Lorem ipsum: (almost) everyone’s favorite dummy text

Steven Mike Voser
Steven Mike Voser
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Lorem ipsum has long served as the marketing, design, and publishing industries' standard for dummy text. But is it really the best thing to use in your design drafts?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you work in marketing, design, or publishing, you’ve likely heard of lorem ipsum. This Latin scramble of letters has long served as the industry standard dummy text for everything from web page designs to print advertisements. But where exactly did lorem ipsum come from and is it the best way to think about dummy copy? Read on to find out.

 

WHAT IS LOREM IPSUM?

Lorem ipsum is standard dummy text used in the marketing and publishing industries. You’ll usually find lorem ipsum on design drafts and layouts for which the final copy isn’t ready yet. By using lorem ipsum, designers are able to get approval on designs and keep their workflow going, despite not having the final copy to work with. Most sources agree that lorem ipsum has been used since the 1500s, when it firmly won its place as the industry standard for dummy text.

 

DOES LOREM IPSUM MEAN ANYTHING?

No, lorem ipsum doesn’t actually mean anything. However, the text it is derived from definitely does. Lorem ipsum is derived from a combination of Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum (On the ends of good and evil) and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. However, the text has been scrambled to a point that it literally has lost all of its original meaning. Some people, like Jaspreet Singh Boparai, have tried to translate lorem ipsum.

Boparai came up with the following translation of the first paragraph of lorem ipsum: “Row itself, let it be sorrow; let him love it; let him pursue it, ishing for its acquisitiendum. Because he will ab hold, unless but through concer, and also of those who resist. Now a pure snore disturbeded sum dust. He ejjnoyes, in order that somewon, also with a severe one, unless of life. May a cusstums offficer somewon nothing of a poison-filled. Until, from a twho, twho chaffinch may also pursue it, not even a lump. But as twho, as a tank; a proverb, yeast; or else they tinscribe nor.”

No, lorem ipsum doesn’t actually mean anything.

 

WHY USE LOREM IPSUM?

If you work in marketing or design, you’ll likely stumble across lorem ipsum on a regular basis. It’s definitely become the “industry standard” for dummy text in these (and other) industries. And it’s not hard to see why: Lorem ipsum offers a great replica of real text. With its standardized word-length and use of regular punctuation (like commas and periods), it closely replicates regular written text. Hence, it’s able to provide a much better insight into how a final designed and written project might look than, say, a random jumble of letters. However, there are some schools of thought that criticize the use of lorem ipsum. In a recent article on Marvelapp, UX Lead and Visual Artist Chaymae Lougmani argues that lorem ipsum “is a way of delaying decisions about content.”

 

IS LOREM IPSUM ON ITS WAY OUT?

In her article, Lougmani argues that using lorem ipsum puts extreme limitations on the designer. “Testing with Lorem Ipsum is like being lost in the ocean without a chart (map), you’ll never find your way,” she writes. “It’s hard to get people’s feedback on something they don’t know and it’s hard for you to design for something you don’t know.” And she definitely makes a point. Most marketing, publishing, and design experts will agree that design and copy go hand-in-hand. After all, the design and copy need to work together and should build off each other to suit the brand, product/service, and target audience. Using lorem ipsum also gives designers a lot of freedom to cut text as they see fit so as to make their design look neat and tidy.

Unfortunately, that’s a luxury most designers don’t have by the time they get their copy. Instead of manipulating copy to suit their design, designers most times need to work their design around the copy they’ve been given. Finally, Lougmani also argues that working with lorem ipsum limits the amount of feedback you can get on a project. Give a client a design with lorem ipsum text and you can rest assured that they’ll only give you feedback about the visual design element. After all, that’s all they can comment on because they haven’t seen the copy yet.

Give a client a design with lorem ipsum text and you can rest assured that they’ll only give you feedback about the visual design element.

 

SHOULD YOU USE LOREM IPSUM IN YOUR DESIGNS?

Whether you’re a fan of lorem ipsum or not, you’ll likely come across it on a regular basis. After all, it is the industry standard, and that’s not likely to change overnight. If you prefer not to use it, consider working on your first draft of copy before getting your design team involved and then using that first draft as the dummy text while your copywriters come up with something better. Then, make sure your copywriters and designers are communicating regularly to ensure they’re both on the same page about the project, the copy, and the design.