Japanese Language for Designers

№5 – Talking the Talk in Japanese Design: Print Design Vocabulary

This month our resident translation and localization expert Ash continues her Vocab articles with an in-depth look at the language of print design.

Print design

紙媒体 kamibaitai Paper medium

Kamibaitai is used to refer to anything that is distributed on paper. Newspapers, magazines, flyers, brochures. ‘Baitai’ on its own means ‘medium’, as in ‘carrier’ or ‘mode’, and of course, ‘kami’ means ‘paper.’ The opposite of this is 電子媒体 (denshi baitai), meaning ‘digital medium.’

イラスト irasuto Illustration

The complete Japanese term for this word is “irasutore-shon”, a katakanarised form of Illustration. However, having to repeat “irasutore-shon” numerous times a day becomes tedious and to be honest is a bit of a mouthful to say even just once. So it has been cut down to the bite-size, “irasuto.”

イラレデータ irare dēta Illustrator format file

“Irare” is another word that has been shortened for convenience and is used to mean Adobe Illustrator. “De-ta” (data) is referring to data that has been saved in any of Illustrator’s format files.

インデザ データ indeza dēta InDesign format file

For those of you who are more used to using InDesign, this is the term for you. Indeza (or sometimes inde) is a shortened form of the katakanaised InDesign. An important thing to note though, is that while you may be used to working in indesign, it is much more common in Japan for Illustrator to be used in its place. Even for documents up to 20 pages long.

裁ち落とし tachi’otoshi bleed

There are actually two words you can use to talk about bleed. Looking at the kanji for tachi’otoshi, it literally means ‘the bit that’s cut off’, but is a little difficult to remember for non-native Japanese speakers. Luckily, the term ‘burīdo’ also carries the same meaning and is much more familiar to English speakers.

Print Advertising

看板 kamban signboard/billboard

Kamban can be found all over Japan and are the primary signage for stores and businesses. Ranging in size from several stories (building stories that is) to just under knee high. They are made from various materials such as wood, plastic, and metal and are used to advertise just about anything. The one thing that all kamban do have in common is their high durability so that they can be seen outside in all types of weather.

リーフレット rīfuretto leaflet

Leaflets are exactly what you would think, a single sheet of paper, folded into halves or thirds.

パンフレット panfuretto pamphlet

Pamphlets in Japan follow international standards and are booklets with between 5 and 49 pages.

チラシ chirashi flyer
フライヤー furaiyā flyer

Chirashi and furaiyā are often both translated into English as flyer, but in Japan there is one main difference between the two. Furaiyās are A4 in size whereas chirashi can vary in size. The word chirashi, now usually written in katakana, draws it origins from the kanji word, 散らし (also read chirashi), which means scattered. There were actually two words competing words for flyer towards the end of the Edo period. From the Kantō (Tokyo-side) we had hikifuda and from Kansai (Osaka side) we had chirashi. But over time the word chirashi won out and now flyers are known as chirashi Japan-wide.

ハガキ hagaki postcard

Hagaki means postcard. It’s common practice for businesses new and old to send out postcards promoting a sale, announcing a grand opening, or even wishing you a happy birthday or New Years.

広告用ポケットティッシュ kōkokuyō poketto tisshu advertising tissue packs

The phenomenon of tissue distribution for marketing is still largely a Japanese one. However, tissue advertising companies are attempting to branch out to countries such as Canada and Singapore. In each of these pocket-sized tissue packs there is a small rectangle for companies to insert advertising to promote their product.

Paper: Size, Type, and Quality

japanese paper size format b
寸法 sunpō measurement

The “sun” in sunpō is actually an old unit of measurement that is no longer used. One sun equals approximately 3.03cm. Make sure to remember this for one of the upcoming words.

A列本判 A retsu homban A series
B列本判 B retsu homban B series

Conveniently, the internationally recognised A series and B series of paper sizes are used widely in Japan.

菊判 kiku ban kiku series

Perhaps not so conveniently but with an interesting etymology, Japan also uses a paper size called kiku ban, which is slightly bigger than the A series. The ‘kiku’ in kiku ban means ‘chrysanthemum’ and comes from the logo of the American company that first shipped kiku ban into Japan in the Meiji period. A number of sources also say that another reason for ‘kiku’ is that the ‘bun’ part of ‘shimbun’ (newspaper) can also be read as ‘kiku’. Kiku ban was originally used in the production of newspapers and so the name stuck.

四六判 shiroku ban shiroku series

Shiroku ban is another Japanese paper size, this one is slightly bigger than the B series. If you’ve learnt how to write the kanji for 1-10, you’ll see that the “shi” and the “roku” mean four and six respectively. This is where our knowledge of “sun” from a couple of words ago comes in handy, because when the largest shiroku ban size is cut down to 32 pieces – one of the standard book sizes in Japan – its measurements are 4-sun by 6-sun.

上質紙 jyōshitsu shi high quality paper

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. The first part, “jyōshitsu”, means high quality and the second part, “shi”, means paper.

キロ kiro stock

Paper stock in Japan is measured by how many kilos 1000 sheets of the raw, uncut paper weighs. This differs from Australia where stock is measured by gsm and the US where stock is measured by how many pounds 500 sheets of paper weighs.

And, last but not least, here are some different types of paper to get your work printed properly.

コート紙 kōto shi coated stock
マットコート紙 matto kōto shi Matte coated stock
アート紙 āto shi uncoated stock
再生紙 saisei shi recycled stock

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