I did the primitive layout for those first few (catalogs) myself. I'd take bad black and white photos using my Pentax 35mm Spotmatic. Then the photos, developed by the first Costco in the nation, were taken to Bozotronics in the funky Fremont neighborhood to be made into halftones. I'd cut these and paste them onto paper using rather toxic rubber cement. With an IBM Selectric typewriter, I'd type out copy to go with the images.
The strength in those early catalogs was not in the presentation, but in the writing. Since the pictures were often dark and printed in muddy black and white on cheap newsprint, it was difficult to make out details. My descriptions of the products were often honest statements detailing how terrible the product was or rambling humorous screeds that mentioned the product only in passing. This suited my character and seemed to connect to certain eccentric members of the public. You know who you are.
We thought you might like to see the first Archie McPhee novelty catalog from 1984! In his book, Who Would Buy This?, our owner, Mark Pahlow, describes its creation: