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Common mistakes Australian make in producing Chinese marketing materials

Common mistakes Australian make in producing Chinese marketing materials

As we all know, China has become the largest trading partner to Australia. In recent years, we see an increasing number of Australian companies and organisations producing Chinese language marketing brochures, newsletters and even having Chinese language websites. By doing so, companies aim to enhance the connection and communication with its potential customers and clients. However, in many cases, the communications have not been made with adequate efforts in order to achieve expected results. For instance, a lot of written communication in Chinese language is not delivered in an appropriate manner as how Chinese people would expect.  A good written communication is not just having all English content translated or rewritten into Chinese, but also having an appropriate typography as well as a professional typesetting.

 

" Typography is a language capable of educating, persuading, informing and entertaining. When typographic signs are created with an informed eye and mind, they achieve both lucidity and aesthetic beauty." - Typographic Design: Form and Communication

 

There is no right or wrong typography and typesetting; just appropriate or inappropriate; professional or non-professional.

I recently found two Chinese versions of Visitors' Guide from State Library of NSW - Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. However, in both versions, the typesetting is not done appropriately. In other words, three principles for professional typesetting - visibility, legibility and readability - in the Chinese copy do not match the same standard as they are in the English one. Native Chinese-speaking residents and tourists may find difficult to read. Also from the layout aspect, the communication has not achieved neither lucidity or aesthetic beauty'.

For example, let's take a closed look at two pages as below.

Visitors' Guide of State Library of NSW in English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese

Visitors' Guide of State Library of NSW in English, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese

a page from English version of Visitors' Guide from State Library of NSW 

a page from English version of Visitors' Guide from State Library of NSW 

a page from Traditional Chinese version of Visitors' Guide

a page from Traditional Chinese version of Visitors' Guide

There are several issues here:

Typeface / Font Weight

The Chinese typeface used in the brochure is Heiti. Heiti is a Chinese version of Sans Serif typeface with little or no contrast between strokes. The closest equivalent English typeface to Heiti is Helvetica. To maintain the consistence of typography style,  Heiti is the appropriate typeface to use.

However, the readability is not so great because of its font weight. Apparently, the font weight of the main copy text is too heavy. It does not reflect the hierarchy between paragraphs and titles as it is in the English copy.

Type Size

We can clearly see from the Chinese paragraphs that the type size for subtitles is the same size for paragraphs. Unlike English, Chinese does not have capital letters and lower case to express emphasis. Therefore it's important to consider having the subtitles one point bigger than the paragraph type size in order to show the similar level of hierarchy as it is in the English version.

Leading

In number (3) marked in the 2nd image, we can see the leading between sections are not wide enough. The leading is almost as same wide as the leading between paragraphs. As a result, the level of contrast and hierarchy from one section to another is poor.

Spacing

In number (4), it is obvious that the spacing between sentence lines is too narrow. It does not give enough room to breath, which makes difficulties in reading. We can also see the vertical margin in this block of text is uneven.

Kerning

In number (2), we can see the kerning between words are not even. The left-side bottom paragraph has very tiny space between words, whilst the right-side bottom paragraph has too big space between words. It makes the whole page looking unbalanced, uneven and not professional.

 

There are various Chinese typefaces rather than Heiti which could beautifully match the popular English typefaces to be applied in marketing collaterals. I will discuss more in future posts.

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