January 15, 2020 100

The reason every meme uses that one font

The reason every meme uses that one font


Every meme is in the same typeface. It’s
called Impact. But how did that happen? Impact was designed by Geoffrey Lee in 1963. It was bold, condensed & sans-serif, in line
with the style of the 60s and ideal for short pieces of text and punchy
headlines. Impact was influenced by a movement called
the International Typographic Style or Swiss Style, which emphasized readability and cleanliness,
with typefaces like Helvetica and Univers. It took those staid fonts and gave them a
dash of mod flavor. Those were the days of metal typesetting,
so Lee had to carve each letter by hand. Lee sold it to the type manufacturer Stephenson
Blake. This is their original ad for the font. Impact was later sold to Monotype, another
typeface company — they’re known for creating Times New Roman. And Monotype in turn licensed fonts to Microsoft. So that’s how Impact ended up being included
in the Windows Operating System which was starting to dominate the market
in the 90s. And in 1996, Microsoft chose 11 “core fonts
for the web” a free, standard font pack that would work
across the internet. Impact was one of them. By the way, that’s Webdings. That distribution advantage helped Impact
become the default in online forums. Those memes were called ‘image macros’
after ‘macro instructions’ a term in computer science for a line of code
that requests a pre-defined sequence of instructions. And in 2003, one of these image macros — a
picture of a cat with the words “I can haz cheezburger” — launched the
wave of modern memes. Several meme-generator sites subsequently
adopted Impact as well, adding a black outline on the white font. There are more than 11 fonts on the internet
now. But we expect memes to look a certain way,
and that includes Impact. And that’s probably not going to change
anytime soon.

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