Lorem Ipsum Dilutes Design

a post on Process

“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 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.”
– Words by Cicero, jumbled by someone in the 16th century, and subsequently quoted by lazy designers everywhere for 500 years.

12/12/2011 · Penarth, Wales · Does the preceding paragraph mean anything to you? Of course not. Be honest: You’re a person who respects your time; you skipped to this paragraph, didn’t you? Or maybe you left, in which case why am I still talking to you? Either way, your impatience illustrates the inherent problem with using Lorem Ipsum: No one reads it.

History for a Dummy

The story of how Lorem Ipsum was derived is dusty, based on conjecture, and mostly unimportant to our point today. Go read it if you are interested, but come on back so we can give it a proper send off. More important to us – right now – is how Lorem Ipsum has historically been used.

At first, it was used to showcase type specimens, and the faux copy is perfectly suited for this purpose. Sometime in the 60s, though, the usage was expanded into what we see today: Designers tasked with a layout – pre-content – incant the ancient words of Cicero into their textboxes and forget about it. Lorem Ipsum is very helpful in this way: its nonsense discourages our natural inclination to read the content, allowing viewers to focus on spacial relationships in the layout, micro-relationships of the type, and aesthetics in general. Upturned thumbs are flashed; projects roll along.

Inherent Problems

There are plenty of process reasons for not using Lorem Ipsum. Most are highlighted well in “Stop using Lorem Ipsum!” by John McGarvey in .net magazine. An excerpt:

“Web designers are kidding themselves if they think they can do their best work without thinking about content from the start. It’s not so much that content is king, but more that content is web design. One won’t work without the other.”

Agreed. But there is a deeper issue: as Designers – especially on the web – we value function over form, and the function of text is to be read. Lorem Ipsum deliberately obstructs this function with gibberish, leaving the tenets of readability to be considered too late in the process (if at all). The result can be pretty, but difficult to decipher.

Sorry AIGA

Cicero strikes again.

Content must be readable. Designers must make content readable. Therefore we need readable, accurate content from the start.

A Readable Alternative

So – obviously – what the Design community needs is another Lorem Ipsum Generator. I call it Tweeking (derived from the term “Greeking”, which is what former print Designers like me call Lorem Ipsum).


Tweeking does not spit out gibberish. Instead, it takes the very readable tweets of your favorite person, arranges it into a linear narrative (excluding RTs), and flows that narrative into paragraphs. Shazam! Readable content for your layout.

The resulting content consumable, but it also picks up the flavor of the tweeter. Designing a site for physicists? Plug into @ProfBrianCox’s stream of conscience. Crafting a faith-based site? @CSLewisU should work nicely. And if you just don’t “G” an “F”, there is always @kanyewest. These feeds should be laden with the nomenclature and pacing typical of your site’s targeted audience, making this placeholder copy a more appropriate substitute.

But don’t let me hold you up with all these words. Go give it a try.

Caveat Emptor

Tweeking should be a desperate alternative for when you absolutely need to begin Design without real content. Without actual content, you are just creating a sky-pie Design, but at least with this tool you can fill it with something approaching reality. Whatever you do, treat your content with dignity. Never lose sight of the fact that your text must be read, no matter how fancy it is.

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