That’s a Nice Design, but What the Heck does Lorem Ipsum Mean?

Every industry has its own jargon, trends and tricks. Working at a graphic design firm, one of my least favorites is Lorem Ipsum text. It’s not (just) the fact that it’s clunky and overused that bothers me. It’s the fact that it’s all-too-common to find Lorem Ipsum text in the final version of a newly-launched website, sticking out like a pirate at a ninja convention.

I don’t remember exactly when I first learned about Lorem Ipsum text, but I do remember the thinking that came with it:

What in the heck is this? Latin? Greek?

So I did what most people do these days. I turned to my friend, Google. I highlighted the first few words (“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet”) and pasted them into Google’s search bar. I don’t remember how many search results I got then, but these days that search phrase will get you about 49,900,000 results in right around 0.15 seconds.

As of this moment, the fourth result is my favorite. “This phrase has the appearance of an intelligent Latin idiom. Actually, it is nonsense,” Microsoft told me.

One other site describes it this way: “Lorem Ipsum is also known as: Greeked text, blind text, placeholder text, dummy content, filler text, lipsum, and mock-content.”

So what is Lorem Ipsum?

The most understandable synonym for it is filler, or placeholder, text. It’s what graphic designers use to represent what the content (words) will look like in relation to the images and white space on the design they are creating. It’s the temporary filler that is used to make the design look more realistic until the real text is ready to be used.

Lorem Ipsum isn’t the devil.

When you’re redesigning a website, brochure, flyers or anything with copy (words) on it, 99% of the time you’re not given the final text. If it’s your job to create the look and the feel of the final product you need something realistic; something that looks like real words, to represent the space the words will take up until you’re given the actual text.

It’s like a mannequin for clothes designers. It helps give your audience a better idea of what your product will look like once they’re using it.

Sure you could write in your own jibberish. You could mash your keyboard a few times and call it good, but you wouldn’t get the same spacing and feel of the Lorem Ipsum text.

So all in all, placeholder text is pretty useful.

But I thought you said you hated Lorem Ipsum text.

Yeah, I meant that. Lorem Ipsum is boring, fake, and overused. And what’s more, it’s not even real Latin.

What I don’t mind is placeholder text. And when it comes to that, you’ve got options. Since I’m not the only one who hits the snooze button when they see Lorem Ipsum in a design, the Internet has come up with some pretty great alternatives.

You can have Bacon Ipsum, Veggie Ipsum, or the super-sweet Cupcake Ipsum. Thanks to the power of bored people with an Internet connection, there are many other forms of placeholder text, ranging from quotes from lines from your favorite books and authors to terrible lines from your favorite Samuel L Jackson movies. *Note* Our friend Joyce just showed us a Big Lebowski Ipsum.

So remember, if you’re working with a design, and you need to use placeholder text, don’t just default to Lorem Ipsum. Get creative, and make your preliminary designs even better.

Alternatives to Lorem Ipsum Placeholder Text:

*PLEASE NOTE* Not all employees of NDI are in agreement with this post. In fact, the author of this post is the only one in the NDI office who thinks traditional Lorem Ipsum is terrible. It should also be noted that the author of this piece is a copywriter, not a designer.

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