Where “Lorem Ipsum” Came From

From Cicero to Pagemaker

A constant companion in the world of graphic design, “Lorem Ipsum,” has a captivating narrative that has intrigued scholars and designers alike. Its roots stem from ancient Rome, but its popularity in modern design originates from the intersection of traditional typesetting practices and the advent of digital publishing software.

The story of “Lorem Ipsum” begins with a master of Latin eloquence, Cicero. In 45 BC, his work, “De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (On the Ends of Good and Evil), included the original text from which “Lorem Ipsum” was derived. A pivotal fact, often overlooked, is that “Lorem Ipsum” is not merely nonsensical text; it’s a jumbled version of Cicero’s exploration of pleasure and pain. A significant point to note is that “Lorem Ipsum,” derived from the passage “dolorem ipsum” (‘pain itself’), is a commentary on the human condition, rather than a literal interpretation.

Fast forward to the 16th century, and an anonymous typesetter decided to jumble Cicero’s text while crafting a type specimen book. This practice was prevalent during that period, as Latin’s diverse range of letterforms and word lengths provided an ideal platform for printers to demonstrate their craft. Surprisingly, this scrambled version of a profound philosophical text started its journey as a placeholder in the world of typesetting!

Lorem Ipsum | Woman in White ShirtHowever, the real turning point for “Lorem Ipsum” came with the advent of Aldus Pagemaker in the 1980s. This groundbreaking software brought the complexities of professional layout and design to the personal computer, democratizing design like never before. A fascinating tidbit is that the creators of Pagemaker chose “Lorem Ipsum” as the default filler text, perhaps unaware of its profound origin.

Aldus Pagemaker’s global success catapulted “Lorem Ipsum” into the limelight. Despite Pagemaker eventually being bought by Adobe (more on this story later) and eventually becoming Adobe’s InDesign, the tradition of using “Lorem Ipsum” persisted, ingraining itself into the fabric of the design process.

Today, “Lorem Ipsum” has permeated the creative world so much so that it has inspired spin-offs! Websites now generate ‘Hipster Ipsum‘, ‘Bacon Ipsum‘, and even ‘Cupcake Ipsum‘, providing a playful twist on the original text.

From an exploration of human philosophy by Cicero to a scrambled placeholder in a typesetter’s specimen book, to a common feature in cutting-edge design software, the journey of “Lorem Ipsum” is anything but mundane. It bridges the ancient philosophical discourse of Cicero with contemporary design practices, standing as a testament to the enduring need for content placeholders that allow designers to focus on aesthetics. Its history and popularity underline the fascinating ways language, even when scrambled, holds a place of significance in our creative processes.

By 2.3 min read442 wordsPublished On: May 23, 2023Categories: DesignTags: , ,

About the Author: Michael Dargie

Michael is the CEO of Make More Creative. During the last 30 years, Michael has been helping companies communicate better with their customers and staff as well as teaching and leading workshops on a variety of topics including branding, advertising, social media, digital illustration & photography, creativity, motorcycle riding, and of course hand-to-hand combat.

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