While the contents of this article may apply to almost all areas of life, since this is a graphic design blog I’ll write in the context of a graphic designer. However, that doesn’t mean that the same principles can’t be applied otherwise.
Failure is a thing we all experience. Without failure we wouldn’t have much appreciation for our success. Unfortunately, when failure hits, it usually hits extremely hard. While everyone copes with failure differently, what I can suggest from personal experience is to accept it, learn from it and try a different approach.
Accepting failure is never easy, especially if we’re ambitious. The higher our hopes and dreams go, the longer of a way they have to come crashing down. It’s a sad reality of life, but not necessarily a pointless one. Failure is the first new step toward success. The quicker we can take the first step by processing and accepting it, the quicker we can be off to a running start once again and reach for the stars. To draw a gentle example, we may design a beautifully crafted project, only to be met with disapproval by the client. While our work may be top notch, that doesn’t mean that it suits the client’s needs. Of course, we would feel like our time an energy has gone to waste. However, if we can acquiesce that we aren’t infallible and accept the reality of the situation, we can then begin to learn from the circumstances.
Once we can accept our shortcomings, one of our next best options is to understand where we went wrong. We need to analyse the situation in which we currently find ourselves and tear it apart. We need to try to decipher every incognito message there is in order to be well equipped to try once again. Information is one of the most invaluable resources on the planet. The more of it we have, the more we can do.
As embarrassing as it is to admit this, during one of the most crucial times of my life where graphic design mattered most, I was faced with an agonising failure experience, all simply because until that point I didn’t truly understand the definition of graphic design, even though I believed that I did. While creating my final exhibition in order to graduate art school, I decided to pursue a project on doing Dominican Saints, which you can see the final product in my portfolio or by clicking on the link here (http://www.angelokurbanali.com/portfolio/saint-dominic-14/). I figured that since graphic design is art, I could just use the already created layouts of artists before me and do them in my own personal style, as many artists did. Little did I understand that as a graphic designer, the main objective is to design from scratch, as obvious as it seems, and not just be able to create beautiful renditions. I worked extremely hard with my pieces only to be met with an inevitable wall. I could no longer continue in the way in which I began. It was an extremely tumultuous time, but at the back of my mind I knew that the quicker I could accept it is the quicker I would be able to try once again. But since we aren’t robots, processing and acceptance and learning takes more than a few seconds. However, once we can acquire sufficient information from our failure, the more effective our subsequent plan can be. The same precepts applied to me as well.
Trying a different approach is necessary in order to achieve success. Often, it’s not our ideas that need reviewing, just our approach to the situation. Sometimes, only a bit of tweaking is necessary, not a complete overhaul. As designers, this is a crucial aspect of our profession. We are problem solvers. If the problem of failure arises, we solve it. How fast and effective we can solve the problem of failure determines how successful we can be as designers. If our first approach didn’t work, then we can use the information we obtained from analysing our failure to figure out what the best approach can be. If we believe that our new plan is bound to succeed, then let not the sky limit us. Naturally, we would want to tread lightly due to the ominous fear of the last failure. However, we can’t allow fear to hold us back. As designers we take risks and we try things that have not been previously tried. This is what will separate the goods from the greats.
Failure shouldn’t directly determine our ultimate outcome. It is an inevitable part of being a creative. There will be times where our successes outweigh our failures and vice-versa. The important thing it to be able to turn be proactive in a counter-productive situation. As long as we don’t allow failure to hinder our ambitions, learn from it and grow as designers and human beings, failure is becomes nothing more than a lesson teacher.