The Reason for “Lorem Ipsum”

6/18/2015

Most often when AFS Web delivers initial site designs to a client, we are asked about the foreign text that appears in the design. This isn’t a secret code only known to designers. It is “Lorem Ipsum,” or placeholder, text used in print and web design layouts.

History

The lorem ipsum placeholder text has been an industry standard through the advancements of technology for the past five centuries. Beginning with the invention of the printing press in the 1500’s, the text made its way into desktop publishing in 1985 with Aldus’ software, PageMaker.

The lorem ipsum passage, used since the 1500’s:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.

While commonly used, the true origins of this text were mostly unknown to 20th century designers until Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar and publications director at Hampden-Sydney College, located the uncommon Latin word “consectetur” in classical literature. He found that the lorem ipsum text is derived from Marcus Cicero’s Definibus bonorum et morum (On the Ends of Good and Bad Things), a treatise on the theory of ethics, written in 45 BC.

The first line of the text, “lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,” can be found in section 1.10.32 of Cicero’s work. Comparing segments of the lorem ipsum text with a translation by H. Rackham (1914), the passage reads:

“Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?" (Digplanet, www.digplanet.com/wiki/Lorem_ipsum)

The history of the text may be insignificant to most since it is not a classic, such as Homer’s epic poem Iliad, which many high school AP or college English classes study. Learning the history of lorem ipsum may satisfy the fun trivia fact of the day, but it still does not explain why we use it in our design concepts.

Designers use lorem ipsum text because the number of letters per word and word patterns closely resembles a sentence structure in English. Using the placeholder text takes the focus away from the words and lets the viewer focus on the design. Naturally, the viewer still tries to figure out what the text says.

In Our Designs

Our clients work with us because they are looking for a new design and an easy way to publish information to their audience online. Features of our ZOOM CMS® software and modules, such as news and events, allow this information to be published in a timely manner and also presented in a visually appealing way. News articles or website content may not exist when we begin designing a new site for our clients, so our designers add the lorem ipsum text to show how text will be displayed.

In the example below, we used placeholder text in the initial design for OACTA’s newest website. The placeholder text blends in nicely with the English text.

Lorem Ipsum Generators

The placeholder text used for the website design above was obtained by using a lorem ipsum generator: www.lipsum.com . This site is one of the most reputable sites which generates placeholder text because it does not display any embarrassing messages in the middle of the paragraphs. Other text generators available, which may humor the designer more than the viewer, include:

Fillerati uses excepts from classics such as H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds and Melville’s Moby Dick.
Fillerama users can select from excerpts of sci-fi and humorous TV shows and movies, such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
• And, Bacon Ipsum is dedicated to the beloved pork product.

While these are fun alternatives, AFS Web designers will continue using the standard lorem ipsum text.

Consectetur Adipisicing Elit

Lorem Ipsum Chipotle Bag on FlickrOur designers are used to seeing the lorem ipsum text on a daily basis. We’ve even seen it cleverly displayed on the side of a Chipotle bag. This well planned “mistake” led to smartphone photos uploaded to Flickr and Instagram and even blog posts about the bags, which equaled a lot a free advertising for the burrito maker.

Graphic design and technology are ever changing industries, and they have been evolving rapidly over the past 50 years. However, since it has been used for at least 500 years, it is safe to say that the lorem ipsum text is a permanent fixture of the graphic design industry.


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