No one is indifferent about President Trump. Even his signature—his electrocardiographic style of spikes and valleys; his oversized model of penmanship, with its three vowels and eight consonants—his trisyllabic name alone puts John Hancock’s John Hancock to shame.
Credit Trump with turning his signature into free advertising.
Credit him, too, with using his signature as his all-purpose logo: inking bills and issuing executive orders—transforming signing statements into statements unto themselves—in which the wording is hard to see while his signature is impossible not to see; as it neither gets smaller nor slimmer with age; as it is the visibility Trump wants, in spite of the words above his name, be it an open letter to the citizens of New York City or a warning to people seeking citizenship in any city in America.
Name another politician as prolific, whose signature is as pronounced.
Trump’s signature precedes his presidency and predates his earliest success in his former career. The presidency enhances his status; it is not, however, the cause of his fame or the reason for his infamy among his strongest detractors.
My advice to politicians of both parties is to focus less on the rhetoric of campaigns, and practice the rhetorical gestures that win elections. Those gestures, which Trump uses to great effect, involve branding—literally branding—his name on every building he owns, every property he promotes, every book he authors but does not write, and every steak he has (or had) a stake in, pun intended.
If you doubt the power of a signature as a logo, answer this question: What was Hillary Clinton’s logo in her losing campaign against Barack Obama, or in her election loss to Donald Trump? What were the logos of Trump’s Republican rivals, minus “Jeb!” whose logo was as exclamatory as his candidacy was not, earning him the nickname “Low-Energy Jeb”?
A caveat: A signature is potent; it is not omnipotent; its bold strokes and bright letters are no substitute for the timid or shy; its shape is an act of braggadocio, not a monument of bravery.
Its form is nonetheless its function
—to do more in two seconds than any TV special can accomplish in an hour of paid programming. Function follows form, not the reverse, because the size of the signature—in addition to the significance of its sweeping style—must be too iconic to ignore and too difficult to forge.
As a designer, it goes against my material interests to say these things. But honesty “trumps” possible financial gains, as I will not gainsay the influence of a politician’s signature.
I will say—I do say—all people should try to maximize how they write and sign their names; because a signature is more than an endorsement of a contract; because it is a testament of hope and a pledge of allegiance, whose placement constitutes a compact; because the Constitution is the product of a convention among America’s most distinguished signatories; because voters remember what they see more than what they read; because the winner of an election has a pen mightier than the sharpest sword.