Graphic Design Terms: Lorem Ipsum


You sit down with the team that is going to design your website. You discuss the look you want and things like colors, content and branding. You leave the meeting feeling like you’re in good hands, and you look forward to seeing the “rough layout” they promised.

A week or two later, you see that layout and you can’t read a word on it. It looks like Greek or something! Don’t they know you’re market is in the United States, not Greece or wherever? What does it even say? Are they saying mean things about you in some sick combination of behind-your-back and to-your-face?

What is Lorem Ipsum?

Relax. This “foreign language” is referred to as “Lorem Ipsum”, which is usually the first two words in the first paragraph. It is also called “dummy copy”, “dummy text”, “filler text” or “placeholder text”, and it is just used to take up space until the real copy (text) can be put into the layout.

When a designer puts together a layout — whether for a website, brochure or other piece of material — he or she is usually focused on how it looks, not what it says. Using dummy copy allows them to perfect the design (down to the fonts and text sizing) without having to wait for the final text to come from the client or copywriter. This makes production faster because the text (which is now probably going through its seventeenth revision) isn’t holding up the design process, too.

What Does Lorem Ipsum Mean?

So, it’s used as a placeholder. Why would you use Greek instead of English for the dummy copy? Who’s the dummy here? And what does “lorem ipswhateveritis” actually mean?

“Lorem Ipsum” is Latin not Greek. The passage is adapted from a philosophical piece of Latin literature (by Cicero) that discusses pain and pleasure and whether anyone would choose pain without some gain in return. Really though, it has been adjusted so that it is more like gibberish, even in Latin.

The reason we use it instead of English is that it is obviously not English. That way the brochure or website won’t accidentally go to production with dummy copy in it. On the other hand, it does kind of look like English — more so than Russian with its unique characters or many other languages with their umlauts. Thus, Latin has become the go-to language for English dummy copy.

What Does This Mean for Me?

When your designer shows you their layout and it has gobbledegook instead of some cleverly composed description of your business, just relax. The final text will come later. Try to look past what it says and see what it looks like.

At DRM Productions, we have designers and copywriters. If you already know exactly what you want to say, you can give it to us and we’ll avoid the dummy copy stage. However, if all you have is a vague idea of what you want to say, we can take that concept and write the text for you. Just don’t be surprised along the way if lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

Mike Baldridge

Mike Baldridge

Mike Baldridge is a graphic designer and web developer for DRM Productions. He has put these combined skills to use developing a library of slide templates for the Retriever. When he’s not working, Mike enjoys digital painting as well as some traditional drawing.