Multilingual desktop publishing: Never compromise on quality!

If you work in a marketing agency you know how much time, effort and attention to detail goes into getting marketing communications exactly right for your clients. Hours are spent refining text and design to convey the right message. But once your English artwork has been signed off, what about the multilingual versions?

When it comes to artworking and desktop publishing, the French, German, Spanish or perhaps Brazilian Portuguese versions need to look just as good as the original version. This means a perfect, fully localised translation with the design in keeping with the original.

Challenges of Multilingual Desktop Publishing

Perhaps the biggest challenge for artwork and desktop publishing projects is to ensure that the translated text fits into the available space without needing a complete redesign. Many languages when translated from the English occupy more space on a page. English is a compact language and this causes problems with translations. Have a look at the table below from IBM’s Guidelines to design global solutions: User interface, which demonstrates the issue clearly:

Number of characters in text (English) Additional physical space required
Up to 10 100% to 200%
11 to 20 80% to 100%
21 to 30 60% to 80%
31 to 50 40% to 60%
51 to 70 31% to 40%
Over 70 30%

As you can see, the less text to translate, the bigger the challenge. This means that fitting the translated “small print” into your leaflet design could be relatively easy, but an essential call to action or strap line might present bigger problems.

Other points to consider with multilingual DTP…

Compound nouns and character width and/or height also need to be taken into account. For example, in German and Dutch many strings of smaller words become large compound nouns. These might occupy more space overall than the English text, and also need sufficient width to fit them in without causing issues with text wrapping, hyphenations and line breaks.

Non-Latin scripts often require more width, as characters are generally wider. They may also need additional height and space between lines: Thai, Arabic, Chinese, Devanagari, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan etc. all require more height. It’s ironic that languages such as Chinese are compact like English but then need extra room to accommodate the script!

Finally, you must also consider whether your design needs to be adapted for right-to-left languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew.

The solution!

Here are the steps we take to ensure every project runs smoothly for our clients and delivers the best quality material:

  • We use native speaking, experienced translators: An expert linguist is the ideal person to ensure that your text is translated accurately but also with an emphasis on using the available space effectively. This might involve subtle rephrasing of some sentences to help condense the text, as well as localising your marketing material for its target country or region.
  • We work with a skilled multilingual DTP team: In some instances it may be appropriate to adjust artwork, layout, fonts and banners to ensure translated documents are visually perfect and adhere to brand guidelines. Small changes can make all the difference; we always aim to produce translated marketing material that looks like it was designed in that language alone.
  • We pay attention to detail: Successful translation projects address every component of your marketing material. For example, if you’re translating a whitepaper have your page numbers, images and graphs been localised where necessary?
  • We check and double-check: Proofreading is an essential part of the translation process; not only do we review translated PDFs in-house before delivering to the client, we also get our native speaking translators to proofread them too.

Further details about our Artworking & Desktop Publishing Services can be found here, but if you have any questions about the process and how to produce high quality multilingual marketing materials, all you have to do is get in touch for an informal chat! Call +44 (0)1926 335 681 or email

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