Architects and their signatures

Bob Borson —  August 22, 2011 — 46 Comments

What does your signature say about you? The way you leave your name behind on a piece a paper  tells more about you than just saying “sorry I hit your car but I don’t have insurance“. It should come as no surprise but I don’t subscribe to mystical thinking like being an Aries and that my horoscope tells me to “prepare for an exciting trip” … yeah, right. Getting pushed down the stairs should hardly qualify as an exciting trip. According to those people in the mystical know – how you sign your signature actually does mean something and does provide some insight into the mind behind the name.

Your first name relates to your individual ego - If your first name is larger than your family name, it suggests that you are proud of YOUR OWN accomplishments. However, the larger the first name, the larger the desire to APPEAR important. This can also indicate a low self-esteem.

The Family name projects social status - If your family name is larger than your first name, you take great pride in family achievements and reputation, rather than in your own accomplishments.

Legible signature – If the signature is legible and simple, the writer is unpretentious, honest and straightforward. This person will follow the rules and do as they are told… just the same as when they were in school.

Illegible Signature  - If the signature is illegible, the writer may be in such a hurry that they can’t take the time to shape the letters properly… doctors, executives, movie stars. An illegible signature is often a sign of a big ego… someone who expects others to KNOW who they are. This person also wants to keep their personal lives private and shielded from the outside world.

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the signature of architect Le Corbusier

Looking at the signature of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better know as Le Corbusier, it’s obvious that the beginning stroke of the “L” stands for pilotis and that the sweeping broad stroke of the “C” clearly stands for roof top garden – the 1st and 5th point in his Five Points of Architecture made famous in the book “Vers une Architecture“. The clearly defined first “r” indicates a love for stainless steel, while the casual, almost sloppy final “r” is a nod towards his famous quote: “Chairs are architecture, sofas are bourgeois.”

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the signature of architect Mies van der Rohe

To anyone paying attention, the over-sized “R” in the signature of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe indicates obvious pride in family accomplishments. The vertical strokes that are loosely tied together indicate the same skin and bones approach he took towards his architecture. The lengthy lead in stroke to the “M” is an indication of his loathing for the Nazi’s who thought his work was not “German enough”, something that eventually lead to frustration over evaporating commissions and brought him to the states.

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the signature of architect Tadao Ando

The signature of Tadao Ando tells us that “I am a superstar and only need to go by one name …. like Cher”. The separation of the last letter in the signature, the ’O‘, and it’s exaggerated proportions and separation from the ‘And‘, is a pop cultural reference to the American Classic song “… and Bing-O was his name-O” while the upwardly sloping tilt of the signature tells us that Tadao Ando had humble origins but expects to have his name in polished chrome and lights. The dot over the “n”, since there isn’t a letter there that needs a dot, tells us that “I can knot reelly spell all that wel”… Then again, he doesn’t need to, does he?

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the signature of architect Renzo Piano

This is the signature of Renzo Piano – not that you would ever be able to tell. Clearly the signature of an international superstar, acknowledged as the recipient of the Knight Grand Cross, Pritzker Architecture Prize, AIA Gold Medal, Kyoto Prize and the Sonning Prize. He has more important things to do than sign his name (except on the back of the checks he is depositing into his bank account). What you may not know is that the two dots at the end of his signature are a homage to Egyptian hieroglyphics, specifically “Apophis” the Snake God and the God of Chaos – an ironic nod towards the buildings he creates which are notable for their clarity and serenity.

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the signature of architect Oscar Niemeyer

The extremely legible signature of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, famous for pioneering the formal possibilities of reinforced concrete, show that he is a man among the common man despite the vertically rising tilt of his signature. The loop at the bottom of the capital “O” in Oscar, the hook present in the “N” in Niemeyer, but the lack of any embellishment in the “y“ show that he is a man of detail, prone to folly at times. Also, looking at the final “r” you know that he believes that “… sofas are not bourgeois, but are – in fact – very comfortable and good for afternoon siestas.” I would have to agree with him on that.

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the signature of architect Richard Meier

What can you say about the signature of Richard Meier? Completely illegible (does it say “Texas” at the end??) which is a clear indication of assumed stardom and self-importance … but the squiggly line embellishment at the bottom (closely resembling a sad clown smile) is an attempt after the fact of a strong desire for our love and acceptance. Meier has built a career based on the theories of others – particularly Le Corbusier – and the casual self-importance and self-loathing present in the beginning, middle and end of this signature speak volumes … and a love of the color white.

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the signature of architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Big first name is an indication of ego and everyone knows Frank Lloyd Wright had a big ego. The squished together”Lloyd Wright” show that there were no family accomplishments of note that were of any importance to Frank and that this was his show and everything was about him (just ask any of his clients…)

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Bob's fake signature

Looking at this signature, you can tell it is the signature of an unknown and unproven architect, loved by maybe 4 people, 1 dog and 1 aged cat (yes, you can tell all from the signature if you know what to look for). The symmetry of scale comparing the first name to the last are an indication of extreme loyalty. The marching “R” at the beginning tells you that this person knows how to enter a room … but the lengthy concluding stroke tells you that he doesn’t know how or when to leave it. The boldness of the strokes indicate the appearance of confidence, but the combination of cursive versus block print tell you that this person hasn’t figured out who they are yet. What you are left with after studying this signature as a whole is that this person likes to party …. as long as there aren’t too many people present.

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What does your signature tell you about yourself, or more importantly, what does it tell others?

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  • Brandon Tyler Carr

    to those who know me, my signiture is more illegible, slanted up (first name), and a little bit bold, while my last name is slightly curved down, under the last letters of the first name, and not as bold…my middle name on the same level, almost same upwards slant, as the first…whats this say about me? :)

  • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

    I wonder if your signature indicates your ability to spot made up and sarcastic articles …

  • cjysocean

    Catholic school teachers would only approve of Oscar Niemeyer’s hand writing. :(

  • http://twitter.com/Lisa_S_47 LisaS

    my signature says it … I am destined to be a starchitect. one of the fortunate things about this profession is that we are still “young” architects into our 60s ….

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  • Carrotop_1133

    But if the scribble of a doctor is consistent every time they sign it, doesn’t that count?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U5Q5BLUWI5WSELWS3FU7P4WC3M Joseph

    im an artist and i use three different signatures, one of them my initials stylized for if i need to keep it from detracting from the piece and then i sign both legibly or non-legibly depending on circumstance. i also tend to have an inconsistent signature. i know some people use a single signature but i like to change it up.

    • http://twitter.com/krititrivedi Kriti

      Dear Joseph 
      Our signatures tells about us as a person and our choices , Since you said you like to change it up so does you bring in changes in your personality.You may like to go back and see you will find a trend in areas where you sign legibly and illagebily and thats where what bob is trying to say

  • Fernando Gomulya

    Could you help me to analyze my Signature ? hehe… because my signature is always sign on my photoworks (paper print) with so many Indonesian Architects …

  • Fernando Gomulya

    Could you help me to analyze my Signature ? hehe… because my signature is always sign on my photoworks (paper print) with so many Indonesian Architects …

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  • epark

    actually the dot in Ando could be a “security measure” common in many asian people’s english signature. for example, my aunt signs her last name “Park” (korean) with a random dot at the end. sometimes people make it look like an accidental mark, so when counterfeiters try to re-sign, they will hopefully dismiss the mark as something not intended, allowing the original person to know whether it is theirs or not.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      If that’s true – and I have no reason to believe that it isn’t – that is really interesting to learn. Thanks for the awesome comment!

      • http://twitter.com/krititrivedi Kriti

        Also if the dot is more forceful then it conveys the determination and “Thats it”/ “As i said it”/ “My word” feeling associated with it

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  • john humphries.

    alas, you did not analyze the Malone signature shown above.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      The Malone signature has 7 loops – I am quite familiar with it (and seeing Renzo’s signature made me think of the same thing)

      Funny

  • Francis Kelley

    Um, may I say your analysis of the signatures is sophmoric and ignorant crap?

  • Francis Kelley

    Um, may I say your analysis of the signatures is sophmoric and ignorant crap?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      you may

  • charles

    What you didnt mention is that Renzo’s signature is almost always found in a green felt pen as thats his favorite colored pen.  All of the books he’s signed for me is this way along with the RPBW christmas card.

  • charles

    What you didnt mention is that Renzo’s signature is almost always found in a green felt pen as thats his favorite colored pen.  All of the books he’s signed for me is this way along with the RPBW christmas card.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I didn’t know that … very nice

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I didn’t know that … very nice

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  • http://twitter.com/threefourteen Jason Wagner

    I’m with Nick.  Initial first name.  Also making it illegible but I have a very pronounced J, W, G and tail on the R. Everything else is squiggle.  I also agree with you after signing multiple drawings in a row I start to second guess myself on my signature and it gets worse and worse (even with the bad handwriting to begin with).  I also try to find the pen with the least ink- don’t ask me how -its a special talent.

  • http://twitter.com/cupboards Nick @ Cupboards

    One of my favorites, Bob… I’ve been told my signature resembles Bill Clinton(which I can replicate almost scarily well). I rarely sign my first name, just initial and last name. I think it shows that I’m ultra-cool. 

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I think you may be right – but maybe you can add a dot or dash somewhere for folly

  • Anonymous

    Awesome lunchtime reading.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome lunchtime reading.

  • Anonymous

    I have two signatures. A legible one where I want to person to know who signed it and an illegible one neatly configured to obliterate by name and registration number on my seal.

    Doug

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I have one that starts off looking sweet but after I’ve signed my name on 50 drawings becomes a horrific facsimile of the original. I think I’ll take your cue and do it on purpose from the onset.Cheers

  • shtrum

    this is representative of someone who likes to look at paper 3-dimensionally, bottom-up and rhombus-style

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      it’s quite compact – what do you suppose that could mean?

    • http://twitter.com/threefourteen Jason Wagner

      Is this an A sharp or B flat?  I tried playing both and neither worked.  Maybe it’s a chord of notes, but I wouldn’t know that since I don’t read sheet music.  

  • http://twitter.com/Alexandrafunfit Alexandra Williams

    And Bob-O was his name-O. Maybe you should change your name to MMMMMBop! I think the R at the start of that final signature isn’t so much a “marching” R as a “Stretching and I’m stuck on the bar” R. It shows a certain level of flexibility, yet a lack of spatial awareness, as the stretching bar is waaaaay over at the end of the signature.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      like the stance that starts off regular but one foot is sliding inch by inch until suddenly you’ve got a problem (and a painful one at that!)

  • http://mjvala.tumblr.com Mike Vala

    I’m pretty sure mine says “I forgot how to write in cursive” so I’ve gone back to the scribbly lines that little kids use when imitating cursive…

    • Whiteyboy

      sounds like an answer from such simple minded , living in a box type of person. mike

  • http://www.coffeewithanarchitect.com Jody Brown

    You’re overlooking that “Le Corbusier” is a made up name. I think it means “her underwear”
    And Van der Rohe industries manufactures Industrial cleansers (I’m pretty sure about that)

    And, my signature says “please, love me”

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Yes – the mysterious distant ancestor “Lecorbésier”

      your signature as well as Richard Meier’s…

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Yes – the mysterious distant ancestor “Lecorbésier”

      your signature as well as Richard Meier’s…

  • R_moore

    Mine says I forgot most of my name.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      or maybe “very expeditious” 

      I kept thinking if my signature was illegible, people can’t collect from the credit card statement …. but that’s not working.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      or maybe “very expeditious” 

      I kept thinking if my signature was illegible, people can’t collect from the credit card statement …. but that’s not working.