The Refrigerator Test

At the conclusion of an armorial design process, whether self-guided or in consultation with a herald, when you’ve found a device that appears to follow all of the rules and is free of conflicts, there can be an urge to rush it off to your kingdom’s submissions herald ASAP — after all, it’s perfect — and registration takes so long, you better get started now — and worst of all, what if someone else registers it first?

At this point, savvy practitioners will urge you to pause for a moment and catch your breath.

The slow pace of the registration process is all the more reason to make sure you’re really happy with this design before moving forwards, so that you don’t have to do it all over again next year if you decide you want to change it. And if nobody has registered this design in the fifty-year history of the Society, it’s not likely that they’re about to do so in the next few days, so the risk of losing out because you waited a week is vanishingly small.

Instead of rushing forward, experienced heralds are likely to recommend that you post your new design somewhere where you’ll see it multiple times every day — draw it up and stick it on your refrigerator, or put a printout next to your bathroom mirror to stare at while you’re brushing your teeth, or make it the lock screen on your smartphone, or anything along these lines that will result in you glancing at it repeatedly throughout the day.

Better yet, draw up several copies of it to stick up in multiple places around your home or workspace, maybe sketched as it would look on a shield versus a banner versus a heraldic surcoat — you can use these pages as templates or create your own. (And if the experience of drawing it out multiple times proves to be a big hassle, consider whether the same will be true after it’s registered and you want to display it — maybe a simpler design would be easier to use?)

After a few days of seeing your new design over and over again, you’ll probably have a more reliable sense of whether you really love it and want to live with it forever, or if there’s something about it that feels “off” and that you want to tweak before submission.

It’s so much better to go through this process now than to wait nine months for registration and then paint your new device on a shield or flag — only to realize after your first full-scale event with it that it feels too busy, or too plain, or the colors aren’t right, or that it just doesn’t “click” with you personally.

And if those days pass and it still seems perfect, then you can move forward with greater confidence that you’ve found a design that will stand the test of time.

This process is what heralds mean when they mention “the refrigerator test,” and it’s worth the brief delay — even if your device never gets anywhere close to the kitchen.

(A bit of amateur sleuthing failed to turn up the origin of this phrase, but it shows up in non-SCA amateur heraldic discussion groups and there are examples dating back more than a decade, so it’s certainly a widely-known term of art within the community.)

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