Everything You Need to Know About Desktop Publishing Localization

Last Updated June 22, 2023

desktop publishing

Adapt the linguistic and cultural nuances and play with layout and design so your desktop publishing localization efforts produce materials that engage and resonate with target audiences.

Desktop publishing localization happens when you adapt printed or digital materials to suit the cultural and linguistic preferences of target markets.

It involves modifying the layout, graphics, typography, and content of a document to ensure its effectiveness and appropriateness for the target audience.

Why would you want or need to do this? Well, localization is crucial for businesses operating in international markets as it helps them effectively communicate with their target customers.

By tailoring content to the local culture, language, and design preferences, companies can enhance brand perception, increase customer engagement, and ultimately drive sales.

And who doesn’t want the latter?

What is desktop publishing?

Desktop publishing (or DTP) refers to the process of creating printed materials using specialized software.

Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Publisher come to mind, while other may be more familiar with free services like Canva or Visme.

You can use these to create all kinds of professional-looking publications like social media posts, newsletters, brochures, magazines, flyers, and e-books.

Desktop publishing typically involves tasks like page layout, typesetting, image editing, and graphic design with visually appealing results.

The software used for desktop publishing provides tools and features to manipulate a page’s layout, adjust fonts, colors, and sizes, create columns, add borders and backgrounds, and apply various styles and effects.

Desktop publishing offers several advantages over traditional manual methods of typesetting and layout. It provides greater flexibility, efficiency, and control over the design process, allowing for quick modifications and revisions.

Additionally, it enables precise positioning and alignment of elements, consistent formatting, and the ability to incorporate high-quality images and illustrations.

With the advancement of technology, desktop publishing has become more accessible to a wider range of users. It has empowered individuals and small businesses to produce professional-looking publications without relying on professional printing services.

But what if you want to increase the scope of your DTP projects? That’s where the localization process comes in.

Key Components of Desktop Publishing Localization


Accurate translation is fundamental in localization. That should come as no surprise.

Professional translators with expertise in the subject matter and a deep understanding of the target language ensure that the message is conveyed accurately and resonates with the intended audience.

Cultural Adaptation

Localization goes beyond language translation, though.

It involves adapting visuals, colors, symbols, and other design elements to align with cultural norms and preferences.

For example, an image that may be considered acceptable in one culture may be offensive or inappropriate in another. Consider the cow. They’re primarily associated with livestock and farming, and depicting a cow in a light-hearted or humorous manner is common in Western cultures.

But, in a predominantly Hindu culture, an image of a cow is a sacred symbol of life and fertility.

So, an image featuring a cow that is seen as acceptable and even sacred in one culture might be viewed as offensive or inappropriate in another culture that does not hold the same religious reverence for cows.

The lesson here: Always consider the moo-d of the audience.

Layout and Design

Desktop publishing localization includes modifying the layout and design of the materials to accommodate translated text, different writing systems, and reading patterns.

This may involve adjusting font sizes, repositioning content, and resizing graphics so the document maintains its visual appeal.


Different languages have varying character sets, writing directions, and typographical conventions. Adapting typography in localization involves selecting appropriate fonts, adjusting spacing, and handling special characters or diacritical marks.

Challenges in Desktop Publishing Localization

Text Expansion and Contraction

Translating content from one language to another often results in text expansion or contraction.

Some languages may require more space to convey the same message, while others may allow for a more concise expression.

For example, in English, you might say “The cat is on the mat.”

But in Spanish, it’s “El gato está sobre la alfombra”.

In this example, the Spanish translation adds an extra word (“sobre”) to convey the preposition “on” that is not explicitly present in the English sentence. It’s the same number of words, but more characters.

This variation in text length can impact the layout and design of the document, requiring adjustments to ensure proper alignment and readability.

Different languages also use various character sets and fonts. When localizing desktop publishing materials, it is crucial to select appropriate fonts that support the target language’s characters.

This ensures that the text is legible and visually consistent with the original design. The right font choice contributes to maintaining the overall look and feel of the document.

Bi-Directional Text

Languages like Arabic and Hebrew are written from right to left (RTL), while others, like English, are left to right (LTR).

Handling bi-directional text requires careful consideration of the layout, alignment, and directionality of various elements.

Non-Roman Characters

Languages with non-Roman scripts, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic, present additional challenges due to the complex nature of their characters and writing systems.

Proper rendering and handling of these characters is essential for accurate localization.

Date, Time, and Number Formats

These can all vary across different cultures and regions. When localizing desktop publishing materials, adjust these formats to match the conventions of the target locale.

This includes adapting the order of day, month, and year, using the appropriate symbols for decimal points and thousands separators, and considering different measurement systems.

Cultural Sensitivity

Localization needs to worry about cultural sensitivity to avoid inadvertently offending or alienating the target audience. Colors, symbols, gestures, and even certain images may carry different meanings in different cultures.

Images and graphics may need to be adjusted or replaced to align with the cultural context. Additionally, text overlays and captions may require translation or adaptation to match the localized content.

Colors hold cultural significance and can evoke different emotions and associations. When localizing desktop publishing materials, it is important to consider the cultural connotations of colors in the target market.

Colors that are considered positive or attractive in one culture may have different meanings in another. Take yellow, for example. In many Western cultures, yellow is associated with happiness, joy, and energy. It can evoke feelings of warmth and positivity. But, in some African cultures, yellow may symbolize jealousy or dishonesty. It can also represent decay or disease in certain contexts.

Adapting color schemes can help ensure that the localized materials resonate with the target audience.

Best Practices for Desktop Publishing Localization

Plan for scalability from the outset. This allows for efficient localization of any future updates or expansions as your company grows.

Design and layout considerations will make potential text expansion or contraction easier to deal with in their adapted versions.

Effective collaboration between translators, designers, and project managers is important for successful localization. Clear communication and sharing of context and guidelines help ensure a cohesive and accurate end product.

Translators also should have a thorough understanding of the content and its context to accurately convey the intended message. This requires close collaboration with subject matter experts and access to reference materials.

Quality assurance is a final and critical step. After the translation and adaptation process, proofreading and review are necessary to ensure accuracy and consistency.

This includes checking for linguistic errors, design inconsistencies, and proper formatting. Testing the localized materials with native speakers can help identify any remaining issues and ensure the highest quality output.

Consider outsourcing localization project management so your team can focus on its core competencies.

Sometimes it’s better to admit you need outside help rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. This is true of localization.

Your business has multiple core competencies, but language isn’t necessarily one of them. And that’s ok. Your sole focus should be on what you do best to turn higher profits.

So, if you don’t have a dedicated localization team with sufficient experience, a managed services provider can be invaluable to your globalization goals.

Desktop Publishing Localization: Everything You Need to Succeed

In conclusion, desktop publishing localization is a complex process that involves more than just translating text.

It requires a comprehensive understanding of language, culture, design, and technical aspects.

By considering the linguistic and cultural nuances, adapting layout and design, and ensuring quality assurance, desktop publishing localization can produce materials that effectively engage and resonate with target audiences across different languages and cultures.

At Summa Linguae Technologies, we offer an end-to-end approach—from translation to DTP.

Contact us to see how we can save you time and money with our innovative DTP services.

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