Do you want to know the secret test sign designers, graphic artists and fine artists use to evaluate the effectiveness of a sign?

Just squint.

That’s right, the “squint test” is a real thing creative professionals use as part of their sign design process. This refreshingly simple test could help your company ensure the next sign you develop is worth the marketing investment and supports your overall integrated marketing efforts.

In a SignCraft blog, Tom McIltrot explains the process, which he learned from a master sign maker who told him that what mattered in sign design is “the legibility of the copy and the general appearance of the layout through half-closed eyes.”

To conduct the squint test yourself, follow the easy steps McIltrot describes:

“It’s simple. Look at a sign, and then squint your eyes as you would when looking outside on a very bright day. Whatever you can read easily is all that most viewers will get from the sign. If you’re not getting much in the first few seconds, they won’t either.”

Correcting readability issues discovered during the squint test may not be as simple, but a signage expert will be able to advise you on ways to redesign the sign to attract the right kind of attention.

“Good designers know the tricks,” he explains. “They know how the eye and the brain work to make sense out of something. Then they use that knowledge to make their designs more effective and more successful. And that gives them something much more to sell than just generic identification.”

McIltrot also offers a few suggestions. If the primary message doesn’t stand out, increase its contrast against the background. This can be accomplished by increasing the size of the message, bumping up the weight of the font used – aging eyes view typography differently, for example – or selecting another color. In fact, the study of color is an important one, as color affects customer behavior.

Before you embark on the next signage project as a component of your integrated marketing strategy, it’s worth spending some time understanding other pitfalls to avoid. Start off by learning what you should know before buying a sign and how to avoid the most-common mistakes in sign design. And don’t forget that signs need some loving attention paid to punctuation, too.