Success through Failure?

Failure has become a trendy meme in creative and popular culture . From popular books, TED talks, IDEO comments and even Dominos commercials, some version of failing is good is pervasive in our culture.

As is often the case, language can be dangerous and in this instance it may prevent you from getting or keeping a job. In a graphic design context, how are we defining failure? Is it spending a week on a design solution that is so bad it can not be presented to the client or is it a valid solution that is rejected. These are wildly different scenarios of failure, the former gets you fired and the latter gets you a pat on the back and a better luck next time.

How should design educators talk about and frame the notion failure with their students? If educators are teaching process and students are actively engaging in some recognizable form of process, including documenting their work the opportunities for lack of success are mitigated. There can be failure at various stages of process but that is the point of experimenting, research, exploration and iteration. Process is about constantly evaluating and making changes, refining a more successful solution. On the micro level small case failure is pervasive, one could argue its the point. It is when the final solution, the macro, is an upper case Failure that things have gone awry.

Students should be taught what failure means in the context of fundamentally good process and to avoid regurgitating the current popular rhetoric of failure and encouraged to form own responses to questions concerning lack of success in their work. I do not want to hire a designer who is an expert at failure, I want a problem solver.