But what of less-favoured cousins such as Comic Sans, Papyrus and Impact, who have no jaunty ligatures or famous foundry heritage to boast?
These days, on many a University design course, students using Impact in their work is enough to make tutors bristle. Designed in the 60’s by Geoffrey Lee, (himself a former tutor at LCP), Impact was created to be an economical solution for British metal typesetters, when foreign imports were too expensive.
However, being sold as part of Microsoft’s core fonts package meant that Impact was, well, less impactful once PCs became so widely used. With its original purpose arguably dead, what’s next for Z-list Impact? Scrapheap?
Possibly not. With all good comebacks, there’s a change of purpose. Impact is now the go-to font for all good internet memes: easily recognizable, easily accessible and its downbeat reputation only adds to the effect. Whether a lolcat, Gene Wilder or ‘Conspiracy Keanu’; memes have offices all over the world sniggering and pressing the forward button.
It’s not just about an empty office-funny. Memes in their very nature are pieces of ‘interestingness’ picked up from popular culture, replicated and transported on a huge scale. From our 1920’s kitten below to today’s cheeseburger cats. In the case of the Impact memes, they’re now firmly placed in a sort of cultural history. If we were to make a 2012 time capsule of popular culture, it would almost certainly include a few crudely comps of funny photos and captions in Impact. And thus, Impact lives on.
Like Mike Tyson before it, it’s possible to come back with a whole new purpose and still be considered a success. Sure, Impact’s lanky X-heights don’t allow it into any contemporary designers’ repertoire; but so what. It has found its own niche: the everyman’s funny font. Proving that culture has a funny way of allowing things to rise up from the ashes.