When creating the layout of a product catalogue or marketing brochure, most companies outsource this task to a design agency or alternatively turn to their own in-house design department. In either case the focus is almost always a monolingual one. Understandably the idea is to produce a nice-looking document for publication in the original language and very little consideration is given to the possibility that the document in question might be translated into one or more languages.
The decision to translate this kind of documentation has a significant impact not only on the content itself but also on the layout of the document for reasons that may seem obvious but that are often not taken into account when designing the original.
First and foremost is the length of the text. English takes up a relatively small amount of space in comparison to most other languages which use more words to say the same thing. If English is the source language of the document then all translations of this will occupy more space. If the document is to be translated into one language there is very little difference in modifying the original in advance to accommodate the longer text or in tweaking the translated document in order to make the text fit.
However once we enter the realm of multilingual translations we may find ourselves modifying various documents to accommodate various language translations whereas the modification of the original, which we would only do once, would have sufficed. Therefore it is often more efficient to modify the original document in anticipation of the translation.
Simple techniques can be employed such as extending text boxes as far as possible to cater for the longer translated text or reducing the point size of all the text in the original document if there is very little extra space to play with (reducing it once in the original will avoid having to do it once for each language that the document has been translated into).
It is factors such as these which should be taken into account by whoever is designing the document and this is why it is essential for the language service provider to play an increasingly important role in document design.