Designing a signature for the dollar bill

This is a job I wish they'd give me, but since it is unlikely, I posted my ideas on my blog. "The Treasury Secretary and the Calligrapher: "Dear Jack, I can help you sign that dollar....."
And you can see an excerpt at my typophile blog.

JamesM's picture

I wonder if that's his real, everyday signature, or if he just didn't want to make his real signature public due to worries about identity theft?

spark's picture

Ha! Great point.

John Hudson's picture

Thanks for posting this, Iskra. I enjoyed your alternative JL signatures very much. The Hancock is spectacular.

I am, as ever, bemused by the graphologist commentary on Lew's signature. After all these years, the total failure of graphological analysis in any controlled testing still has not managed to sink that ship.

JamesM's picture

Forgot to say that I liked your alternate signatures, Iskra!

spark's picture

Thanks James. (And John).Great fun to do something alive, no retouching, just wild ink

Nick Shinn's picture

That’s the man’s signature.
It is no more easy to fake than 99% of signatures.

spark's picture

Nick, did you look at the post? It's a story told through handwriting.

Nick Shinn's picture

Yes, it’s brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but rather presumptuous!

I’m afraid I must disagree with the premise that, “…he may need training if he wants a signature that will stand the test of time and popular opinion.”

That’s irrelevant. One’s signature is one’s signature, and the only thing that really matters when it’s put on official documents is authenticity; therefore, the key issue is whether it can be easily forged.

I suspect that popular opinion may be against his signature because people believe, mistakenly, that it is not sufficiently signature-ish, in the sense of being authentic—they think “it’s just loops, anyone could do that” —like the argument against modern art, “my kid could do that”. However, I don’t believe that anybody could do it, at least not to the same standard, applied to “normal” signatures, that would deceive an expert who can identify a personal style. (Nothing to do with graphology.) Even if he doesn’t always execute it with the same number of loops, the style is unique, le style, c’est l’homme.

Alternatively, does the signature indicate a lack of gravitas? Will he be like Zuckerberg, coming to work in his pajamas? John already answered that—graphology is a pseudo-science.

Furthermore, altering one’s signature to curry popular favor is dissembling, not a desirable quality in a public figure.


daverowland's picture

I never did master my signature. It looks different every time, and I can't even write it that fast. Reproducibility and speed seem to me the most important elements of a signature. Seems to me Jack has already got it nailed.

JamesM's picture

My signature is often illegible, but it contains the actual letters in my name, just written quickly. The loops that Jack Lew uses seem totally abstract; the equivalent of signing with a distinctive "X".

I still think it's conceivable (although probably unlikely) that he invented an abstract "public" signature, to avoid using his real signature on public documents. I was a victim of identity theft last year when someone opened bank accounts in my name and ran up thousands in debts. Somehow the crook knew my social security number, etc. Fortunately I was able to prove it wasn't me, but it was a real nightmare for a while.

Nick Shinn's picture

The loops that Jack Lew uses seem totally abstract; the equivalent of signing with a distinctive "X".

I’m not so sure.
One would have to test a variety of writers and assessors to determine whether it’s easy to detect forgeries of this signature.

oldnick's picture

One would have to test a variety of writers and assessors to determine whether it’s easy to detect forgeries of this signature.

Oh: you mean graphologists? Gotcha…

Nick Shinn's picture

Forensic typographers and lay persons, actually.

timd's picture

the key issue is whether it can be easily forged

But it isn’t, you do not have to produce a good forgery to get people to believe it in the first instance, even the victim, as long as it is confidently (and speedily) written.


Nick Shinn's picture

Well yes, any attempt at a forgery is a forgery, irrespective of the skill with which it’s done!

By easy, I meant one that doesn’t take a lot of skill to convince people that it’s authentic, in other words one that confounds close inspection by discriminating eyes.

So it doesn’t make sense to say that a bad forgery can convince people, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating, therefore a bad forgery that convinces people is a good forgery!

What you are saying is that a speedily and confidently written forgery can convince, even if a close study would reveal that it is by a different hand.

There appear to be two levels of discrimination:

1. Whether the reader is taken in by a quick glance
2. Whether the reader is capable of distinguishing authenticity by closer inspection

Certainly, any old signature, confidently rendered, will fool many readers (1), but what interests me is whether loopy Lew’s signature can be easily forged (both by skilled and unskilled writers) to deceive a close inspection by discriminating eyes (2)—forensic typographers, in fact!

JamesM's picture

My guess is that someone trying to forge his loopy signature would have the same classic problems that any forger encounters (uneven speed and pressure, pen lifts, hesitation, etc). Might be easy to fool the average person but probably not the expert.

(I'm assuming that his loopy signature is consistent over time, and not just a random series of loops that is written differently each time.)

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