Annie Summerall

Marketing 101: What is lorem ipsum?

July 28th, 2017
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If you’ve ever collaborated with your design team to create a landing page, an email template, print advertisement, etc., they probably sent over a mock-up layout that shows the general aesthetic that the collateral will have. If you looked closely at that mock-up, chances are you saw it filled with text that made no sense (like the one below). Something you may not know? That nonsensical text actually has a name: lorem ipsum.

Lorem ipsum (sometimes referred to as “greeking” or “filler text”) is the standard dummy text used in the publishing and printing industry. Basically, it’s mock text used to represent the copy that will eventually live in a design, template, publication, etc. I read an article on the history of lorem ipsum from priceonomics.com to get the specifics on the topic.

With word length comparable to a real language and commas and periods creating an illusion of grammar, lorem ipsum looks more like a legitimate language than just repeating “text here” over and over or typing a slew of random letters like “skdghwejghsgskjhgdgngowklrgjlsdjgs.” That’s why using it accurately shows designers how much space is available in a layout for text. This way, they can give copywriters specific character counts when they are actually crafting copy.

To my surprise, while lorem ipsum is not quite a legitimate language, it is rooted in one — Latin. According to http://www.lipsum.com, the text used in lorem ipsum is a jumbled version of sections 1.10.32 and 1.10.33 of Cicero’s “Finibus Bonorum et Malorum,” written in 45 BC. It’s a cool story, so you should read the full version at the site.

Source: LRB blog

Over the years, lorem ipsum has evolved from its original form. There are now numerous modern lorem ipsum generators you could say are more relevant to today’s world:

  1. Hipster Ipsum (excerpt courtesy of Mashable, intentional bolding courtesy of me)

“Est Schlitz shoreditch fashion axe. Messenger bag cupidatat Williamsburg sustainable aliqua, artisan duis pickled pitchfork. Semiotics Banksy ad roof party, jean shorts selvage mollit vero consectetur hashtag before they sold out blue bottle qui nihil aute. Aliquip artisan retro squid ullamco. Vegan enim Williamsburg, eu umami shabby chic single-origin coffee et.”

  1. Lebowski Ipsum (the site sadly no longer exists … excerpt courtesy of Mashable)

“Lebowski ipsum when will you find these guys? I mean, do you have any promising leads? Hey, relax man, I’m a brother shamus. You might fool the guys in the league office, but you don’t fool Jesus! It’s all a god**** fake. Like Lenin said, look for the person who will benefit.”

  1. Hodor Ipsum — for the Game of Thrones fans out there (excerpt courtesy of Mashable)

“Hodor! Hodor hodor, hodor hodor hodor? Hodor! Hodor hodor, hodor hodor hodor? Hodor! Hodor hodor, hodor; hodor hodor hodor hodor? Hodor, hodor … Hodor hodor hodor? Hodor hodor HODOR! Hodor hodor … Hodor hodor hodor.”

While lorem ipsum looks real enough (maybe not Hodor Ipsum) for people to get a rough idea of a design, it’s obvious enough that when a fresh pair of eyes sees it, they will know that it is not the final copy that will be used. Well, most of the time, people realize that … sometimes they don’t. (You don’t want to be the latter.)

Source: @scottkeir

Source: Elezea.com

Source: @dappervan

I chatted with our senior design manager, Lauren Leonard, about lorem ipsum, and she told me a few more things to note when using it:

  • When you don’t give designers copy before they start thinking aesthetics, final designs won’t be built around the content strategy — which is the purpose of any design piece.
  • Even though lorem ipsum gives you an exact character count, the words don’t always break in a desirable way — projects using extremely technical language often use very long words, so words per line might end up being five instead of the 10 that showed in the lorem ipsum version.
  • If you have to start on design before copy is finalized, design time can be longer than the earlier phases — we sometimes try to frontload design work while content is being written to speed up the timeline. This CAN help, but you also run the risk of rework due to final copy not ending up as expected.

If you were looking to learn more about lorem ipsum, you’re probably working with a designer right now on your marketing initiatives, so you might also like:

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And, if you can think of any other marketing terms you (or someone else) would like defined, tweet us @marketingsherpa

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Annie Summerall

About Annie Summerall

Annie is a copy editor for MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments and MECLABS Institute. She graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, with a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication. Out of the office, you’ll find her on the beach or trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

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