Did I make some mistake? Oh, that's great!

Book review

Nowadays we tend to focus on excellence and perfect results only. We are afraid of failure and we are afraid to make mistakes. Which in fact is very limiting. The work of Erik Kessels - www.kesselskramer.com - seems flawless. However in his new book Failed it! Kessels reveals more than 150 projects that are based on errors and imperfections. Purposeful as well as accidental ones. He, as a matter of fact celebrates the art of making mistakes.

This pocket guide about errors shows how to transform mistakes into ideas across broad spectrum of creative forms such as design, photography, architecture, or product design. Kessels encourages creative people to catch on these errors and take an advantage of them. He uses photographs of his own work but also some found projects and together with quotes and tips he explains the aim and results that can be achieved thanks to the mistakes. He emphasises that 

'failure is not fatal. Quite the opposite.'

Making mistakes during our creative process is actually helping us find new ways as well as increasing our creativity. It brings new possibilities of how to look at things. I would compare it to today's trend of lomography, and leaving the result partially or fully on a coincidence. This book will help you to open your eyes and untie your hands.

And as Erik Kessels adds: 'Amateurs tend not to be slavish about getting the picture 'right', they just want to get the picture. They never know what they might end up with, and they don't particularly care. Nor should you.'

This article was also published on Czechdesign.cz (in Czech language)


What do you do when you get stuck?

'What do you do when you get stuck?' was the opening question I asked our Prague College BA Graphic Design students on the experimentation workshop. The aim of this 4-hours lesson was to teach the designers how to get back to their creative process through random experimentation, as well as to encourage them to consider purposeful experiments as one of their working habit.

When designing this workhop I thought about those freakout moments and panic attacks designers have time to time because of getting stuck. I desperately wanted to evoke this feeling in my students at the beginning of the workshop in order to simulate real life situation. So I collected common, apparently uninteresting objects from various materials such as shoelace, plastic sachet, blank creased paper, sponge, wire, string, piece of cloth, straws etc. Each student was given only one object to work with.

collecting common objects
collecting common objects

I succeeded. The students were surprised and uncertain of how they can creatively elaborate the object they received. On several examples of work from other designers as well as my own I showed few techniques emphasising hand-made approach. I stressed to carefully observe the material of their object, make connections, look for similarities, search for metaphors, play with it. The students could use their object as a tool for creating something new, or as a part of their design. They were allowed to (well ok, asked to) go wild!

Based on their diverse experiments the students had to come up with some social issue (recycling, waste, public transportation, social responsibility...) and address it through a small campaign, regardless the media. Including accident in the creative process is one of the ways how to approach some design solutions which the students tested within our workshop. They have also learnt they don't have to go far for ideas and inspiration, and can get unstuck by just 'playing' with an ordinary object.

Even though the workshop was focused on process rather than final result most of the students managed to end up with an outcome capable of explaining the concept and their thinking. I always encourage students to incorporate experimentation (either accidental or purposeful) as part of their creation. Because the results are worth it! Just have a look.

some of the workshop results

Zofia Ziakova, Bike more. Object: wire

Ieva Ozola, Home alone. Object: post-its

Ieva Ozola, Home. Object: post-its

Dora Ivanova, Light. Object: paper tube

Dora Ivanova, Equality. Object: paper tube

David Holzmann. Object: garlic mesh bag

Charlene Fournier. Object: plastic cup

Julie Klimentova. Object: transparent paper

Jana Krchova, Fading memories. Object: natural fibre

Rebecca Widera. Object: skewers

Stella Maria Ebner. Object: creased paper

Stella Maria Ebner. Object: creased paper

Elisabeth Mess. Object: string

David Nguyen. Object: shoelace

Ebenezer Animah. Object: plastic bag

Hubert Gaca, Internet. Object: wire

Laura Sophie Engeser, Violence. Object: straws

Zoe Mitterhuber, Philippines. Object: pieces of paper

Bianca Neumair, Save the sea. Object:aluminium foil

Mohini Mukherjee. Object: plastic bottle