The art of multilingual layouting


Gaining increasing importance for any globally active company, Corporate Identity consists of many aspects, among them being Corporate Design, a very profound topic by itself. Unfairly, one of the more neglected areas of corporate design are layout grids which bring structure to texts and graphical elements. 

In Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” the “Babel Fish” enables all species to understand every language. In this novel however, this use of a universal language has irritatingly not led to eternal peace, but instead made conflicts even more violent and common. Although this example may not seem very scientific, it serves well to illustrate the fact that there are chances of intercultural misunderstanding, even when words, syntax and characters of a foreign language are well known. To prevent grave misunderstanding, one would have to know of all aspects of communication in a certain culture, as opposed to just the language.

Although on a small scale, proper design can support intercultural communication. Visual designers run the risk to work within the grids required for their respective languages, rather than “thinking outside their box”. However, to be able to optimize Corporate Design for intercultural branding, a designer needs to know which script system calls for what layout-grid and how to properly adjust even smallest details to create a template, which delivers reliable results in line with your Corporate Designs.

With her usual broad approach to the topic, Susanne Zippel points out the Do’s and Don’ts for intercultural working designers, while delivering hands-on examples of her own work for a European company pushing forward on the Chinese market, all the while including her philosophy of respect for cultural differences. With consideration of these differences, perhaps the “Babel Fish” would have brought peace.