While some autographs are toned-down and modest, others can be more ostentatious. Signatures are central to a person’s identity because they are part of how we present ourselves to the outside world. Signature analysis experts evaluate each distinctive feature, down to the slants and angles, to determine different signatures’ meanings in relation to their creators.
The size of a signature is seen as reflective of a person’s self-esteem and awareness of how others perceive them. In theory, the bigger the signature, the more outgoing and affable a person presents to the public. Author Jack Kerouac often signed with just his first name in large letters, which could indicate a favorable view of his personal accomplishments.
- Large: generally associated with greater self-esteem, wants to be recognized, strong sense of self-confidence and mastery of craft
- Medium: balanced sense of self, modest, firm understanding of how you are perceived to the outside world
- Small: low self-esteem and confidence, doesn’t recognize worth, might be deliberately holding back
Much can be said about the slanting and angles of a person’s signature. Inclination correlates with a person’s expression of feelings and emotions. Inventor Orville Wright’s signature slants slightly upward near the end, suggesting a sense of optimism that is paralleled in the brilliance of inventions.
- Right slant: generally associated with one who takes initiative, is affectionate and more outgoing
- Left slant: less motivated, lacks self-esteem, finds it harder to assert themselves emotionally
- Straight: strong grasp on work-life balance
Many signatures are completely illegible, which reflects a desire to remain more mysterious and an inclination towards deflection. The style is not always used in a malevolent manner; rather, it’s possible that the notary is a less efficient communicator. Activist Susan B. Anthony’s signature is written clearly and definitively, suggesting an accomplished, approachable sense of self.
- Legible (name easily recognizable): generally associated with balanced, strong sense of duty, socially open and straightforward, assertive
- Semi-legible: impatient, anxious
- Illegible (completely unrecognizable): lack of self confidence, tendency toward avoidance
- First name more legible than surname: approachable and direct, friendly
- Surname more legible than first name: closed-off, reserved upon first contact, craves familiarity
The use of excess lines in autographs often reflects feelings of assertiveness and the appetite for recognition. English author J. R. R. Tolkien’s signature is underlined, suggesting a sense of self-importance, allowing his accomplishments to shine without explanation or commentary.
- No underline: generally associated with those who are unassuming, self-assured, doesn’t feel the need to make presence known
- One underline: wants existence to be recognized but not excessively, could mean lack of confidence in certain circumstances
- Multiple underlines: takes credit, makes presence well-known, yearning for importance and recognition
More elaborate signatures have different embellishments in the form of shapes, lines, and initials. In Albert Einstein’s signature, the famous physicist only uses his first initial “A” when signing to highlight his family name.
- Strike-throughs: generally associated with those who are self-critical
- Circles or loops: craves reassurance, overthinks most circumstances
- Dotting: makes presence known, not easily forgotten
- Use of initials: private person
Every influential creative has their own unique signature. We’ve gathered some of the most famous signatories from various art forms to determine their signatures’ meanings and how those qualities are reflected in their life and work.