3 multilingual desktop publishing challenges and how to overcome them - Multilingual Connections

Multilingual Desktop Publishing Challenges and How to Overcome Them

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You’ve just spent many hours creating beautiful marketing materials, which now need to be translated to Arabic, Spanish, and Russian. That should be easy –  translate the text and replace the original, right?

Not so easy – there are many challenges that can happen in this step of the process. When designing multilingual marketing materials, you may have to battle with inconsistent fonts, text expansion, layout changes, and more to make sure your document doesn’t get “lost in translation.”

That’s why a multilingual desktop publishing service (the process of adapting your documents so that they resonate in other languages) can be your solution, making complex projects like this a success.

Whether you work with a professional partner or do it in-house, this process usually involves translation, typesetting, and design. To get a deeper look into the most common challenges that clients face when localizing their original layouts, we spoke with Artyom, a professional typesetter who has worked in desktop publishing for over 15 years.

Multilingual desktop publishing challenges and how to overcome them

Challenge #1: Inconsistent Fonts

Most fonts that are created in English don’t support Asian writing systems and Middle Eastern scripts. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure your translated materials in those languages feel consistent. 

If you are making a font choice before creating your materials in English, use standard fonts like Arial or Times New Roman. These fonts are more likely to support foreign characters and can help your project run more smoothly. Multilingual Connections uses Google Noto Font on all our branding for that exact reason – it aims to support all languages with a harmonious look and feel, so when we need to translate our marketing materials, we don’t need to look for a match in languages that use other writing systems and alphabets. 

If your brand already uses fonts that don’t have an equivalent in foreign writing systems, you should work with a translation partner who can help you match the foreign language font. 

Artyom: “When I work with a font that has no equivalent in a foreign language, I select the font that is as close as possible to the Roman font, while supporting the characters of the new language. I also coordinate the font change with the project manager and the client. It’s best to work with foreign language typesetters that have expertise in other scripts and character-based languages – they’ll ensure your design layout is consistent and carries the same style across languages.”

Challenge #2: Text Expansion and Contraction

As a rule, translations almost always expand from the original version. So let’s take your marketing translation project and see how the text can expand or contract when translated from English into other languages.

Original Language




Target Language




Text Change

Expands by 25%

Expands by 20% – 30%

Expands by 15%

In all three of the languages, the text will most likely expand by 15%-30%.

Artyom: “I often work with user manuals, brochures, financial statements, and online training courses. Recently, I’ve been working more on subtitling and localizing videos and graphics. When layouts are originally developed for localization, the process is very smooth and the work is extremely pleasant. But that rarely happens. Usually, I have to shift, shrink, expand, and replace fonts and graphics, which requires constant communication and approval from clients.”

To develop your materials with localization in mind, you should always aim for more white space. If there’s not enough white space when a translation expands, the foreign language typesetter will be forced to reduce the font size and line spacing, which can lead to a crowded text and graphics layout.

Pay extra attention to text boxes, text point sizes, and line spacing: make your text boxes 25% bigger ahead of time, go for a larger font, and use double or 1.5 line space to ensure you have enough space when translations expand from the original.

That said, many languages like Finnish, Norwegian, and most of the languages that use Asian writing systems will contract when translated from English. That’s why it’s best to plan ahead: develop content with text fluctuations in mind and involve your translation partner as early as possible.

Artyom: “Asian writing systems ​​are the easiest for me to work with. They are almost always shorter than the original language, so there is no need to make as many adjustments so that, for example, the text fits into the frame.”

Challenge #3: Localizing Graphics

Graphics communicate a lot to your target audience, so localizing graphics is an important step in a desktop publishing project. In some cases it involves simply changing colors to fit the new market. In others, you may need to rethink the entire image. To avoid complications and increased project costs, here are a few tips for preparing your graphics for localization: 

  • Use universal graphics for your project. If you use people in your photos, make sure they represent your target audience in the original language and the translated alternatives. 
  • If your graphics have text, leave extra white space to account for text expansion (see point above). 
  • To streamline the desktop publishing process, send your translator editable source files (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, etc.). 

What will my files look like after multilingual desktop publishing?

In most cases, the goal of a desktop publishing specialist is to ensure that your files stay on-brand, so your files will look as close as possible to the original. However, in some cases, your files may differ quite a bit when your target audience consumes information differently, so the content may need to be adapted with your audience in mind.

Can I do desktop publishing in-house?  

If you are applying the translations to your designs in-house and don’t have an internal reviewer, you can use a Desktop Publishing Verification service. This step confirms accuracy when the Desktop Publishing work is done by someone who doesn’t speak the language. This is an especially important step with right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, and Multilingual Connections can help make that step seamless.

Working with professional multilingual typesetters

Miscommunication can go beyond text. There is a story about an American professor in Japan who understood all the words correctly, but “did not understand the silences between them.” The same can happen with multilingual desktop publishing – you may translate the words right, but you may miss what’s in the space between the words.

To ensure your design layout works perfectly with translated content, work with professional typesetters who can handle the challenges of formatting documents in foreign languages, scripts, and fonts.

At Multilingual Connections, we work with hundreds of talented and experienced linguists across the globe who are experts at translation, transcription, desktop publishing, and more. We pair your project with the right linguist for the job and utilize quality and evaluation processes powered by innovative technology to ensure the highest translation and transcription quality.

If you’re looking for professionally translated and QA’d materials ready to print, contact us. Our localization team ensures your brand image and message remain consistent in any language.

Want to stay connected?

We periodically share news and updates around translation, language and culture. Rest assured we’ll never share your contact information with anyone!