses more on the prints and photographs it sells and less on the artists who produced them.

"The way [the content] was spread around on the page, it was almost competing with the product itself. We tightened it up and pulled it in to make the pages a lot cleaner, so that the art is in one place and the content is in another," said Abby Adlerman, founder and president/CEO of Visualize.

The designers also discontinued using tinted boxes to highlight the content -- mostly biographical information on the artists -- because it distracted customers, she said.

The merchant has also eliminated the use of quotes by artists such as Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin that peppered earlier books.

The company began rolling out its catalog and launched its online marketplace simultaneously in March 1999. Its tag line -- Art for Everyday Living -- addresses the space between high-end galleries and auction houses and low-end poster and frame shops.

The 8 1/2-inch-by-11-inch fall book contains 75 pages of more than 350 limited-edition original prints and photographs ranging in price from $70 to $850 for unframed works and $95 to $1,065 for framed artwork.

Visualize has separated new artwork and new artists from carry-over product, "because our product offering has gotten so extensive in such a quick period of time," said Adlerman.

The merchant mails its catalog, which is designed inhouse, eight times per year to approximately 4 million people. The catalog is printed by R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., Chicago.

Adlerman declined to disclose sales figures for the company, but said it has sold more than 8,000 pieces of art since its inception last year.

Visualize is prospecting with its mailings. Mokrynski & Associates, Hackensack, NJ, handles list brokerage for the company.

While 90 percent of Visualize's orders were generated via the print book last year, "it's migrating more and more toward the Web," said Adlerman, who wasn't surprised that most of the company's initial sales resulted from the catalog.

"We've never been a company that has thrown a lot of money onto advertising on the Web. We never believed that that was going to be an effective way to build our business," she said. "Web marketing -- until you figure out how to do it -- is very inefficient."

Adlerman estimated that Visualize generates two-thirds of its sales from catalog orders with the remaining one-third generated via the Web.

"Now that we are applying some of the things we learned in direct marketing on the catalog to the Web site, that's what's causing it to ramp up so quickly," she said.

The 42-person company handles fulfillment and its call center is inhouse.

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