Why You Need DTP Services for Your Localization Project

When we think of the team that works on a localization project, we often think of translators, editors, and project managers. But behind the scenes, another team works to take translated copy and imagery and reassemble them into beautifully designed documents that have the same look and feel as the source.

We call this team desktop publishing (DTP, for short), and they are often the unsung heroes of complex localization projects. Without DTP services, translated documents would not look as good—or convey information effectively.

What Are DTP Services and What Does a DTP Team Do?

During the preparation stage, localization engineers will extract for translation the content from non-editable components of the files, such as images, screenshots, engineering drawings, and other visuals. The linguists will then provide translations for the extracted text.

Upon completion of translation, the files are submitted to the DTP services team so they can localize the visuals, i.e. reproduce them in the target language.

The job of desktop publishing is twofold: they recreate images, graphs, charts, and other graphical elements of the content in the language of translation. At the same time, they also modify the layout of the translated document to ensure that it is presentable, readable and on-brand.

Post-translation Layout Modification

Imagine that your organization has been hard at work on a PowerPoint presentation as part of your sales process. Now, the presentation needs to be translated into German so that your sales representatives in Germany can use it as well.

However, creating a translated file is more complex than extracting the copy, translating it, and then copy-and-pasting it back in. French or Spanish text, for example, is typically 30% longer than English, so your copy no longer fits within the layout. German words are much longer than English, so the German translation of the text may not look that attractive in your three-column brochure.

This is where DTP services are crucial. To modify the post-translation layout of the document, the DTP team uses a variety of software tools. Typically, they will work with the program that was used to create the original file.

For eBooks, flyers, posters, and other print documents, they can use common programs such as MS Publisher or Adobe InDesign. More complex, structured documents—technical manuals or academic papers—may require using FrameMaker or LaTeX.

DTP Services for Image Localization

If there are slides in your presentation that feature images, charts or diagrams that are key to understanding your product and your sales pitch—but those were inserted in image format – how do you translate the words that appear on the X-axis of a graph, for example?

To localize images, i.e. recreate graphical elements, vectors, or storyboards in the language of the translation, the DTP team uses programs such as Illustrator, Freehand, Corel Draw, and Photoshop. If a document requiring translation includes drawings, plans, or models, they may need to use AutoCAD to reproduce them.

For more on software programs used to translate complex technical files, see our article on File Types and Technical Document Translation.


Before delivering the translated document to you, the DTP team reviews the layout of the entire document, checking each page, slide, or component of the translated file to ensure that all components of the document are localized and completely ready for a target audience.

The DTP QA team goes over the QA checklist, looking to answer questions like:

  • Does the translated text fit properly within the designated page layout?
  • Are all labels, captions, and insets correctly translated?
  • Does the layout flow in a way that makes sense to the target reader?
  • Is the client’s visual branding in this language consistent with the source files?
  • Is the quality of translated images maintained?
  • Are tables and charts formatted correctly in the translated document?
  • Is translated data within tables and charts accurate?
  • Are hyperlinks in the translated document functional?
  • Are cross-references within the document accurate?
  • Are special characters displayed correctly in the translated text?

Once all the checkboxes are ticked, the DTP team conducts a final review to ensure overall consistency in formatting and language and checks for any client-specific requirements not covered by the general checklist.

Why DTP Services Are So Critical

Why DTP Services Are So CriticalThe ultimate goal of DTP services is to ensure that the translated document has the same look and feel as the source.

Over the course of a localization project, many layout challenges arise, and it is up to DTP services to find workarounds and solutions.

Text Expansion in Languages Such as Spanish or German

As we have discussed before, some languages require more characters to convey the same meaning as in English. For example, on average, a 1000-word English text will take about 1300 words in Spanish translation, or 30% growth. The layout of the finished document needs to account for word growth on a page level, as well as within headlines, insets, and other elements.

Text contraction in Languages such as Chinese or Swedish

Contraction is the opposite of expansion: when it takes less space to say something in the target language. This can often happen in character-based languages, for example, in Japanese or Chinese translations, but Nordic languages such as Finnish or Swedish are also susceptible. From a layout point of view, it requires just as much work as expansion.

DTP Services and Right-to-left Languages

When a document is created in a left-to-right language, whether it is English, Spanish, or French, the entire layout is designed around the principle that readers go from left to right, top to bottom. However, for right-to-left languages, such as in the case of Hebrew or Arabic translation, not only does the text need to read right-to-left, but other elements need to be inverted to match how readers process information.

Font Choice in Non-Latin Languages

Companies choose fonts carefully to convey their brand image. The same care needs to be taken when choosing the typefaces for a document translated into Hindi or Korean. If you do not use Arial in your English document, you do not want to use its Korean equivalent. The DTP team can help select an on-brand font in each target language.

Line Height for Non-Latin Languages

Many non-Latin languages occupy more space on a page because each character or letter takes up more space vertically. Additionally, because of the complexity of the strokes, it is common to leave more space between lines to give the reader the white space needed to process. This is common in languages such as Thai, Chinese, or Hindi and may also occur with certain Arabic fonts.

Correct Formatting of Dates, Times, and Numbers

One major component of readability within another language is localized numbers, measurements, and other types of data. For example, English speakers in the U.S. often write dates in a MM/DD/YYYY format, while European countries prefer DD/MM/YYYY. If a date such as 06/07/2023 is not localized, it can convey the wrong information to a user.

Localizing Images and Other Visuals

What distinguishes localization from translation is a focus on adapting non-textual elements of a document. DTP services are responsible for making sure the final document is adapted according to recommendations. This might mean changing colours, icons, or static imagery while making sure that it does not affect the overall layout.

DTP Services for Your Localization Project

The DTP services play a major role in ensuring that a company’s documents are consistently branded across languages. The translated versions of your documents need to look as authentic, trustworthy, and as well-designed as the source.

Additionally, the layout of a document is a vector for conveying information. If a translated document is not easy to read and interpret in the target language, it does not serve its overall purpose.

One example of a document that required significant input from DTP services is our work with the Mothers Matter Centre. The organization creates materials to help low-income and socially isolated parents prepare their preschool-age children for future success in school and beyond.

The Mothers Matter Centre required DTP services for their image-heavy curriculum, which has been carefully designed to facilitate learning in young children. Art One’s DTP team worked hard to replicate its layout and imagery in a range of languages, including French, Arabic, Chinese, and Ukrainian, to help children and their parents from immigrant and refugee families to have positive learning experiences.

On the other end of the spectrum, technical manual translation may not be complete without input from the DTP services department, which ensures that complex diagrams, graphs, and charts are correctly localized. Each element needs to be identified, translated in accordance with the glossary or style guide, and then reassembled in the translated version. This can be especially challenging when dealing with languages that use double-byte characters, such as Chinese, or that read right-to-left, such as Arabic.

To learn more about how desktop publishing services can contribute to a polished final product for your next localization project, contact Art One. We can provide examples of the work our DTP services team has done in the past, and talk through the challenges involved with your project, including the target language, the filetype, and non-textual elements that require localization.

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