Masterpiece Hallucinations

Passing the Squint Test

Adrian Hanft
2 min readApr 7, 2018

There’s a technique that artists use to evaluate their art. There’s nothing formal about it and they might not even realize what they are doing. They look at their work through squinted eyes. It’s an odd thing when you think about it.

What can you see through blurry eyes that you can’t see with 20/20 vision?

But what artists have learned, and often the hard way, is that they get so attached to their work that they can’t see it the way other people do. Fresh eyes might see a mess, but the artist has invested so much into their work that they risk becoming blind to the truth right in front of them. They know how easy it is to hallucinate a masterpiece.

So they squint. They turn their painting upside down. They look at it from across the room, through mirrors, and in low light. They go to great lengths to see their work with fresh eyes.

And what you usually see through squinted eyes is how horrible your creation is. You realize you have spent so much time in the details that you lost the hierarchy that could hold the work together. You have iterated so much that their original concept has become muddy and confusing. Sometimes you realize that there is nothing you can do to salvage the work, no amount of surface-level touch-up can save the art.

You only squint if you are willing to confront the heartbreaking possibility that the masterpiece in front of you might be an illusion. I think that’s why you rarely see the squint test employed in business.

Why would a manager question the process?

Why would a developer want to leave the comfort of true/false logic?

Why would the data-driven marketer want to leave the comfort of numbers?

Why would a designer attempt something new when there is an existing pattern available?

Why would a researcher recommend changing course when they could simply wait for the research to match the hypothesis?

Why would an executive risk turning the ship?

Why question the company vision when you can trust a charismatic leader?

Who needs guiding principles if you have been handed a business plan?

Why squint?

You might have already guessed my answer. Because the more you look, the more you see.

Thanks for reading. I write every Saturday. If my words passed your squint test, you should follow me. Stay creative.



Adrian Hanft

Author of User Zero: Inside the Tool that is Reshaping Dystopia