Lorem ipsum

Wednesday 5 March 2008

One of the things I enjoy about my current job at Tabblo is that I get to implement print design. I like working at the intersection of engineering and graphic design. Sometimes I have to explain engineers to designers, and sometimes designers to engineers.

An engineer on the team asked me the other day what this gibberish text was:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. In dapibus lorem quis dui. Phasellus adipiscing. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas.

It’s dummy text used by graphic designers when they need text for a layout, but don’t want it to distract from the layout itself. It’s designed to mimic real text, but not draw people into discussing the content.

You’ll find that graphic designers all over the world use not just this idea, but this precise text. It’s a design tradition at this point. The text has a long and storied history, detailed at sites like lipsum.org, an online lorem ipsum generator. Turns out it is a somewhat garbled version of a Latin passage by Cicero.

Because designers often have need for passages of dummy text, there are other generator sites, like blindtextgenerator.com, with options controlling what text to use, how much of it to generate, and what typeface to display it in.

Web framework may even provide tools to generate text like this inline. Here’s a loremipsum tag for Django, for example.

Another technique used by graphic designers to abstract away text is to draw lines of small text as simple gray bars. While lorem ipsum is based on Latin text, this gray bar technique is known as greeking!


Nice, I always wondered about where that came from and why it was used so ubiquitously!
Sadly, every time I use lorem ipsum, I get comments about how they can't understand it, even when I've _told_ them it's just filler. :-/
"Greeking", as in, "graecum est, non legitur" (literally, "it's Greek, I can't read it," but more commonly, "it's all Greek to me"). And the term also applies to Lorem in traditional design, despite the Latin origin of the text.
When building web page prototypes I often use http://www.mobilefish.com/services/lipsum/lipsum.php to generate dummy content.

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