Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Self-Portrait, Vincent van Gogh, 1853 - 1890
“Men succeed when they realize that their failures are the preparation for their victories.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Failure - to fail, the act of failing, to royally mess up! Why are we so afraid of making a mistake? I wrote the title "Fail U R" to demonstrate, in type, how personal failure is when you are making a creative effort in a public arena. I did not say "Fail I M" because to fail as a designer is usually very public. We are judged first by our own standards, then by our client's and finally by the customer/public.

Within this process our egos as designers tangle with our need to creatively experiment. Without experimentation we lose the opportunity to benefit from the happy accident.

I illustrated this post with two paintings by Vincent van Gogh because during his lifetime he sold only one painting and that was to his brother. He was unappreciated and probably considered a failure. Despite this he never stopped producing art that was important to him. In the end his work succeeded brilliantly - how do you analyze the irony of such success?

I once had a painting professor who taught me to not value the part of the painting that I found perfect. He said that if I found one area too precious I would paint around it and not respect the work as a whole. I learned technique from painting that one small part perfectly but I learned far more from painting over it and retaining the memory of painting it perfectly. I gained confidence every time I destroyed my "perfect" work that I would be able to paint that way again and again. It was one of the cornerstone's of my artistic evolution.

"Fail U R" means you are only a failure if you allow other people to define you as a failure. Failing is part of the process that helps us grow - if we learn from it. How we define failure is subjective, one person's failure is another's personal best. If the standards are so arbitrary why do they matter?

Why?... because in the end we do the work because it makes us happy and doing the work to the best of our abilities makes us even happier!