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Global Market-Ready By Design

(Originally published May 2011)


Graphic design – the use of certain colors, fonts, and images juxtaposed with written information– is often an integral component of an organization's branding and overall marketing efforts. Particularly in an age when visual media is so predominant, it is essential to plan ahead for global market-ready design in order to ensure the success and efficiency of those endeavors. Here are some guidelines to help you with this process.


Verify the software and skills of your multilingual desktop publishing specialist. Working with a language service provider that has the right technology and expertise, such as automated text extraction tools, appropriate foreign language fonts, and a trained linguist to oversee and ensure the quality of the final formatted translation, will increase efficiency and help ensure the quality of the final localized design.


Provide all native files and fonts used for creating the original documents. To ensure an accurate cost estimate and reduce the time and money involved in recreating any formatting, be sure to send the multilingual desktop publishing specialist all of the native files, including the fonts and all linked images used in the original documents. If any of the graphics contain text, it is key that they be in an editable format, so the graphics can be readily updated with the translated text. Sending all required files in a complete package during the quoting phase will avoid delays and problems involved in tracking this material down later.


Finalize the design and translation first. To keep formatting costs down and reduce the risk of errors and delays, finalize the design as well as the translation, including completing any in-house review, before sending it for desktop publishing.

Keep the design user-friendly. In order to save time and control multilingual formatting fonts, try to avoid overly complex designs with numerous layers or linked images to be localized. Otherwise, this could significantly increase the time involved to format each image or layer separately and recompile everything.


Let your documents breathe. Because other languages, especially the romance languages, are often much longer than English, be sure to leave plenty of white space to accommodate for text expansion. This will save you money by reducing formatting time as well as ensure your documents look professional and are easy to read.


Avoid narrow columns. In many languages, such as German, words can be twice as long as English. Narrow columns may result in having many hyphenated words or only one word per line, which can look unprofessional or be difficult to read, particularly in the case of headers. Whenever possible, use a limited number of columns and make the columns as wide as possible.


Plan for captioning and callouts. Pictures with captions and callouts often need to be readjusted after translation text expansion, so be sure to allow enough space for that in the layout as well. In addition, callouts are often embedded in the graphic, so remember to include those in their native, editable format when sending the files for formatting.


Be sure the visual content is global market-ready and appropriate for the target audience. It is often important to review the design elements, such as colors, images, cartoons, etc. of your visual media to ensure that they are suitable and will have a positive impact for that particular culture and target audience. For example, white is the color of death in India and China. So, if there are design elements showing people in weddings or other celebrations, be sure they are not wearing white. On the other hand, red and gold represent good luck in Chinese culture, so using those colors in your marketing materials would elicit a positive response. This type of positive impact would also hold true for images; for example, pictures of large families in front of their homes portray success in the Hispanic culture. 


Keep the lines of communication open. To increase efficiency and ensure your expectations are met, keep the lines of communication open with your desktop publisher. In addition, provide general guidelines as to when it is acceptable to make certain adjustments such as changing font sizes, repositioning images, etc. to accommodate for text expansion or other foreign language formatting issues.


Be sure to have the formatted foreign language files proofread. To make sure no errors are introduced during the formatting process, have the final formatted documents proofread. If your language services provider does the desktop publishing, confirm that this is a standard part of the their process. If you have your foreign language files formatted in-house, be sure to work with your language services provider to arrange a proofreader proficient in that language to check the punctuation, line breaking, character display, and other issues that may arise during formatting.


Planning ahead by following these basic guidelines to create an effective design template for multilingual desktop publishing will increase efficiency, as well as ensure the success of your formatted materials and visual media campaigns no matter what the language!

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