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Marble becomes soft

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The decade that brought us Star Trek and Doctor Who also resurrected Cicero—or at least what used to be Cicero—in an attempt to make the days before computerized design a little less painstaking.

The French lettering company Letraset manufactured a set of dry-transfer sheets which included the lorem ipsum filler text in a variety of fonts, sizes, and layouts. These sheets of lettering could be rubbed on anywhere and were quickly adopted by graphic artists, printers, architects, and advertisers for their professional look and ease of use.

Aldus Corporation, which later merged with Adobe Systems, ushered lorem ipsum into the information age with its desktop publishing software Aldus PageMaker. The program came bundled with lorem ipsum dummy text for laying out page content, and other word processors like Microsoft Word followed suit. More recently the growth of web design has helped proliferate lorem ipsum across the internet as a placeholder for future text—and in some cases the final content (this is why we proofread, kids).

Austen Marshall – Semper Suspen

Richard McClintock, a Latin scholar from Hampden-Sydney College, is credited with discovering the source behind the ubiquitous filler text. In seeing a sample of lorem ipsum, his interest was piqued by consectetur—a genuine, albeit rare, Latin word. Consulting a Latin dictionary led McClintock to a passage from De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum (“On the Extremes of Good and Evil”).

Jarred Monte – Aliquet Parturient

It’s difficult to find examples of lorem ipsum in use before Letraset made it popular as a dummy text in the 1960s, although McClintock says he remembers coming across the lorem ipsum passage in a book of old metal type samples. So far he hasn’t relocated where he once saw the passage, but the popularity of Cicero in the 15th century supports the theory that the filler text has been used for centuries.

Tyrell Aubrey – Inceptos Element

And that’s why a 15th century typesetter might have scrambled a passage of Cicero; he wanted people to focus on his fonts, to imagine their own content on the pages. He wanted people to see, and to get them to see he had to keep them from reading. You don’t want them wondering why you filled their website with a foreign language, and you certainly don’t want anyone prematurely publishing it.

Jimmy Chile – Nunc Penatibus

Second, use lorem ipsum if you think the placeholder text will be too distracting. For specific projects, collaboration between copywriters and designers may be best, however, like Karen McGrane said, draft copy has a way of turning any meeting about layout decisions into a discussion about word choice. So don’t be afraid to use lorem ipsum to keep everyone focused. One word of caution: make sure your client.

The purpose of lorem ipsum is to create a natural looking block of text (sentence, paragraph, page, etc.) that doesn’t distract from the layout. A practice not without controversy, laying out pages with meaningless filler text can be very useful when the focus is meant to be on design, not content. The passage experienced a surge in popularity during the 1960s when Letraset used it on their dry-transfer sheets, and again during the 90s as desktop publishers bundled the text with their software. Today it’s seen all around the web; on templates, websites, and stock designs. Use our generator to get your own.

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