In our recent campaign for HOME, we designed bus advertisements and a set of brochures to spread information about the organization’s services, tenant rights, and landlord guidelines. HOME’s mission is to serve Western New York through the advocacy and enforcement of fair housing laws, education, and the creation of housing opportunities. The organization works with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, so it was necessary for the brochures to be translated into five different languages for accessibility.
The brochure layouts were first designed using the English content as a template while we waited to receive the translations. The layout is based on a system of modular elements: text blocks and images that can be adjusted in height to accommodate variations in line, word, and paragraph lengths depending on each translation’s unique characteristics. By previewing rough drafts of the translated text we were able to plan ahead for spacing differences due to length of the content.
There were 3 different types of brochures, and each brochure type was designed with a slightly different fold to accommodate their varying lengths of text. The services brochure is a traditional trifold, the tenant brochure uses an accordion fold, and the landlord brochure uses a double gatefold. We determined that a double gatefold would help the reader better navigate the information without the back cover interrupting the visual flow. Both the tenant and landlord brochures were designed with the English content on one side and its translation on the opposite side.
The brochure translations include English, Arabic, Spanish, Somali, Karen, and Burmese. Typesetting in Arabic posed the most challenges as the language is read from right to left. To typeset the translation, we had to install a specific version of Adobe Illustrator that included the Middle Eastern and South Asian composer to properly orient the Arabic text.
The spine of each brochure was adjusted to be located on the right-hand side for the Arabic translations, an easy adjustment to make for the Landlord brochure. However, the English layout in the Tenant brochure could not be mirrored and still read correctly. We determined that if the layout was flipped vertically on the second side, both the English and Arabic layouts would read properly. This in turn makes one side upside-down in comparison to the other, which lead to questions from the client’s printer, but worked nonetheless.
Another challenge of typesetting in a language you cannot read is the process of proofing for errors. We were provided translations in the same layout as the original content document, so we painstakingly copied each portion of text and placed it into the design. While working in this manner, we were careful to avoid awkward word or line breaks that would render the translation unintelligible. We then had to painstakingly review the content, symbol for symbol, to ensure nothing was omitted, duplicated or displayed incorrectly.
The alphabets for Arabic, Burmese and Karen are visually different from English and rely on the combination of many individual characters. However, the proofing process was less difficult for the Spanish and Somali translation as both languages use a Roman alphabet, making recognizing errors a bit easier.
While the task of designing this brochure set was challenging at some points, we found it beneficial and rewarding to learn the techniques required to work with translated content. Providing versions of a design in multiple languages is a key factor in improving overall accessibility, and ensures that the content of the piece is absorbed by a wider, more diverse audience. After completing this project, we look forward to the next challenge of this nature, confident in the fact that we are always evolving to meet our clients’ needs.