Design and Formatting Considerations for a Brochure Translated into Many Languages

Over the past year, I have been working on an ongoing project to design and format one brochure in many different languages. After I created several new brochures today (in Korean and Indonesian) and updated the Arabic brochure, I realized that it might be interesting to share how I approached this unique project.

My client is a non-profit helping parents of children with anencephaly. They offer simple brochures about anencephaly for affected parents as free downloads on their website. They asked me to redesign their brochure, which was a simple Word file in A4 format and looked like this (click right to see the other side):

Redesigning the Brochure

The first thing I did was redesign the brochure. These were the design constraints:

  1. The new brochure needed to look good in any language or script.

  2. The new brochure needed to be able to be printed affordably / on a home printer, as individuals might print just a few of these brochures at home.

  3. The new brochure needed to include the footprints of Anouk, the baby who inspired her mother to start

Below, you see the redesigned brochure, created to suit the client’s needs (click right to see the other side). The chosen green is the official anencephaly colour, and I chose a standard three-panel brochure format.

To make this brochure work well with the above constrains, I:

  1. Used photos that could be enlarged or removed if needed to fit more or less text

  2. Designed with white borders around the edges of each panel (standard home printers can’t print right to the edge of an A4 sheet), and black and white photos which would look good even if printed on a basic black and white printer.

Formatting the Brochure in Different Languages

After the redesign was done, it was time to format the different translations in the same style. Because some languages are completely unrecognizable to me, I numbered the English brochure and asked the translators to number the Word files of their translations, so that I could be certain I was placing the correct text in the correct area. I numbered each area or element like so:

Languages with Roman characters are quite straightforward to format; the main difference is simply the length of the copy. French uses space more efficiently, and I had more room on the page. For example, compare the layout of the English brochure interior….


…with the layout of the French interior. The flexible layout I had created allowed me to make the top image two columns wide, so I’d have less blank white space on the brochure.


For some of the scripts I was able to keep the “typewriter” feel of the headings, such as in Russian:

Russian brochure formatting.jpg

The look of the title text in Korean is my favourite. How fun is this?

Format my brochure or flyer in Korean.jpg

Formatting in Arabic was by far the hardest, due to the right to left text flow and how tricky it is to differentiate one character from the other when changes are supplied. As you can see, even the format of the panels on an Arabic brochure is reversed, too:

Arabic brochure layout.jpg

I think this project illustrates how important it is to work with an experienced print designer if you’re planning to have your printed piece translated into many different languages. With a little extra planning at the outset, I set these brochures up in a robust, “smart” format that I hope will keep serving the purposes of for years to come!

If you need brochures, flyers or booklets designed for an international audience or in various languages, give me a shout!