02 Feb/12

Irritating Expansion, or “How do we fit 20% more text in the space allowed” – InDesign Blues

indesignThe fascinating thing about language is that it tends to grow.

The positive part about that is that it adapts with the people who use it, so it never “goes out of style” – unless of course, all the people who speak it give it up for something less complicated, as happened with Latin.

But from a layouter’s perspective, growth, or better language expansion can be pretty frustrating.

Of course, what we mean by expansion is how much a text “grows” when translated from one language to another.

Take a translation of in InDesign project we recently did from German into FEPS (French, English, Portuguese and Spanish).

The text we had in German fit perfectly in the layout the global automotive client provided; after all, they have professional layouters creating their InDesign files, and their language being German, it obviously looked great.

But when you translate into French, for example, you end up with about 20% more text – that means every sentence is about 20% longer than it was in the original.

Problem is, the space allowed for the text doesn’t change, so we have to figure out how to get those 20% to still fit.

If there’s extra space allowed on the page (hint to any clients reading this!) we can compensate by simply filling up the empty space. If there isn’t, we have to start fiddling with font sizes, space between characters and lines and get pretty creative.

The fun really starts when even the font size and the spacing are only allowed to change minimally.

And then consider that Portuguese still expands 10% more than French, a total of 30% longer than the original German.

That was a headache!

But at the end of the day, what counts is that we managed, with some cooperation on the part of the client, and delivered what the client needed: a multilingual version of their user guide in print-ready InDesign format.

And besides, another challenge we tackled – if not for the first or last time – is always good for our personal sense of satisfaction.