Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bosses From The Eighth Circle Of Hell: Lorem Ipsum

Throughout my career I've prided myself on working hard, performing what's asked of me to the best of my ability and being an all-around good employee. I've also done my best to get along with my various bosses.

Alas, sometimes that's just not possible. Sometimes you end up with a Boss From The Eighth Circle Of Hell.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I worked for vast mega-corporation Sony, in a division that manufactured CDs, CD-ROMs and PlayStation discs.

I spent most of my time there making very simple CD-ROM labels that didn't require a lot of time or creativity. Occasionally though I got to flex my design muscles and create promotional materials for the company.

One such time I designed a brochure touting the company's lightning-fast turnaround time and other amazing benefits. I designed the cover and general layout, but I hadn't been provided with any of the body copy so I filled the space with "lorem ipsum" text.

For those of you not in the design biz, when you don't have all the text you need for a job you use lorem ipsum as filler to simulate how the finished piece will look. Here'a a sample:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.
It doesn't mean anything, it's just a bunch of Latin gibberish that people have been using as filler for decades. It looks better than a big empty box that says, "Text goes here."

Shortly after I finished the design, my supervisor said the president of the company wanted to see it immediately and told me to take it to his office.

I printed out a quick copy of the brochure and walked down the hall to the executive suite. I'd never spoken with the President before, much less ever been in his office, so I was a bit nervous. I walked in and presented the mockup to him. He looked at it for a few seconds with a puzzled look on his face.

"Um... is there a problem?" I said.

"Well, yes. It doesn't say anything," he said.

"Hmm. I'm not sure what you mean."

"This brochure. It's all just a bunch of gibberish. I can't read it."

"Oh, that! That's just filler text. I haven't been given the actual body copy yet, so I used the filler to show where the real text will be and how it will look in the final piece."

"But... this needs to say something."

"Yes, I know. It will, eventually. This is just temporary."

"Well I'm not spending thousands of dollars on a brochure that doesn't say anything."

"Yes, of course. I can assure you that the minute I get the final copy I'll plug it right into the pages and it'll be ready to go."

"But I don't see why we'd want to print something that doesn't make any sense."

"(Sighing heavily). OK, can we not talk about the filler text for a minute? What do you think about the actual design? Do you like the cover?"

"I'm just not comfortable with all this this gobbledygook. Something needs to be done about that."


"YES, I KNOW! Can we please move on to the rest of the design? Do you like the colors? We always use blue since it's our company color, so I thought maybe if we added some accents in a yellow gold it would punch up the..."

"No, I don't like this gibberish at all. This... we can't use this."

"(Through gritted teeth) The gibberish is not the issue. I'm trying to find out if you like the overall design. I'm begging you to please stop trying to read the filler text."

"Is that even English? "Lorem ipsum?" Is that someone's name? It looks like Latin. Our customers won't be able to read Latin."

"Oh my god! Yes, it's Latin. It's Latin so you won't try to read it and will just see where the final text will go. Mr. Blankman, please. Please look at the design and tell me if you like it or if you want me to try again."

"I think everyone here was expecting a brochure that we'd be able to read."

It took a supreme effort, but I somehow managed to keep my head from exploding. I grabbed the printout from him and walked as calmly as possible back to my desk. I told my supervisor that I wasn't going to spend another second on the project until he got me the final body copy so I could plug it in.

I eventually got the copy, added it to the brochure, printed it out and showed it to the President again. He approved it with flying colors this time, pointing out that this new readable English text was much more like it.

This was a true story.

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