The Other Reason why Lorem Ipsum is Bad for Designs

Trossachs Photography via Flickr

Photo credit: Trossachs Photography via Flickr

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, one more post about how content is king and you should design with real copy and not fake text… Well guess what, my client hasn’t given me any copy to work with, but they still want me to produce something. What now?”

Well, don’t worry. I’m not here to give you impractical advice or tell you something you already know. I know that if you had real content you wouldn’t be using Lorem Ipsum, and that in some cases it’s simply not possible to obtain it. But instead of Lorem Ipsum, Hipster Ipsum, or even Samuel L. Ipsum, I think you should use the first paragraph of a random Wikipedia article.

To explain why, let’s do a simple test. Please read the following paragraph carefully:

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 the answer is purple 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.

Now what if I ask you what my favorite color is? Can you answer?

I’m pretty sure you can’t, despite the answer being included in that paragraph.

Why? Simply because as soon as your eye picks up on some incomprehensible latin words, you’ll glaze over the whole paragraph and stop reading. Believe me, there’s no way you can force your brain to actually read that gibberish.

Seeing vs Reading

This means that both you and the client will end up ignoring whole paragraphs, neglecting things like leading and line length just because you’re seeing the text, but not actually reading it.

On the other hand, something like a Wikipedia page or a news article has a real rhythm to it, and the familiar words will grab your attention the same way the final content will.

Why Latin?

By now, I figure most of the people using Lorem Ipsum don’t actually know the reason behind using Latin instead of plain english. It was simply to ensure that the fake filler text would stand out in magazine layouts and would not be mistaken for real content and left in when printing.

But do we still really need such precautions? I’m sure most people are smart enough to distinguish between fake and real content (provided you mention that the pages includes fake content, of course). And worst case scenario, even if some of the fake text makes it into the real website you can easily change it as soon as you notice, unlike a print magazine.

So give it a shot. Believe me, it will make it much easier to focus on typography and those long, boring text paragraphs will suddenly appear much more interesting.


49 Responses to The Other Reason why Lorem Ipsum is Bad for Designs

  1. Really valid point. I hadn’t thought of using some random information (like from Wiki) before, but it does make sense. You’d have to be a bit careful WHAT content you chose, but it could work okay. :)

  2. Ryan says:

    If nothing else, this could be a way to liven the design process and have a bit of fun with clients. Most of the time when I use Lorem Ipsum as filler, it just confuses them, leading me to explain the whole point of using latin. Perhaps I should use Wikipedia articles about ostriches or penguins (or maybe dinosaurs). Good post!

  3. Antonio says:

    Well, actually I can read the answer in the lipsum paragraph. I guess it’s harder for “non neo-latin born” users but I still think that Lorem Ipsum is the best way for text, and it is simply because ANY kind of text you use, before your real copy, is just for merely display. You wan’t copy in the first place? You pay more for it. I actually think that displaying some “incomprensible” text in a website draft without real copy is better than generate some other stupid text like the “samuel l. jackson lorem ipsum”. It could easily drive the attention away from the design, wich, at that time in the process of developing, is really what matter the most. Sorry for my english, I think you should really change this language into something more understandable :)

    • Aaron Moody says:

      Hey Sacha,

      Great post, I actually picked up on the “purple” colour without even reading it…my eyes just went straight to the work..weird.

      Anyway I think I will give this a go, personally I don’t have a problem with using Lipsum. But at the end of the day it’s all just filler text and why not liven it up a bit with some actual content.

      – Aaron

    • Conexion says:

      I think the point he was trying to make was, did you catch what his favorite color was the first time you looked at that paragraph? And it is possible, as a non-native speaker that you did catch it. Personally, I didn’t see it until he pointed it out, then it was quite simple. And I don’t think any one of us can change the English language for you, as nice as that would be!

  4. Just Some Dude says:

    Actually, the real reason “Lorem ipsum” is used is that real text makes client focus on the text instead of the layout and design. It’s to direct their attention away from the content.

    • CaptainNick says:

      ^ What he said.

      The whole point of lorem ipsum is to take the emphasis ‘off’ the content and onto the design…so it’s better we can’t read the answer surely as it means we’re looking at the design…

      Lorem ipsum is just made up filler text created for design.

  5. Ted Goas says:

    Earlier this week, after tweeting about the latest silly text generator (I believe this one used Simpsons quotes), I had a discussion with another designer about using Ipsum vs. “real dummy text”.

    He made a similar argument that Ipsum is best used when developing IA, hierarchy and layout. And that readability is a design problem best handled by real text.

    I came away thinking that both Ipsum and ‘real dummy text’ each have their own place depending on what’s being worked on: IA or design.

    To use your Seeing vs Reading analogy, Ipsum for seeing, real dummy text for reading.

    On a side note, I like the idea of grabbing a random Wikipedia article. That and Fillerati!

  6. I kind of agree with you. I often get questions like “why does it have ‘spanish’ in there?” or “But I can add my own text in English right?”

    But like someone else said before, the purpose is to show the layout of text in a design. If you add real text, sometimes the article itself distracts from evaluating the layout.

    Also, I’ve been using to avoid the “is that english/italian/spanish?” questions. Serves the same purpose as using the Wikipedia article I think. Something that I think would take it up a notch would be to use our own promotional text. Why not use our marketing material right in it?

  7. I’ve been using Lorem Ipsum since back in the old days on concept visuals mounted up for presentations and we we’re always taught as a few people mentioned above that it’s a way of concentrating on the design in the early stages of a project before the typography afterwards. I would never use it on a live webpage though for many reasons including the obvious search engine issues!
    Great piece anyway and thanks for bringing up the topic, Lorem Ipsum is something we don’t give much thought to day to day really I suppose.
    Thanks again,
    Warren (UK)

    • Sacha says:

      Sure, but a lot of people would say that typography should come first, and cannot be separated from “design” anyway.

      And let’s say you were designing something for which you’ll never have “real” content, like a wordpress theme. That’s a perfect example of when fake text can lead you to disregard typography.

  8. P2C says:

    I think you’re missing the point of using Lorem Ipsum here. It is meant to be a temporary placeholder for copy that you don’t have yet. It is meant to be used for layout purposes and I reckon you can play with line-height and letter spacing using Lorem Ipsum.

    But if you have a lot of time at hand, then yes, you can go ahead and write some copy to be used as filler text but from past experience, the client will come back with changes correcting the copy you had put in, instead of giving feedback on the design itself.

    • Sacha says:

      My whole point is that playing with line-height and letter spacing using Lorem Ipsum is not the same as doing it with wikipedia articles or Fillerati, because unlike those two, you’re not actually reading Lorem Ipsum, just seeing it.

      Another way to think about it is that it doesn’t activate the same parts of your brain.

    • P2C says:

      Your article is titled “The other reason why Lorem Ipsum is hurting your design”. You also mentioned in the comment above that you don’t read Lorem Ipsum, you just “see” it. So would you prefer clients to read the text instead of looking at your design? Would you prefer to be evaluated as a copywriter or a designer?

    • P2C says:

      @Sacha – thanks for the article. was an excellent read. i agree typography is important but these days you have clients updating content endlessly. so how do you justify spending time on typography with “dynamic” content when you’re selling a design

  9. Michael says:

    I use fillerati which generates excerpts from classic novels. I’ve also come across Bacon Ipsum which mixes latin with butcher terms.


    Pork belly qui id prosciutto chuck eiusmod, proident occaecat. Swine pariatur chuck, dolor turkey brisket tempor turducken pastrami in. T-bone anim fatback

  10. Cory says:

    We’ve found it very beneficial to use these text areas as descriptions about the websites functions, what text should here or there. This way the client then will see legible text there and not glaze over it.

    We go through the design with the client, but having that text in place really allows them to easily go back and analyze the project. Also in turn allows them to easily nail down what text they want there.

    Good post

  11. Boris says:

    I’m not sure whether to agree with this. Isn’t the purpose of lorem ipsum exactly to avoid reading and focus on the design details? Mind is a curious thing, it wants to read the text.

  12. Jeff says:

    As a web site/application UI designer, I’d have to agree with Boris and others who claim that legible text is distracting. I’ve tried designs with both lorem ipsum and actual, client provided text. Without fail, the designs that included legible text from the client brought design meetings to a stand still as the client went off-topic for 1/2 hour discussing the textual content. I don’t buy the argument that, since typography is integral to design, readable text needs to be included in design mockups. For brochure sites, portfolios, and such, typography may be paramount. For applications or sites with significant complexity and user interaction requirements, its importance should be subordinate to interaction elements anyway.

    • Sacha says:

      Yes, but how do you know if the final real text will be legible if you’re testing legibility with text that you’re not actually reading?

      And the problem you describe has more to do with educating the client than using latin text or not.

  13. Omar says:

    Great idea! I use Lorem ipsum… all of the time in my website mocks. Some of my clients even tell me that they don’t understand Latin and that the copy isn’t correct. LOL!

  14. Scott says:

    You know what I do when I want filler text? I go to and just copy the English paragraphs instead of figuring out what options I need to select on the form.

    > Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry…

  15. Rebecca says:

    I absolutely agree. I’ve also noticed in the past that Lorem ipsum never seems to look the same as my actual copy. Usually the real copy looks better than the Lorem ipsum, actually. It just doesn’t feel natural.

    As far as Lorem ipsum being used to draw the eye away from the copy and to the design, isn’t that exactly what we dont want? People go to your websites for information. Not to look at your design. If readability is secondary to design then we are doing something wrong.

    Also, if your clients are getting distracted by correcting your copy, then using copy from a Wikipedia page that has no relation to the website will solve that problem. If its unrelated then they wont care about it. Especially if you tell the client from the beginning that it is just place holder text from wikipedia.

  16. RandomBrad says:

    I think it has its place to use content instead of a filler like Lorem Ipsum. I don’t agree with using Wikipedia articles as a general practice. In the same way you keep color out of a mockup, you should keep content out. It only tends to confuse the real issue you’re trying to solve. I did some user testing this weekend and one of the images I used caused way to much conversation. Clients were more interested in the meaning of the image than the place the image was holding. It would have been much better to just use a gray box. I can see the same issue with using a Wikipedia article for placeholder text. Maybe it is easier to judge readability with actual content, but I think best practices have that one pretty much solved.

  17. Vince says:

    Great tip about using Wikipedia text! In fact, it contains enough topics that any relevant content can be found. As a print publisher, editor, and designer, I can appreciate using the Latin text. But for websites, I never thought about it that way. Thanks!

  18. Mark says:

    Someone else presented this same idea on another blog. You can tell how impacted I was by it – I can’t remember the blog. I didn’t bookmark it. I won’t bookmark this one.

    Having temporary near-real text is a distraction. Clients *do* read these, and a ton of time gets wasted explaining that the headline you chose is not meant to be final copy. But inevitably the client will focus on this, start thinking up new taglines and mottos and want to spend your time with “what do you think if, instead, we said….”

    If your line-height choice is based on language, and not the font, something is wrong with what you’re doing. To suggest this, is to say that if someone in Italy uses Google translate on your page, your design will ultimately fail because you designed it to be viewed in English…something is horribly wrong.

    Good [art] design is not language specific. I have great songs in my collection in languages I don’t speak. Lara Fabian sings in French, Spanish, Italian. Enya sings in Irish Gaelic and Latin. I don’t understand a word, but the art is still beautiful.

    The same is [should be] true for design.

    • Mike Hopley says:

      They read a post just long enough to ascertain whether it matches their opinion. If it doesn’t, they regurgitate their opinion anyway. Why waste the effort to think, when you have a pre-baked opinion ready to serve?

      You must be terribly naive if you think the purpose of blog comments is to engage in intelligent debate. No, blog comments are for puffing up one’s chest.

      Anyway, I think your argument makes sense. The experience of reading is central to many websites. If you want to get a good feel for this experience, use text that people can actually read. In some situations that might be real site content; in others it might be Wikipedia articles, or something else.

      No doubt there are also situations where you might prefer to focus more on the non-content items. Here Lorem Ipsum may be appropriate.

      There’s no need to become hidebound about process. What matters are the ideas behind the process.

      One factor in choosing between these options will be how significant a role content plays in your design. Minimalist designs will likely use real (or Wikipedia) content most of the time; more “designery” designs will likely use Lorem Ipsum (and perhaps some low-contrast light grey text set at 10 pixels…).

  19. Mark says:

    I almost shouted now, then reread, then agreed, now I’m on the fence. People do focus on the text. That’s bad. But I agree that lorem ipsum never translates well — it’s not a good placeholder. You’re right about that.

    Now we just need to craft the perfect English paragraph that attracts no attention to itself ;)

  20. Krev says:

    Technically, lorem ipsum is not Latin.
    [Wikipedia]”The lorem ipsum text is typically a section of a Latin text by Cicero with words altered, added and removed that make it nonsensical in meaning and not proper Latin.”[/Wikipedia]

  21. John says:

    If you’re designing online using lorem ipsum filler text is also a disaster for SEO with sites taking a long time to unrank for Latin words contained in the text. Much better to use a couple of paragraphs of carefully keyworded text. As most designers are not skilled in SEO this aspect often escapes their notice.

  22. Timothy says:

    Back in the day, I used to ‘motivate’ my clients to send me real copy by putting in titles that would catch their eye and make them slightly freak out. So a page’s big title text would be a song title by Bow Wow Wow: “Giant Size Baby Thing”

    When I started doing that, I started getting actual copy from them faster than you’d believe.

    It’s also easy to search for specific text like that to make sure you got all your temporary content removed before launch, so it avoids both problems.

  23. Pingback: Use uinames and uiblurbs instead of lorem | Sike's playground

  24. Sacha says:

    True, but I believe most designers already know about this aspect of the problem.

    I’m not against using filler text, I just think the kind of filler you use is important.

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