Review Design Proofs with Confidence: Lorem Ipsum

Cynthia Bartz • October 20, 2015

Your designer has just sent you the first proof for a postcard ad. You anxiously wait for the PDF to download and open. The loading wheel spins round and round until finally the file loads; And it’s beautiful! Then you start reading ‘Lorem Ipsum’ and realize that the text is garbled-gook.

Postcard with lorem ipsum placeholder text

What you are looking at is most likely Lorem Ipsum or some variation. It is not uncommon for a designer to use Lorem Ipsum in a first proof. It might be because the copy is still in revision cycles, or the type and length of copy is being driven by the design. On occasion I use Lorem Ipsum even when I have the final copy so we can concentrate on the design work. Whatever the reason, the purpose of Lorem Ipsum is to simulate the final text.

Lorem Ipsum is used to approximate the look of text and paragraphs in design work. The use of Lorem Ipsum dates back to the 1500’s, when it was first used by a typeset printer to show the various fonts they had available to them. The Lorem Ipsum passage is written in Latin. While it is does not exactly match, it has very strong roots in a passage out of Cicero’s The Extremes of Good and Evil written in 45BC. You can see the standard Lorem Ipsum text below.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing 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.

Why Lorem Ipsum?

Why not use “content here” repeated over and over or truly random type? Because design is in the details. There is a rhythm and flow to real copy. If you look at the text that makes up this post there is a mix of short two-letter words and longer words, the letters fall together in a predictable way to make readable language. If you were to hold your screen further away from you the Lorem Ipsum passage starts to blend in with the English on the page.

This is because Latin follows a lot of the same rhythms and letter combinations as English. If you were to use randomized text it would be too distracting and would not simulate the real copy that will be replacing the placeholder text. The same applies to repeating a sentence or phrase over and over, as you can see in the example below. Repeated sentences can sometimes create strange gaps and “rivers” in paragraphs. Remember that the goal with placeholder text is to give you the closest visual approximation to what the real copy will look like.

Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here. Put content here.

Lorem Ipsum Alternatives

Variations of Lorem Ipsum and alternative passages have popped up over the last 50 years. Most of the alternatives are born out of creative venture and wanting to add humor to design proofs. My favorite is Bacon Ipsum that mixes words from traditional Lorem Ipsum with meat related words, such as: “bacon” “chicken” “pancetta” and “hamburger”. Other alternatives pull passages from literature and pop culture. As alternatives have become more popular, Lorem Ipsum has become a term for any place holder text, not just the original Lorem Ipsum passage.

As a designer it is a judgement call on what type of place holder text to use. Sometimes people will get too caught up on the fake text if it is humorous and may find it distracting. I am a big reader, so I like to pull from literature whenever I can. Some of my clients just skim it over and others enjoy the little easter egg in their proof.

Remember that the most important thing in Lorem Ipsum is to act as a place holder. It really doesn’t matter what is in the placeholder text. The placeholder is there to show you what the design of the page will look like, and represent how much copy you should expect to produce for that page.

That being said, I love using fun Lorem Ipsum. I tailor what I use to the client and project. Below are some of my favorite generators, if you are a fan of Game of Thrones you will definitely want to check out Hodor Ipsum

Fun Lorem Ipsum Resources:

  • Traditional Lorem Ipsum Passage
    This generator can give you a few sentences or full page lengths of Latin. This is the first place I go for traditional placeholder text.
  • Bacon Ipsum
    Bacon Ipsum is my go to generator. I like that it mixes Latin words in with “meat” and it’s fun with out being overly ridiculous.
  • Cupcake Ipsum
    This is pretty similar to Bacon Ipsum, but with sweets instead of meat. The only draw back is that there are not any conjunction words, so it doesn’t always look believable.
  • Picksum Ipsum
    Picksum generates copy from movie scripts of a handful of actors. This is one of my favorites to just play with. I especially like that it has quotations and variations in sentence structure. The main draw back is that the capitalization isn’t always correct.
  • Fillerati
    Fillerati is powered by the Gutenberg Project and pulls passages from famous classic novels that have been released to the public domain.
  • Hodor Ipsum
    You just have to click this one. It’s probably the best. Seriously just check it out.

Filler Names

In addition to long passages of dummy text, I often need filler text for names. Using Lorem Ipsum, or even the fun generators, never seems to look right in the proofs. I also don’t like using “Jane Doe” or “John Smith” because most of the time people’s names are longer than that. If you’ve worked the entire design around seven letters and the real name is “Kelly Rajnigandha Kapoor” you inevitably have to change the design.

To work around this problem I use names from literature. Most of the names I use are from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones or Sherlock Holmes. (Bonus points if you can figure out where each of these came from)

Some of my favorite filler names:

  • Lavender Brown
  • Arya Stark
  • Lee Jordan
  • Greg Lestrade
  • Sally Dovan
  • Dani Targaryen

Bonus: Placeholder Images

When I was doing research for this article I stumbled across a site called Place Kitten that generates placeholder images of kittens for websites. Amazing, super hilarious and ridiculously adorable:

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