Steve Jobs - ‘Love what you do’

‘I don’t do autographs,’ Steve Jobs replied, when asked to sign the Newsweek magazine that sold last year for over $50 K. This rare and insightful sample of his signature and writing captures the moment when he unveiled the NeXT computer in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1988. The brilliant and uncompromising Jobs gave very few signings, but here we can see so much about the man through the lens of graphology.

We’re told by Dianne Williams, the senior software buyer for Lotus Development Corp that he was hesitant, and only agreed to sign her copy when she said, ‘just write something from your heart.’ So he wrote ‘I love manufacturing!’ and hesitated, then underlined ‘love’. He looked at her, then signed above. 

At first glance we see his writing on it’s side, as if the magazine was just handed to him that way, and he didn’t take any time to align his writing with the print on the cover. In the same way, he didn’t feel the need to align with other people, and relied on his individuality, and support from a carefully selected team, but desire for control and determination are clearly visible in his name by the right slant, connected letters and t bar that extends to the right.

The difference in style between the signature and the note is also quite revealing. Our signature is our public side, and in Steve’s case we see his desire to connect with others, his charm, and his natural demeanour. He forgoes capital letters as he did formalities, preferring his turtle neck and jeans to the suits worn by most of his peers. The tall t stem shows his vision, but the pointed bar indicates both protection and bite that would have been felt by those who worked with him. 

The note below rises positively on the page, but the ‘I’ is braced with supporting bars that show less confidence than the signature above. However he asserts himself with these additions and  reinforces his unique view-point, while remaining a private person at heart. The word ‘love’ stands out with the underline, and also with each letter standing alone, as if he wanted to make a point. There’s a subconscious emotional charge to this word, and his highly reactive nature may well have stemmed from deep below the surface. 

The word ‘manufacturing’ appears restless, with a moody baseline and uncertain formations, but it also shows flexibility of thought, perseverance, and the ability to solve problems in ways never seen before. There are angles and curves, clever connections, simplified letters, and changes in letter size as well. These features combined make for a complex character, who was unpredictable but with an outstanding capacity for abstract thought. 

When letters or parts of letters are omitted we can expect the writer to communicate in the same way, and the last few letters have become mere strokes to be deciphered. It’s easy to imagine instructions being misunderstood, and a team on edge, striving to avoid the inevitable confrontation and arrogant attitude given the frequent angles and the large exclamation mark. However the irregular shapes show he adapted to the changing landscape and reinvented himself time and again, while dealing with a turbulent inner world. 

‘It was like time stood still,’ said Williams holding the signed magazine, and with handwriting that is just the case. It’s a snapshot in time of how we are in the moment, and what we draw upon to deal with the challenges we face. Here we see the affirmation of a man who embodied the statement on the page - he really did love his work. He showed us what’s capable when you find your passion and follow your heart. The following words show how Steve felt about his success:

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”