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The Critical Role of Desktop Publishing in Translation & Localization

As you expand into new markets and adopt new languages, translating your written copy is fairly straightforward. And it’s what you’d expect to have to do. If you don’t translate the words that tell customers, partners, suppliers, and new employees what you do…how will your business be successful?

But what about beyond the words? What about the visual elements that communicate your brand to a new market? If this sounds like a whole can of worms is being opened, that’s okay. Your Language Services Provider (LSP) is there to help. As an LSP, we’re always guiding our clients through the whole localization process, which involves so much more than just translating words. It also includes Desktop Publishing (DTP) – a key element in getting the process right.

But what is desktop publishing, why do you need it, and why do specialists have to get involved? All good questions that we’ll answer in this article to demystify DTP.

Why Do I Need DTP When I’m Looking For Translation?

DTP is the layout of the translated text in the environment people are going to read it in. Text varies in size from language to language, so unless you’re in a simple Word doc the layout will need adjusting too.

French or Spanish text is typically about 20% longer than English and German can be as much as 35% longer.

What Types Of Translation Involve DTP?

Obviously, with text expansion rates, your layout of anything visual will need a designer and their DTP skills to make sure everything looks like it’s supposed to. And imagine Chinese, Japanese, or Korean characters that read from top to bottom and not left to right?

This is a great example of why it’s important to have a designer on the job who’s experienced in translation and understands how to overcome these challenges in a way that’s authentic to your original vision.

Some examples of translated material that will need DTP are:

And the list goes on. In fact, when you start to look for it, a lot of what we interact with on a daily basis has had its visual design taken into consideration.

It’s Not Just Text

Localizing into a different culture involves more than just translating text. You have to understand the culture and be sympathetic to its values and way of life.

If you’re starting to do business in Saudi Arabia, for example, any imagery you use needs to take into account strict Muslim guidelines on what people can wear and how much skin they can show. Imagery (and video, for that matter) needs to be localized.

Logos and company strap lines are another consideration. These often sit together visually, so they need to be recreated in Photoshop, InDesign, or whatever software they were made in so that they work in the target language too. Sure, Nike doesn’t touch “Just Do It,” but when Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in Beijing in the 1980’s, their slogan, “Finger-Lickin’ Good” translated into Mandarin as “Eat Your Fingers Off”…not exactly the message they were going for.

Some Common Pitfalls To Look Out For

So, what are the experienced eyes of a designer looking for? The easy answer is – anything that looks out of place. A few examples are:

  • Making sure the overall look represents the source material.
  • Text overlapping images or getting lost behind them.
  • Images inappropriate to the target market.
  • Graphics and words that are created in a visual style that may not have been translated.
  • Bullets, numbers, lists, and their formatting.

And finally, just double-checking that the whole translated piece adheres to your brand guidelines.

Can’t I Use My Own Designers?

Of course you can, but you run the risk of something slipping through the net. And more often than not, when something slips through the net in translation, it becomes costly down the line, either to your bottom line, your brand, or both.

This is nothing against professional designers, but are they used to translated content? Will they go through the same Quality Assurance (QA) process as an LSP would? Do they even know the right questions to ask to make sure nothing is slipping through the net?

In the same way that you probably wouldn't try to design your visual identity, your website, your advertising, or any other brand graphic elements yourself, we'd suggest leaning on the designers that are used to DTP in translation to help you through here.

Doing It Right

Hopefully, DTP no longer sounds like industry jargon or a process your LSP adds to bump up the budget. It’s important, as often a customer’s first impression comes from the instant they see something before they take the time to read it.

The good news is it’s easy to get it right if it's in the hands of an experienced designer who’s used to working in translation. Your LSP will outline everything that needs DTP, and the designer will work with your brand guidelines to make it happen.

Tailored DTP Translation Solutions Await You

Interested in a comprehensive DTP translation estimate or other localization services? Let's have a conversation and explore the best options for you.

Our consultation sessions are complimentary and come with no commitments.

At LinguaLinx, our promise is clarity in every translation. With our ISO 17100 and ISO 9001 certifications, over two decades of industry expertise, and the trust we've garnered from global organizations, you can be confident that your message remains intact across borders.

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