Grumpy cats, supercool texting Hillary Clinton, Buzz Lightyear, condescending quips from a smug Willy Wonka--what do these image memes have in common? All of them are expressed through a simple text in large, all-caps Impact with a thin black border. Of all the basic fonts that have been a default part of Windows for the last decades, Impact has gained a new life of its own as the language of trendy and snarky visual memes, an image-based joke combining an image with a snippy or clever one or two-liner. The boldest plain font that everybody has, Impact just feels right when you overlay your text on an iconic picture.
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Want font to have an Impact? Use this font!
Excerpt: "Oh, you know what I'm talking about. Every time you open Facebook, every time you check Tumblr, there they are: photos of newsmakers and animals, Willy Wonka and Buzz Lightyear, accompanied by a few sardonic words in glorious, white-on-black, lightly bordered Impact.
Well, why Impact? Why not Arial or Copperplate or Futura? How did this particular typeface become the default?
Part of it is simple convenience, says Anthony Rotolo, a professor at Syracuse University who studies social media.
Impact, which was initially created in 1965, was one of the fonts included in early Microsoft Windows operating systems. In those kludgy 1990s days, Microsoft only included a relative handful of typefaces, and Impact was 'the big, bold font people had, by default, in their Windows computers,' says Rotolo.
Given the dominance of Windows systems and the freeware Microsoft included -- MS Paint and the like -- it was a typeface shared by millions of Windows users at a time Windows had more than 90% of the PC market.
Moreover, adds design consultant Sam Berlow of the Boston-based Font Bureau, it was 'Web-safe,' compatible across the then-young World Wide Web. Microsoft had a set of 'core fonts,' which also included Georgia, Times New Roman and the much-derided Comic Sans, which would look similar regardless of the computer you were using. All of these details led to Impact's widespread use.
It wasn't long before image macros -- the graphic jokes initially passed around on bulletin boards or on e-mail -- started incorporating Impact.
Richard 'Lowtax' Kyanka, founder of the SomethingAwful.com humor site, which KnowYourMeme.com credits for coining the term 'image macro,' remembers a distinct progression to the current look.
'Originally, people would just post images and then, in the forums, type the text beneath it (usually because they didn't have Photoshop),' he says via e-mail. 'After more and more people started obtaining Photoshop is when the image macros really began.' "