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A Brief History of Lorem Ipsum

Lorem Ipsum. It might sound familiar to you, or it might sound like pure gibberish. As a matter of fact, it’s probably both familiar and gibberish. Lorem Ipsum is loosely based on Latin text, and serves as a placeholder for content in the printing and typesetting industry. But what is the history and benefits of using Lorem Ipsum as a sample typeface? Here is some fascinating information that might better explain why this placeholder text has lasted the better part of five centuries, and how it is relevant today in modern web design.

What It Is

Lorem Ipsum is a dummy text used in the printing and the typesetting industry. It was created in the 1500’s, when a random printer took a large amount of type and scrambled words together in order to make a show book of different typographies.

More recently, an ex Latin professor discovered the meaning of the words behind it. After doing extensive research, he realized that the text roughly comes from The Extremes of Good and Evil, by Cicero, circa 45 B.C. The words “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet” come from the Latin words in the book, “Dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisei velit.” They mean, “Neither is there anyone who loves, pursues, or desires pain itself because it is pain.”

Why We Use It Today

In the 1960’s, Lorem Ipsum was popularized again by a company called Letraset, which printed the text on adhesive sheets. Companies would use the text on these adhesive sheets to place as type fillers for various content layouts.  Now Aldus uses the placeholder text in PageMaker web publishing software. Most web design companies use it for their layouts as well.

Lorem Ipsum is popular for several reasons. Clients and designers like looking at it because it’s not a distraction. Since the words don’t make sense, it’s easy to see it simply as a placeholder and not actual text. It also uses a normal distribution of letters that shows the most distinct elements of font: spacing, weight, and type. In other words, it’s a good way for designers to demonstrate different typographies if they need to. There are many variations of Lorem Ipsum, some use injected humor and nonsensical Latin phrases.

Conclusion

The interesting history of Lorem Ipsum and its amazing ability to remain relevant 500 years after its inception makes the placeholder text all the more noteworthy. From its beginnings in 1500 to its relevant use in web design today, Lorem Ipsum has survived throughout the ages. As Professor and Publication Director Richard McClintock said, “What I find remarkable is that this text has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since some printer in the 1500’s took a galley of type; it has survived not only four centuries of letter by letter resetting, but even the leap into electronic typesetting, essentially unchanged.” Web design companies all over the world have used this standardized typeface to showcase their typography and represent the layout of content in their design.

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