Pretty much every successful meme circulating the web today has one thing in common: That ubiquitous lettering. Whether it’s Grumpy Cat or Success Kid, almost all memes include an overlay of text written in a recognizable typeface called Impact.
Phil Edwards explores the history and rise of the thick-lettered typeface (you might also know it as a font) over on Vox. Impact, released in 1965, was always designed to stand out. In the mid-‘90s, it was also included on nearly every Windows computer, launching it to popularity. It was part of Microsoft’s “core fonts for the web” package, which included other old standbys like Arial, Times New Roman, and Comic Sans. All very legible typefaces, but not great for putting over an image, lolcat-style.
No, that was a use tailor-fit for Impact, with or without the black border it usually sports in memes today. In 2007, it was indoctrinated into the meme canon when it appeared in the “I Can Haz Cheezburger” cat meme, an image that eventually spawned a whole network of lolcats-type sites.
Read more about the ins and outs of meme design from Vox.