1. Lack of success.

    1. Unsuccessful person or thing.
  2. Neglect or omission of an expected or required action.

    1. Lack or deficiency of a desirable quality.
  3. Action or state of not functioning.

At Design Academy Eindhoven, failure, like doubt, is viewed as an inevitable part of creative growth. The result of the creative process can be a failure, but the process itself can also fail. For the possibility of failure to exist, there needs to be some understanding of its opposite, namely, success. This understanding, however, can be relative, and what counts as failure for one, can be considered a success by others. Failure is an unwanted outcome, on occasion in relation to particular standards, but not necessarily. Whether something is a failure or not can also depend on context, perspective or belief.

In creative processes, failure is seldom the endpoint, rather, it stimulates creative growth by leading to new insights. Failure often leads to a change – for instance, change of the vision, position or method of the design researcher. This, in turn, can result in unexpected processes and unanticipated outcomes, and this is often when the most wonderful results are achieved. As such, failure can encourage designers and researchers to take a bold next step, one that is more aimed at learning something new than at immediate success. These famous quotes emphasise this quality:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” - Samuel Becket.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10.000 ways that won't work.” - Thomas A. Edison.

The risk of failing can be anticipated and reduced by creating different options within the process, each with different outcomes. This is called experimenting, and will result in many failures, with the prospect of some successes as well. Failure is viewed differently in different cultures and contexts, ranging from positive to acceptable to negative. In some cultures failing is simply not an option. There, failure is linked solely to negative judgement of others and not viewed as a learning opportunity.

DAE examples

Lina-Marie Köppen, Learn To Unlearn, Graduation project Master Social Design, 2012


  • Hattink. J. (2012). Fail to learn. Graduation thesis. The Hague: Royal Academy of Arts.
  • Rosenbak. S (2016). Design Research Failures. [accessed 25 November 2016].