How My 4th-grade Crush Redefined Andrew Yang’s Signature
This essay is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of a book I was writing about my time building Andrew Yang’s 2020 campaign from Zero to Movement. Read more here.
Have you ever noticed that presidents tend to have distinct, memorable, and well-penned signatures? During my first week on the campaign, I realized that Andrew Yang had either not taken note, or chosen not to follow their lead.
At the time, I was designing the campaign website, and I wanted to place his signature at the bottom of the biography section. I picked up a letter Yang had just signed to see what I was working with. I was horrified. Is that even a signature?
Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “You can’t seriously be signing things like this, are you?”
Yang stared at me blankly, picked up the letter, examined the squiggle closely, and shrugged. “Yeah, that’s my signature. I’ve never really thought too much about it. Why?”
“Oh, well, we have to create a new one,” I began, “you’re running for president of the United States. We must keep a tight image, and the signature is critical to that.”
I grabbed my laptop and pulled up a Reddit post containing former U.S. presidents’ signatures.
“Look, man,” I said, scrolling through the list of unanimously beautiful Hancocks, “this is what you’re up against.”
Yang watched thoughtfully, the gears of his mind turning. When I reached Obama’s most immaculate signature, with its curvy capital B and distinctive vertical slashed O, Yang jumped up from his seat, “All right! I’m in!”
I don’t know if it was due to my showmanship, or if Yang just wanted to put an end to my nagging, but either way — the signature workshop was on.
Yang and I took a seat on the floor. Shoeless and cross-legged, we scrawled out new iterations of his signature on the back of old envelopes.
The first few tries were disappointing — Yang kept unknowingly scribbling the same signature as before and asking me, “is it pretty?” in a childish voice.
Laughing and slightly unsure of how to provide constructive feedback, I responded, “Uh, not quite… try to form some letters … or something.”
The signature needed to meet a few criteria. First, it needed to be legible. Second, it needed to be simple enough for Yang to be able to write on the fly. Third, it needed to carry a distinctive feature that would make it memorable — like that undeniably cool vertical slash in Barack Obama’s autograph.
We had burned through our pile of envelopes and made little progress — but then I had my lightbulb moment.
“You know,” I spoke up, “When I was in the fourth grade, I sucked at cursive. But this girl I had a crush on taught me a trick that totally saved me during yearbook season.”
Yang looked up, intrigued, so I continued, “Her strategy was simple yet effective — sign the first and last initials of your name big and clear in regular print, then scribble the rest.”
Yang shrugged. “Worth a try, I guess.”
I grabbed another stack of envelopes for us to practice on. I gave it a try, crafting a neat capital A and capital Y, each followed by a scribble of unintelligible letters. Like a game show prize model, I presented it to him.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“Ooh! So fun! I like this!”
Yang tried it out himself while I watched over his shoulder, coaching him through the motions. “Yeah, so just make a really big ‘A’… yeah… ok… then scribble…. ok… big ‘Y’ now… ok… nice!”
Yang held it up. It was perfect.