Designed to Fail, or Failing to Design?

“As a designer, how do you deal with failure?” The student, a Collaborative Design major tapped his foot anxiously as he awaited an answer. A quick glance at the other panel members told me it was my turn to answer the question.

“I think, that depends on your definition of failure,” I began, “In most cases, we learn from our efforts and the outcome has value. Even if we don’t initially understand the outcome, it often presents a new set of questions. If you attempt to design a solution to a problem and your solution does not accomplish your original goal, ask yourself some evaluative questions. What did you confirm is NOT an ideal solution? Does your solution suit a different problem better? What changes to your solution would make it better?” The student’s furrowed brow lifted as he digested what I said. He was thinking. Good.

I continued, “If you’re a designer, you’re likely familiar with the term process. In this case, it describes the steps one takes to design a solution. New designers shouldn't get too caught up on the conclusion of their design process. Great designs are almost always maincremental improvements of an initial solution. Without getting too philosophical on the subject, I’ll conclude by saying that what looks like failure to green designers is often just a necessary and familiar step in the process of designing great solutions to pressing problems.

Next time you meet your old friend failure, tip your hat and let him know you’re just passing through because you’ve got a very important date with a solution.”