What does a person's signature say about them?
July 20, 2005 1:22 PM   Subscribe

How and when did you develop your signature? Was it a conscious decision or something that developed after a long time of signing a lot of checks, birthday cards, legal documents, etc? Do you think your signature reflects your personality?

I'm in my early twenties but still use the "signature" I've been using since grade school. It's quite simple: I just write my name in easy-to-decipher cursive. It takes me a little bit of time and concentration to write it and while each letter is legible, if I sign two things in a row the signatures are prone to a few differences. I find this a bit too plain and uninspired, and am trying to come up with something more deliberate and forceful that resembles my name using fewer strokes and less concentration.

A lot of people I know have signatures that look important and/or professional and seem to come out the same way every time. Is it even possible to have an interesting signature or am I just overanalyzing?
posted by adamk to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
After you sign your name to enough legal documents you'll develop a shorthand version. Mine currently consists of a mostly legible first, second and last initial and scribble thereafter. Buying a home is a good impetus to signature shortening.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:31 PM on July 20, 2005

When I was young I had a very strong desire to create such an identifiable signature. I don't know what I was inspired most by, logos that make use of extravagant cursive (Disney, etc) or my lazy attitude towards penmanship.

Either way, I came up with this horribly convoluted mess of chicken-scratch. It was so messed up as to be entirely illegible, so I paired it down to the initials (which were the most dramatic forms in the first place) and that worked out.

I'd say if you want to reinvent your own it's like anything else, grab a blank peice of paper and fill it up untill you find something attractive. Analyze that, filter it down and repeat untill you get something that's physically comfortable to write (in terms of the strokes and their repeatibility) as well as being visually satisfying to you.
posted by prostyle at 1:31 PM on July 20, 2005

Mine was born from the pressure I felt whenever someone is watching me sign my name. I can trace the feeling back to my first bank account -- signing the passbook in front of the teller was oddly stressful, so my current sig has evolved from a desire to get it over with as quickly as possible. Totally illegible.
posted by o2b at 1:40 PM on July 20, 2005

I developed mine from schoolwork. We had to write our names at the tops of so many papers every day that it eventually became something separate from just writing -- a small artistic event before the dullness of what would follow below.

Also I used to draw comic books when I was in school and, of course, you always have to sign the cover, and make it look good!
posted by ducksauce at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2005

I developed my signature when I got my first passport in high school. I figured that I better pick something, and stick to it. It's gotten less legible since then, however. My wife's signature is like yours -- legible, plain cursive, with some variance between signings. She's tried making hers more "interesting," but nothing's really come of it.
posted by zsazsa at 1:46 PM on July 20, 2005

I abhor signing things, since I only ever need to do it when confronted with some sort of bureaucracy.
Hence, my signature is "designed" to get it over with as quickly as possible.
It basically consists of the first letter of my name "A" without the crossbar and a swoosh coming out of the bottom of the right leg of the "A".
My last name got dropped from my signature ages ago.
posted by madajb at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2005

My dad has always had an indecipherable but very unique signature. It was impossible to forge as a kid. I designed mine at the age of 12, consciously to be similar but different to his, and include some of the same elements; defined curves and verticals as well as a cross back across the entire signature. Mine is a lot more angular than his, though -- his is made up mostly of loops and curves, mine is made up of hard shapes with 45 and 90 degree angles. Initially, I tried to integrate every letter, but these days the only recognizeable letters are the first and last letters of my first name, my middle initial, and the first letter of my last name. My mom and sister both have a very traditional and readable signature; my dad and I do not.
posted by SpecialK at 1:51 PM on July 20, 2005

I recently changed mine as it was taking too long in banks. I just got a sheet of paper and tried out a few ideas to see what would work out quickest. My last signature grew from just writing out my name and trying to make it look fancy when I was younger - it became a signature of it's own accord. 20 years old though, so it definitely needed changing. I was sick of looking at it.
posted by fire&wings at 1:52 PM on July 20, 2005

I used to sign my name in easy to read cursive like you, but since I don't write in cursive that was a little cumbersome. I stuck with it until I had a job where I had to sign for dozens of things a day, and it just deteriorated from there until now it's basically a scribble. Interestingly the scribble is consistent, but certainly not legible. I get lots of comments on it.
posted by Who_Am_I at 1:52 PM on July 20, 2005

I thought my dad's signature was cool, so I decided in I think 5th grade to develop my own. It got very abstract very fast -- looks like it says "Ad-188" -- but it's been pretty consistent over the years.
posted by me3dia at 1:55 PM on July 20, 2005

I love my signature. It's kind of like my dad's, which is kind of like his dad's.
posted by fourstar at 2:03 PM on July 20, 2005

After a tour of duty as platoon clerk in the army, signing forms in triplicate all day long, my signature had devolved into nothing more than a scribble. But it's always the same scribble. If you look hard enough you can see the first letter of my first name ("R") followed by a bunch of seemingly random loops and then ending with the last letter of my last name ("s"). If you saw it by itself written on a piece of paper you would probably dismiss it as someone trying to get the ink flowing in their ballpoint pen.
posted by Lokheed at 2:03 PM on July 20, 2005

Write your name several times as quickly as possible. Do it fast! Now take a look -- a few letters will be legible, a few will be illegible, and a few more will have developed into a "shorthand," a sort of half-resemblance that is uniquely your own.

Now practice writing your signature emphasizing those shorthand characters. Let the illegible parts become graceful scribbles. Consider allowing distinctive characters, even those in the middle of your name, to be taller or swoop higher than the other letters. If you don't like the way a character looks in its traditional cursive form, try versions of it's keyboard form instead.

Just keep experimenting -- but whatever you come up with, make sure you can sign it fast. No point in creating more tedium.
posted by junkbox at 2:05 PM on July 20, 2005

I stole the capital "H" from the Hilton logo for the first letter of my last name (I thought the two curves looked cool). That was back in grade school, when I used a lowercase "t" for my first name, 'cause it was easier than a regular capital "T". Then in college, one of my professors passed an attendance roll around and one of the students before me signed his name (which began with a T) with a single curve, sort of like the curve of a bass clef. Been doing it that way ever since.

I say just look around, be inspired, and fiddle.
posted by NewGear at 2:05 PM on July 20, 2005

I consciously write every letter, but don't worry if some of them are illegible. For instance, I write my first name as "Paul", but it usually appears "Pal" (with a bit of a horizontal line between the a and l) because I don't fuss too much about making the points of the u legible. Also, my last name breaks at each i because I stop to dot it before moving on to the rest of the name.
posted by Doohickie at 2:15 PM on July 20, 2005

mine is my name, written in my handwriting. it didn't take that much development, obviously.

it seems to shock some people, but express regret at having chosen some mess when they were a teenager because it looked cool, and then having to live with it forever.

much like user names on mefi.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:16 PM on July 20, 2005

When I was a senior in high school, I was the president of the Math Honor Society (Mu Alpha Theta, for those dorks out there). My primary responsibility was to sign every member's membership card... and there were about a hundred cards. Over the course of about an hour, my signature developed from completely legible cursive to something close to what it is today - K-squigglesquiggle R-squigglesquiggle.

Interestingly enough, my last name looks remarkably like my father's signature. Almost solely for this reason, I'll probably hyphenate when I get married, so I don't lose my old last name.
posted by salad spork at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2005

I stopped writing cursive in young adulthood and developed my own form of stylized printing where the letters can run into each other if necessary but are basically legible except for a couple of weird things (the i's have no dots, and the g is kind of funny). When I wrote my name in that style of printing, as I wrote it more and more repeatedly and faster, it developed into my signature, which slants forward a lot more than the printing. As I continued to grow older and really tired of signing my 8-letter first name and 7-letter last name, it developed into big-K-squiggle big E something-like-a-B-squiggle. When I was a kid I used to make fun of my dad's signature for reading "Mblablammmm C Bmnmnmnmn" but now mine is "Kblablammmm E Bmnmnmn" so who's laughing now. Strangely enough, my father also uses a stylized form of printing instead of cursive.
posted by matildaben at 2:28 PM on July 20, 2005

I'll be interested in seeing if anyone has a more shameful origin than mine. When I was around 12 or 13 in the early 80s I saw something Richard Nixon had initialled and was taken with how the final swoop of the N circled the whole mess. I spent no small amount of time experimenting with my initials to try to accomplish something similar and my signature changed to accomidate the over-the-top first letters of my name.

Nixon. Sheesh. When do we get to the age where we don't want to go back in time and smack ourselves?
posted by phearlez at 2:38 PM on July 20, 2005

I got a job that required me signing my name many times a day. Writers cramp convinced me that there are too many letters in my name (7 letters in each). I did like several other people describe. I took (lots of) paper and kind of doodled until I came up with something that I like the look of and that only takes a few swoops of the pen to write.

Just a thought - if you decide to change your signature, you might like to contact your bank and find out how to update their records. I had a pain in the ass experience with my bank, maybe you can save yourself the same annoyance.

When I was making a withdrawl at a human teller - which I rarely do - they checked my signature against the signature they had on record, and they didn't match. I was actually pleased to know that they're that careful.

I pointed out that I opened my account with them when I was eight years old, so it should hardly be surprising that my signature had changed. She checked the dates and it turned out I was right. Then I showed her my photo drivers with the new signature on it, and she was satisfied that I owned the account. She even got me to sign a new signature card so they would have the updated info. But I guess she missed a step, because I next time I went to bank in person, I got the same reaction. It turns out they have scanned in copies of their customer's signature cards, and my card on their computers hadn't been updated like the old fashioned paper one had. It took three or four visits to the bank before someone got this new copy scanned in.

You might have better luck if you find out ahead of time what you need to do to update their records.
posted by raedyn at 2:42 PM on July 20, 2005

salad spork: Math dorks unite!

Anyway, my signature, right now at 20, is tall, skinny, messy cursive. Chr(scribblescribble) *pause to cross the t (lost in the scribbles) in a big loopy way* bigloopyDi(scribblescribble)ll

It looks like a combination of my parents' signatures... my mom's is really neat and orderly (and where D comes from) and my dad's is a mess that looks like it starts with a Q (the first letter is F).
posted by strikhedonia at 2:44 PM on July 20, 2005

My signature is in print, because I never learned to write in cursive, and extremely easy to read. Years of making a living deciphering nearly illegible pharmacy prescriptions will do that to you.
posted by makonan at 2:48 PM on July 20, 2005

My first name is legible. This is followed, usually, by my middle initial. And my last name has a K followed by a few squiggles and loops, a dot roughly where an 'i" would be, and nothing even remotely resembling a "d."
posted by kindall at 2:52 PM on July 20, 2005

My signature doesn't reflect me at all. Looks pretty much the same as it did when I first learned to write cursive in elementary school. Given that I've changed quite a lot since then, it tends to look very out of place when I sign things. I've taken to signing artwork and stuff like that with a printed signature, which is much nicer-looking, very spare and simple and elegant, lots of straight lines and big capitals, but as my driver's license, bank cards, etc. all have the cursive signature, I'm still stuck using that one, as clerks do occasionally bother to compare them. I guess I've just been too lazy to go through of hassle of dealing with suspicious clerks and stuff to sit down and switch over completely to the more pleasing print-signature, but every time I sign my name I feel a bit embarassed. Someday I suppose I'll change it.
posted by ubersturm at 3:04 PM on July 20, 2005

My signature is not only mostly illegible, but also doesn't originate from my real name. It has two interesting aspects: The first letter, T, is drawn as single swoosh much like a large backwards C. This originates from the Apple IIGS demo scene, and the typographic innovation of the T with no top-right element. The second interesting aspect is that first and last "names" are one vertically above the other (with a slight offset).

My father's signature is largely composed of 10 consecutive loops representing the last few letters of his name. He's had a couple of checks returned because they had the wrong number of loops.
posted by trevyn at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2005

In high school, I spent awhile consciously developing a pretty-looking signature (like my mom's). Then, as I had to sign more and more things quickly, I discovered that my last name is really hard to sign nicely and quickly in cursive (there's an 'm' in it, and I always stutter over it and draw to many loops), so now my signature is my initials with a scribble signifying the approximate length (and character representation - little bumps for small letters, big bumps for tall letters) of my first and last name.
posted by muddgirl at 3:23 PM on July 20, 2005

My signature is like my handwriting, and my handwriting is a bit like my mother's handwriting: it changed very slightly when I started using fountain pens. Pretty much the same as andrew cooke -- so I'm now curious to know whether there's a national (or age-related) divide here, since my American wife uses the 'old-person with arthritis' cursive style and has an illegible squiggle as her signature.
posted by holgate at 3:33 PM on July 20, 2005

The first three letters of my first name and first initial of my last name are legible, the rest lookes like scribble. It initially started out as curisve, but has grown into its own thing. I intentially added a now rather dorky-lookng flourish to the end when I was 14 or 15 because I thought it looked cool, and now I can't change it.

On another note, I do slightly vary my signature whenever I sign one of those computer-capture signature pads, because I'm paranoid like that.
posted by falconred at 3:33 PM on July 20, 2005

In college, two friends and myself were flipping through magazines in our dorm's study room... when we suddenly found a couple pages completely covered by hundreds of signatures from a mutual friend. She always took absurd pride in her distinctive signature, so we had a lot of fun teasing her mercilessly about practicing it so many times.
posted by web-goddess at 3:34 PM on July 20, 2005

I practiced my signature when I was about 10, and haven't changed it since. It's probably the laziest signature you'll never see. My first initial writ large followed by a bumpy line and then my second initial writ large followed by a slightly more bumpy line. I guess it represents me accurately. I'm a good starter, but tend to be too lazy to carry things through.
posted by seanyboy at 4:00 PM on July 20, 2005

My signature is both barely legible (if at all) and inadvertently avant-garde. :)

When I was a kid (can't remember the age) I got my first 'kids' saving account' here in Holland (not sure what the equivalent in your country would be). I had to 'think up' a signature for that, and it (without apparent reason) became a filled-in circle followed by a wavy line, not unlike, according to some older people around me, a sperm cell. :)

As I certainly wanted to get rid of *that* image, the circle thingy soon got replaced by a sort-of-swirl, read by many people as "Ce" in cursive, and I wanted to get at least *some* of my name in it, so right after that I wrote 'paul' in cursive (my first name), and for some reason also lost to age and time I finished it off with a quick cross (I imagine I thought it to be cool at the time, who knows).

Bar perhaps some stylistic handwriting evolution it remains unchanged, so to this very day, people see my signature and read it out loud "'Cepaux'? Who the hell is Cepaux?", and I get to tell this store time and again. True story.

As far as I know, by the way, it's legal, or at least, no-one has ever complained. :) I remember a case a while ago here in the Netherlands where this guy (an illustrator or cartoonist I guess) signed everything with one of his trademark cartoon faces - people *did* complain, and it caused quite a stir. Can't remember the outcome.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:07 PM on July 20, 2005

I'm assuming this is related to personality as well, but I definitely see my parent's influence in my signature. When I take the time to sign my name neatly, my script is similar to my mom's, though not as similar as my mom's to my sister's. I had always noticed that my dad scribbled the last two thirds of our last name when I was younger...and after struggling to write my last name quickly without screwing it up, I took on the scribble as well. I like to think of it as being more like my dad than my mom in terms of personality traits, but who knows.

and fourstar has a very classy signature.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 4:10 PM on July 20, 2005

I've never liked my legal first name much (I go by a nickname), and also it's long, so at some point I decided to just use a big J instead of the whole thing. At the time (junior high?) my parents said no one would accept just the initial in a legal signature, but I've never had a problem with it.

My last name is also pretty long, so I start off writing it out but get tired partway through so it ends up as J. Bergs(quiggle).
posted by exceptinsects at 4:11 PM on July 20, 2005

Mine is first initial followed by last name in pretty readable cursive. I share an initial with my mother (J) and our signatures are *identical* except that my J has a pointy top and hers has a rounded top. I joke that I could quite easily nab her credit card and take it on a spree. My dad's is similar too - first initial, last name, readable.

My boyfriend has two - a long one for cheques and bank stuff etc (again, initial-lastname), and a shorthand one for work (looks like an @). He's had the same trouble as raedyn at the bank when he's used the @ by accident.
posted by corvine at 4:32 PM on July 20, 2005

For official stuff, my signature has pretty much stayed the similar with initial of first name and then surname. They started off as two separate entities but over the years and lots of scrawling signature later it now flows into one with lots of curves that can be knocked off as quickly as possible. When signing lots and lots of letters at work, I tend to vary it because I get bored very easily.

When signing cards etc for close friends and family who call me JoJo, I always sign it Jojo and make the o's into eyes, add a couple of lashes and a big smile under the 2nd j that makes do for a nose!
posted by floanna at 4:36 PM on July 20, 2005

Printed first initial, printed last initial, pointy scribble, no pen-lifting involved. I don't think it reflects my personality, unless an inability to write in cursive is a personality trait.
posted by box at 4:45 PM on July 20, 2005

I used to write out my entire first and last names in cursive, but since my last name is 10 letters long, it was cumbersome to say the least. It now consists of the first 3 letters of my first name and the first 3 letters of my last name followed by a stylized underscore with some dots above it where the 'i's would be if I bothered to write it out. It's not pretty, but it works.
posted by pmbuko at 4:52 PM on July 20, 2005

Oh, and about reflecting my personality? Parts of it, probably. Other parts, no way. I am a strange mixture of anal and relaxed.
posted by pmbuko at 4:54 PM on July 20, 2005

I had a friend whose usenet signature was a pair of parametric equations that traced out (a polynomial fit to) his handwritten signature.

Me, I worked for a while in a place where I saw lots of folks' signature and I swiped some of the features I liked best and cobbled them into my present lopsided mess. It's the only thing I can write in cursive without thinking through it first.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:08 PM on July 20, 2005

Some ideas.
posted by trevyn at 5:18 PM on July 20, 2005

My signature is my two initials overlapping each other. You won't believe how many people have told me "that is not a signature". I want to club their heads together. My signature looks very unique, in contrast to most scribbles.

On the topic, I know a guy whose signature looks like a very large and ornate Chinese symbol. He's a regular guy with a pretty boring name, but his signature is literally a criss cross of about thirty straight lines. Insanity.

And also.. why do they make the signature strips on cards wayyyy too small? :)
posted by wackybrit at 5:39 PM on July 20, 2005

I changed my signature when I changed countries. It's much much simpler now and perhaps better reflects my personality. Before the move I, like some others in this thread, was still signing my name with my grade school signature.

Fourstar: nice signature!
posted by sic at 6:02 PM on July 20, 2005

I just practiced my signature so I could describe it right now.

My signature is a slightly more grown-up version of the signature I began using around 6th grade. It doesn't slant to the left now (I don't know why I did that - I'm right-handed). It's never exactly the same, but it's consistent enough that signature-checkers don't complain.

I usually use my first initial, last name, because I think it looks nice. Then, when I hyphenated after getting married last year, it just became easier since most signature lines are small and my name is now 21 characters (including the hyphen), and I tend to write big.

If I write too fast, I sometimes forget the occasional letter and have to go back. I also have an informal signature that is just lower case printing of my first name with an exclamation mark at the end. I use the exclamation mark wherever I dare, just to keep things interesting.
posted by melissa at 6:28 PM on July 20, 2005

I originally decided what my signature would be after watching my dad sign. When? I don't know. Maybe early teens. His was a very elegant and quite a bit involved signature, I might say.

After I came to the US I pondered for a while the question: should I sign in greek or in english? Theoretically, one is not obliged to sign in a certain language; perhaps even better to do so using foreign alphabet... But I felt silly writing mus and omegas and accents... So my signature ended up being visually similar but in english.

When I go back home, I revert to my greek signature... If credit card companies really compare signatures (as they claim) they would be surprised...
posted by carmina at 8:37 PM on July 20, 2005

Yet another: used to write first+last in neat cursive, when I grew up and got a job, a driver's license, a checking account, etc etc, it devolved into a sort of sideways Nike swoosh (first part of a cursive K), followed by a low squiggle. No last initial, no break for a separate last name. Oddly enough, the other day I somehow lost track of what I was doing, and my squiggle stopped about halfway done. I think I panicked then, because I crapped out a poor excuse for my last initial, followed by another squiggle. Weird.

I was surprised to see a couple of mentions of bank tellers and such even checking a signature, much less making an issue of it. I very rarely even have anyone look at the back of my debit card anymore - even when I have to hand it to the clerk to swipe. I was going to link to the credit card prank, trevyn beat me to it - I think I could probably put just about anything on most signature lines and have no problems.
posted by attercoppe at 8:47 PM on July 20, 2005

Mine started out as handwritten initials + surname, but quickly evolved into a streamlined variant of the same, built for speed rather than readability, during a summer job I had when I was nineteen, where I sometimes had to sign my name a hundred times a day.
posted by misteraitch at 12:28 AM on July 21, 2005

My mum just writes her name legibly. My dad scribbles, and his initials are the same as mine. I am very like my dad. My signature is very similar to his.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:08 AM on July 21, 2005

Just a scrawl. In fact, if I think about it too much when writing it, I can't even spell my name right. So first initial, and what appears to be a scrawled rest of my first name, then middle initial, a "T", with the top becoming a line that ends with a loop that I guess is the "Y" at the end of my last name.

It might be called an interesting character signature until you see any other sample of my writing. A complete embarrassment. Thank god I can type.
posted by cptnrandy at 6:07 AM on July 21, 2005

I use my first two initials and then my last name. I do pretty much spell the whole thing out, but I've bastardized my cursive so that there's no "go up over the a, the come back down and make a loop" business -- g's for example are most like figure 8's. I spent a long time developing a signature that was legible and flowed easily with my maiden name, and spent an equal amount of time "fixing" my married name signature. I sometimes eliminate the small letters and replace with loopy squiggles, but all the big letters are the same. Most people never sign anything but the beginning and the end of their signatures the same, anyway.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:17 AM on July 21, 2005

When I was young, the cereal Rice Krispies had a promotion where you sent in your name, a UPC symbol, and shipping & handling money, and they sent you back your "autograph."

I still use my Rice Krispies autograph, and that does, in fact, reflect my personality.
posted by xo at 9:42 AM on July 21, 2005

My name is long (7, 11), so signing things has always been a hassle. My signature has evolved such that the first letter of each name is large and identifiable, the rest of the letters are scribbles, nearly repeatable, with exaggerated ascenders and descenders.

No short burst of effort, as many people here seem to be suggesting, just a conciousness of maintaining uniqueness and repeatability over many years of signing things infrequently.
posted by ThePants at 9:44 AM on July 21, 2005

My signature evolved form a desire to overlay my letters of my first name (MAX). It started as an oversize M with a crossbar through the left midline and a forward slash through the right outboard downstroke. Eventually, the peaks of my M crossed, it began to look more and more like a star, so that is what I use for my middle name. It is fast and easily recognizable as my own.
posted by daddymax at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2005

My signature changed in my early 20s when I had to start signing more stuff. It was my full name written out in cursive and legible. It's now a big D and then my last name (adjusted from maiden to married when I got married). It's still fairly legible. It also slants to the left which is, supposedly, indicitive of being shy when you're right handed. I'm right handed and I'm shy, go figure.
posted by deborah at 12:23 PM on July 21, 2005

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