Impact, on its face, suggests boldness, loudness and yelling, especially in all-caps -- "it's like overkill," says Henry Hongmin Kim, a graphic design professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Combine that with photos of cats or Willy Wonka, and the contrast provokes at least a smile. (Indeed, Impact is even more effective with a 1-pixel outline or drop shadow, says Nakagawa.)
The look has now become an established template, with such sites as Imgflip.com, Memegenerator.net and Cheezburger's Builder making such memes automatic. Just find an image, add a punchy phrase in Impact and you're there.
The look helps us recognize the whole package as a meme, says Syracuse's Rotolo. It's a shorthand for comedy, which is useful, because the impact -- pardon the pun -- is ephemeral, he adds.
"Memes are about being in the moment," he says. "Making a meme has to be fast and has to be pertinent."
Whether Impact lasts for memes is anybody's guess. Berlow observes that the requirements that once made it obligatory -- its convenience and commonality -- are fading, now that anybody with a font editing application can create their very own looks. His own company has created several fonts that have the same metrics as Impact.
But, for now, it's not going anywhere.
"For the most part the template will stick," says Rotolo. "There will certainly be new types of memes and there will certainly be new templates that will come from new apps that make image-sharing easier. But I think what most people are looking for is the content and the context, so the meme template is going to prevail for some time."