September 2017 - August 2018
Fail Safe allows designers to learn from their mistakes through making iterations and receiving feedback.
So this all started when I was assigned a project in my Conceptual Typography class to make a newspaper ad about a fact on water consumption. My fact was “On average, humans use 100 gallons of water each day.” The spin on this project was that I couldn’t just type it out. I had to use physical materials in some way to get this message across.
I had this idea to make these water bottles stack up next to each other, so you could see how much water that actually was. Then I would use Photoshop to burn some of the bottles to make the number 100.
However, when I printed it out and showed it to my friend, Andy. He didn’t see the number 100. This annoyed me to no end because I thought it was very clear. I felt like a crazy person. I eventually presented it to my family and they were having trouble as well.
But something happened. When I finally showed it to my brothers through text, I accidentally inverted the image. This made the “100” perfectly clear and it got the tone he really wanted too.
Although there were many times where I learned from mistakes to get what I wanted to work, this project was the one where I realized that making mistakes can be a good thing in designing, even if by accident. I wouldn’t have that end result if it wasn’t for making that mistake. It was a big motivation to research more about this phenomenon.
Survey Word Cloud
This incident made me want to get to understand if this was a problem for just me or if it was a problem for everybody too. So I created a survey, where I asked these 3 questions to 62 students in my design school:
1) Describe you biggest mistake in art or design:
2) Do you feel like you learned from your mistake? If yes, what did you learn?
3) What keeps you motivated to keep going after you’ve made a mistake? If not, what stops you?
At the end of this survey, I realized that I wasn't the only one learning from my mistakes and getting annoyed when I mess up, but that people and students, in particular, are terrified of making a mistake and of failure.
Designers need a way to freely make mistakes and learn from them because the iterative process is vital to being creative and making good design.
Through feedback and making iterations, designers can learn from their mistakes and improve their design skills.
I created this flowchart before I even had an idea for how to solve this problem and it helped organize my brain. It also helped me realize that I need to tailor my product for people who are caught in that iterative cycle. Whether they are in a creative block, need a solution to a design problem or if they are fearing failure, this product will help dissuade that.
I initially had this idea of doing a version of 36 Days of Type but for design as a whole. So, everyday users would be given a design challenge and they would be forced to iterate and it was incentivized to share your design. There was also a game element to it too.
This is an example of what a design challenge would look like:
However when I presented this work, I got a lot of feedback about how it wouldn't solve the problem. It forced me to take a different approach. Ironically, I forgot that getting feedback is crucial for improving, not just making iterations. So I came up with a slightly different idea but it had the same concept and themes.
So it starts by a company holding a design contest. It would most likely be about creating a logo but it could be about an ad campaign. The company will decide how long this contest will take, and what the prize will be at the end. It could be money, employment or something else. This will give the user more of a purpose.
Step 1) Design Prompt
The user will have 10 colors to choose from and 6 tools to work with. There is no eraser tool to encourage people to get something up on the canvas. In this case, Nike wants a new logo.
Step 2) Get Feedback from Friends
Once the user is done, they’ll send it to their design friends from school or colleagues from their workplace. They are asked two questions: What could be improved? and if this work is successful?
To encourage constructive criticism, every user will be rated on a 5 point scale based purely on what they write to others.
Step 3) Changes
The user has a chance to rework based on the feedback they get back. They don’t have to take any of the suggestions but they have to hear from at least 3 people or the company will never see the users’ entry. This way everybody has to give feedback. The user can keep making iterations until the contest ends.
Step 4) Company Feedback
Once the user gets through 3 rounds of feedback from other designers. The actual company will also give their feedback. They are asked the same questions.
Once the deadline has passed, the company will pick a winner. Every entry will be posted automatically on the user’s Instagram to get more exposure. Honorable mentions will be featured on FailSafe’s social media accounts for added incentive.
The company or class gets a lot of submissions for what they want accomplished and the designer gets a purpose for what they are doing and potentially could get money.
It also teaches designers valuable design skills such as making iterations, taking feedback from others and not being afraid of failure or making a mistake. Designers are learning how to design without even realizing it.
The Next Steps
I like what I came up with and I'm proud of it. But upon reflection, I think there are a couple of things I'd change to make this even better.
1) Since my design skills have improved since, I'd like to improve the look of this site.
2) I'd like to make this into an actual prototype that I can show to people.
3) I'd also like to branch off of this concept and make an app abut people admitting their mistakes so others won't have to.