Lorem ipsum is junk

That most-cherished tool of design students and fast-casual restaurants alike, we think of lorem ipsum as starting blocks. Problem is, it’s actually for lazies.

Designers use it when “we don’t have the content”. We could argue that page layout shouldn’t even start until that rough copy is in place. If you’re working for journalism, use an old story. Finance? Go find some old stock prices. Let’s not get started on bacon ipsum or any other ipsum generator.

So… go find some content.

What’s the big deal?

Politics, man.

Lorem ipsum becomes not just a tool for designers, but for everyone on the team and not in a good way. It’s a substitution that everyone ends up saying, ‘oh, don’t worry that’ll look different once people start writing real stories. When creating marketing views, going on the hunt for real content brings the content strategy, legal and executives teams in a lot earlier than they might otherwise have been. Design diplomacy is about connecting dots and asking questions earlier than everyone else.

Patina

Using lorem ipsum makes your stakeholders gloss over content blocks during design reviews. You’re literally creating blocks that say “don’t look at me.” Problem is, it also tells folks to not to spend much time looking at the rest of your work either.

Laaaaazy

Again, it makes you (and your product team) look lazy. Lazy like, ‘oh these folks couldn’t even find an old article to copy and paste.’ Wonder how how much thought they’re putting into like, actual product work.

Rhythm

Just like your vertical grid, your content has rhythm to it. Rhythm that’s asking to be respected. Lorem ipsum is like me on a dance floor; no rhythm and no reason to be there in the first place.

Do your diligence

Nothing opens the doors to ‘yeah-but-what-about-when..’ critique from stakeholders like lorem ipsum. Be prepared.

It just looks like junk

For real.

What you can do:

Stop designing for your friends

Use real people in real situations. If we’re designing a music app, it’s so tempting to share how awesome your taste is by using dope bands no one’s heard of except your creative director for that little head nod during crit. Don’t do it; Abba, The Bee Gees and Creed sold a lot of albums.

Design content that matches how users make content. Your product probably won’t inspire folks to take better photos.

Fake it

Even if you don’t have real content, use old content from three years ago. Seriously, use anything related to your industry or that looks halfway believable. And if you want to write product copy but feel like you don’t get the chance, you’re holding the keys right in front of you. The number of times my initial pass at product copy has made it through to the real world is surprising and/or terrifying. If you’re having trouble getting content, then make it reaaallly obvious you’re talking about fake stuff. Like, put a cat gif in your headline image if you need to. Sometimes, we can just use an unhealthy shade of magenta if we’re not feeling so creative that says, “this isn’t real text.”

Lower expectations

Go find some worst cases. Say you’re working on something for a fancy finance client, try purposely to wrap text and create collisions in your company and price values. International Business Machines is actually the real name of the company on the exchanges, not IBM. Berkshire Hathaway’s stock price is like $205,000 a share, so a four character limit just ain’t going to slice the cheese. Just the symbols for mutual funds are mysteriously long. Doing this shows that you’re thinking ahead and creating fewer issues down the line for your team. Worst case scenarios aren’t sexy, but they tell us how flexible our containers need to be and end up making better product.

Bonus points: if you’re designing for a multi-lingual product, go find some placeholder German copy.

Using real data isn’t empathy for your users, it’s satisfying basic needs.

A day in the life

Engineers and product owners love to ‘yeah-but-what-about-when’ designers under the table. Picking worst case scenarios gets you ahead early on about thinking about the full scope of possibilties and encourages a sense of respect for our engineering and marketing teams who have to make and sell these things in the end. It also allows us to help shed stereotypes about designers creating perfect comps for their own portfolios.

Fuck lorem ipsum.

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