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How a 1960s font became the #1 typeface of internet memes

A photo meme without the bold, white, all-caps font just looks ... wrong. Turns out it was designed long before anyone could even dream of a LOLcat.

That meme typeface is called Impact (technically, a "font" is a specific version of a typeface, like when it's italicized or in bold). Though Impact feels like the quintessential internet typeface, it was released in 1965.

In 2004, Geoff Lee told the now-defunct Typophile forum how he designed the typeface back in the day, using hand-cut metal to create each letter. A couple of years after creating Impact, Lee sold the typeface to the type foundry Stephenson Blake.

It was actually Stephenson Blake's second-to-last typeface. As the firm slowly shifted its focus away from type, it divvied up digital rights among former competitors. Impact ended up in the hands of Monotype. Monotype, in turn, licensed key fonts to a certain company that would have an outsize impact on the look of the early internet.

Check out the video above to learn about Impact's exceptional fate.


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