Photo Credit: Jeremy Brooks via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Jeremy Brooks via Compfight cc

When translating print or digital media such as brochures, catalogs, ads, or posters, you’ll typically need desktop publishing (DTP) services as well, because the new language will change the look and layout of your text. When translating into Spanish or Italian, the number of characters will increase, requiring reformatting to fit it all in. For languages like Chinese or Japanese, breaks between words are not indicated in the same way as they are in Romance languages, so reformatting after translation makes sure the line breaks are correct. For languages that read right-to-left, such as Arabic or Hebrew, the whole design will need to be flipped.

What do we need from you?

If you require multilingual DTP services, our project manager will ask you for the native design files. A typical InDesign DTP package will include:

  • The .indd or the corresponding .idml file best suited for import into our CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tool to correctly extract the translatable text and provide it to our translation team.
  • A folder of all the images in the design. When the translated text is re-imported, this allows the layout to be re-generated with corresponding images. If there are several target languages, you may want to use different images for each language (for example, images suited to a particular cultural group.)
  • A folder of all the fonts that are used to generate the look of the words on the page, to ensure visual consistency between the source text and the translated text.

If the English-language source was designed by a vendor outside of your organization, they should have sent you all the native design files. These are part of the deliverables of a project and you have the right to request them, even if you do not work with this vendor anymore. If you only have a .pdf of the final design, our multilingual DTP providers will need to re-create the design files from scratch, which will increase costs.

What about fonts?

In this context, a “font” is the digital file that is required to generate the characters in your translated text to ensure it retains the same “look” as the source. Like all digital files, a font may be subject to copyright restrictions.

multiple scripts using the same font
multiple scripts using the same font

Providing the fonts to a DTP vendor brings no risk of copyright infringement if they are popular fonts that were included with the software used to create the document. Programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe InDesign come with a selection of fonts. Many of these will have international versions that include a set of suitable fonts for each language. We work with native-language DTP providers because they are well-prepared to switch from one language to another within the same font.

In some instances, a company’s designer has licensed a unique font that is not included in the base software package. The font’s EULA (end user license agreement) will describe limitations on transferring the font to a vendor. Some EULAs stipulate that only a certain number of machines can use the font, or that all machines licensed to use the font must be owned by the licensee. Others allow a third party vendor to use the font for the licensee’s communications. Your design department will be able to explain to you what the license allows.

If the license forbids transferring the font to a third party under any circumstances, you have several options:

  • See if your language services partner already owns a license for that particular font. If yes, and if they have not promised it exclusively to another client (see below) they can do the work without fear of infringement. Native-language DTP providers generally license a wide selection of fonts.
  • Purchase an additional license for your Language/DTP partner. This is a good idea if you expect to generate a lot of multilingual DTP projects. You can specify that the vendor can only use that font for your projects, not for anyone else.
  • Substitute a font that the DTP partner owns. If you are translating into Chinese, Arabic, or a diacritic-heavy script like Vietnamese, and these scripts are not available in the same font you used for English, you will need a different font anyway. If you are translating into Latin letters for Italian or German, you may decide that a common (generic) font is close enough to your source font.

Remember: licensing a font means licensing the digital resources required to create and manipulate text using that font. If a DTP provider uses a font that you do not license, they will not transfer the font to you. Instead of receiving a “live” set of files that you can manipulate or change, you would receive files for which the text has been “outlined.” This means the text is “frozen” (much like a .pdf of a word document “freezes” the text of a Word document so it can’t be edited). This is because if a non-outlined text is opened on a computer without the correct font installed, the program will automatically substitute a default font and mess up the formatting. We always recommend outlining for Asian language DTP deliverables for this reason.

Finalizing the project

Before releasing the native files, we will send you a .pdf and ask for a signed affirmation that all changes are noted and it looks correct. After this is received, we package and release the native files in the format most suitable for your print/design department’s needs. You should be absolutely sure that all changes are noted on the proof. If changes are needed after the final delivery, the time and effort required to open the process up for revisions will incur extra charges.

Translation of branded materials is essential for reaching multilingual markets, and the look and “feel” of the documents will impact how they are received by your audience. Your language services partner should be able to work with you to ensure the look of your material is consistent, attractive, and suitable for meeting your needs with foreign audiences.