Lorem Whatserm?

Placeholder text is pretty important in design; not only can it help clients visualise our concepts better but it can help get a project moving by transforming a simple idea or wireframe in to something more tangible.

The traditional approach to adding placeholder text has always been to use Lorem Ipsum. This piece of text was lifted from the The Extremes of Good and Evil by Cicero, written in 45 BC by an early printer in the 1500s, who took some type and scrambled it up to make a type specimen book. Lorem Ipsum has changed slightly over the years, but on the whole has survived four centuries including the transition from print to screen and is the standard placeholder text in the Adobe creative suite.

then-and-now

So what’s wrong with Lorem Ipsum? Well, here’s my gripe… We designers love technology, it helps our creations become more dynamic and interesting, as well as making the process of design easier and quicker, but we are suckers for tradition too. Many of the techniques and processes designers use daily have their origins in the very early days of design and print. That’s fine for a lot of things, we use ‘Scissors’ and ‘Pens’ in Photoshop, so I guess if it ain’t broke why fix it? Well, personally, I think that’s where the problem lies when it comes to Lorem Ipsum, it’s outdated, clunky and frankly unusable at times. I’d say, in this case it is broken, so let’s fix it.

How? Well, firstly Lorem Ipsum is written in Latin, which is a dead language. What place does Latin have in modern graphic design and on the internet? Secondly the Lorem Ipsum excerpt consists of stupidly long words in quick succession and equally daft short ones, sometimes three or four in a row. This can look very awkward when used in smaller text boxes (granted, it can be useful for testing the limitations of a text box but it would be an unrealistic test based on an unrealistic sentence structure). Thirdly, in my experience I’ve found it can confuse clients who think you have gone mad and started writing gibberish. And so the list of reasons for change goes on.

lorem-ipsum

Thankfully there are a lot of alternatives available on the internet. Some fun examples include the hilarious Samuel L Jackson text and the pork-themed BaconIspum or, if you feel daring why not use ZombieIpsum to add a touch of horror to your projects. Aside from wacky examples there are in fact very few serious options out there and if you need something a little more generic (and in plain English) then the well starts to dry up.

In an ideal design world, we should be able to choose the placeholder text we want quickly and easily. To be able to select industry-specific placeholder text suitable for a wide range of design projects would be an absolute boon. For example, say you have a client in the healthcare industry – wouldn’t it be great to be able to quickly drop in some text even vaguely related to their industry? Although it’s possible to replace the default placeholder text in InDesign by creating your own .txt file (name it placeholder.txt and drop it into the InDesign application folder) it’s a shame you can’t select from a few custom options. (Interestingly, if you hold down Ctrl/Cmd whilst selecting ‘Fill with Placeholder Text’ a range of languages are available Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese etc.). It would be nice if Adobe considered expanding on this simple but frustratingly undervalued tool – when they’re asking for $49.99 a month, this is exactly the helpful tool they could be providing via their cloud.

So, in helpful fashion here at Boom HQ, we’ve had a go at making a few placeholder text options available to you, with our handy little text generator. You can even download the .txt files and use them in InDesign, should you wish. Try it out now – Enjoy!

lorem ipsum

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Peter Bingham About the author

Peter has over 14 years of design and illustration experience, eclectically weaving his creativity through a mixture of design disciplines, including fashion, print and web design. Give him some crayons and watch him go!

Learn more about Peter Bingham

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