Desktop publishing has completely revolutionised the way we produce editorial content.

Using this new approach, which is much more practical than previous techniques, creating layouts for editorial content has never been easier, faster, or cheaper.

Desktop publishing is used for a wide range of content and purposes, but it essentially does one thing: it helps people read texts.

Here are some of its main uses, and what it’s all got to do with professional translation services.

desktop publishing

What is desktop publishing?

Desktop publishing is a digital typesetting technique. Gutenberg’s movable type printing system is the only historical invention capable of trumping the creation of desktop publishing.

In practice, everything that was once done using printing machines (composing a page, arranging headlines, inserting images, etc.) can now be done on a computer using layout software.

Conceptually, this practice consists of placing headlines, text, and images in a space so that the individual elements are showcased by the layout itself, making the editorial content easier to understand.

Examples of desktop publishing

Desktop publishing can be applied to all types of content containing written text.

Some of the most classic examples include pages in a book, which need to be laid out in a way that makes the text easy to read and allows titles and headings to stand out from the body of the text. This is done so that readers can orient themselves on the page.

In illustrated books, images are either interspersed with text or placed on separate pages. You’ll often also see on-page captions under images in books, giving people a visual point of reference to aid their reading.

Brochures, flyers, billboards, marketing emails, and PowerPoint presentations are much more effective from a communication point of view if desktop publishing is used intelligently and tweaked to suit the content’s purpose. Optimal page layouts also help to keep readers engaged with individual elements.

The history of DTP

Desktop publishing (DTP) was first created in the USA in the mid-1980s. Back then, newspaper offices would sometimes use computer software to layout text instead of using complex and expensive graphic workstations.

Apple was one of the first companies to widely distribute an easy-to-use layout programme. The software, known as Pagemaker, was later also made available for Windows 1.0. From then on, anyone with an (Apple or Microsoft) computer could purchase Pagemaker and start composing their own texts.

These programmes were initially based on a small number of different characters, but over time, the range was expanded, and these days we have an almost infinite potential range of fonts at our disposal.

Apple dominated the desktop publishing sector for the first ten years. In fact, it was only with the release of Windows 95 that Microsoft started to hold its own against Apple. Of course, these days, the decision to use Apple or Microsoft desktop publishing software comes down to personal preference, and no longer has any impact on the quality of the page layout software itself.

What is desktop publishing used for?

Desktop publishing involves arranging graphic and text elements on a page using layout software.

Making sure individual elements are well laid out on a page using desktop publishing is very important if you’re going to maximise the user experience (UX) and allow end-users to get the most out of your content. What’s more, quality desktop publishing practices require text content and images to impact end-users directly and effectively.

Why it matters: the benefits for companies

When it comes to corporate comms, desktop publishing is a very powerful tool when in the hands of brands.

Desktop publishing is key to designing editorial products for businesses, such as product labels and catalogues containing all the products or services a company offers.

DTP is also important for companies operating in international markets. International brands often need to translate their editorial content into different languages (e.g., catalogues, marketing labels, billboards, etc.). In addition, they need to make sure their brand is instantly recognisable, making good use of the colours and fonts comprising their brand identity.

When a translation is complete, it’s not uncommon for the length of the new target text to differ from the source text. In these cases, text and images need to be tweaked using desktop publishing so that the translated editorial product remains as effective as the original text.

You may need to:

  • change the font size;
  • alter the image size;
  • choose a different font for captions;
  • arrange the elements differently (such as on a marketing label) to make the final text more legible and impactful.

At Eurotrad, we’re fully aware of the close relationship between translation and desktop publishing, which is why we offer publishing and layout services. Our DTP team works very closely with our translators to create the perfect end product, both from a linguistic and layout point of view.