Why Do Designers Use Lorem Ipsum: Meaningless Filler or More?

Why Do Designers Use Lorem Ipsum: Meaningless Filler or More?
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If you’ve spent long enough browsing the Internet, or even using desktop publishing software, chances are you’ve probably come across Lorem Ipsum. This text is used in everything from newspaper layout design to typeface and font previewing, and seems to have become synonymous with website templates. But have you ever wondered to yourself why do designers use Lorem Ipsum? Here we’ll learn about its meaning, where it came from, and why it’s still so popular.

The Text

A standard chunk of Lorem Ipsum generally looks like this:

“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. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

The actual text is much longer, and has been around in one form or another since the 1500-1600s, though it’s roots lie in books written around 45 BC. While the text might appear to be written in the Latin language, it’s not. Or rather, it’s not something that can be directly translated. Even in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, Lorem Ipsum was somewhat nonsensical. But why is it used in the first place? Lorem Ipsum is largely used by designers for layout purposes. By using a filler text, they can see how a particular layout looks when filled with text, or they can showcase what a template will look like before someone adds their custom content.

The Reasoning

Now you’re asking, “But why do we use this, and not something else?” Well, this is for a few different reasons. One of the biggest reasons we use Lorem Ipsum for filler text is out of tradition. Before desktop publishing really took off, Lorem Ipsum was sold to designers on adhesive sheets in different typefaces and different sizes. If a designer wanted to check how a layout would look when filled with text, they would simply cut the adhesive chunks of text to fit their layout and stick them to the page.

When computers became more widely available, Lorem Ipsum generators began to take off. Now many programs offer a Lorem Ipsum generator for designers to test their layouts, and there are even websites dedicated to the famous filler text.

The Origins and Meaning (Or Lack Thereof)

Lorem Ipsum Sample Text

It’s not entirely nonsensical. Lorem Ipsum’s roots lie in a philosophical work that was written in 45 BC by Marcus Tullis Cicero (a Roman Philosopher), and was widely accepted as being one of the greatest Roman orators of all time. The work (published across several books) was called De finibus bonorum et malorum, which translates roughly to “On the Ends of Good and Evil.” The books are largely used to take a jab at hedonism and the teachings of Epicurious, a Greek philosopher. The original line of Lorem Ipsum text was translated by H. Rackham in 1914 and reads as follows:

“Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but 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?”

But why do designers use Lorem Ipsum jumbled up? The practice of jumbling or altering text to become difficult to understand, or even render them completely unable to be read is called “Greeking.” This is likely a reference to Latin monks who had limited knowledge of the Greek alphabet and language, who would say things like “Graecum est; non legitur” (eg “It’s Greek, therefore cannot be read, often translated as “It’s all Greek to me.”) You may remember it from your high school literature class as well, as the line was spoken in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. This is for a few reasons. The text isn’t intended on being read, but still is intended to look realistic. Another reason is that Lorem Ipsum generators aren’t terribly accurate. Occasionally they include typos, changed words, and even sometimes scrambles sentences within the content to produce more eye-pleasing paragraphs.


Image Credits: All images are provided by the author.

Information Sources:

The Straight Dope - What Does the Filler Text Lorem Ipsum Mean?, https://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2290/what-does-the-filler-text-lorem-ipsum-mean

Lorem Ipsum - All The Facts, https://www.lipsum.com/