How do you deal with failure?

Failure is built into the creative process. But how to face it? Nine designers tell us how they do it.
Design Indaba Hot Topic: How to deal with failure.
Design Indaba Hot Topic: How to deal with failure.

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10 000 ways that won’t work.” We figure that if one of history's greatest inventors could find a creative way to rebound from failure, we all can too. We asked a host of creative geniuses around the world what role failure plays in their work and how they overcome it.

Andrew Shoben, artist and founder of greyworld  

If you want to be your own boss and you want to succeed, you will have to deal with a lot of failure as you grow and develop. Dealing with it well is vital. I’m naturally an optimist – I love the world, the city and people in general. Sometimes I lose particular battles, sometimes things don’t go my way. But having the sense to look beyond them and see the good around you is vital if you want to keep on moving up. 

Christine Goudie, industrial designer

I learnt somewhere along the way that all great things come from initial failure. I use it as a motivator, encouraging me to try harder and to push myself beyond what I thought was possible. I have always believed that to appreciate success, you must first understand failure.

Mike van Heerden, graphic designer  

I usually get upset for half an hour or so, then I tell myself to get over it. And then I get over it.

Rahim Bhimani, industrial designer 

By embracing it. I believe that failure happens for a reason, and the best thing to do is to appreciate it, learn from it and just move past it. Don’t let it hold you back. Also, a delicious ice cream sundae does the trick too.

Christoph Niemann, graphic designer and illustrator 

First complain, then soldier on.

Khaya Dlangasenior communications manager for Coca-Cola SA 

Failure is only when you do not try. If I don’t learn from not achieving what I wanted to achieve, then that is true failure. My assumption is that I am meant to learn something from failure and that I am not ready for what I want. Having said that, nobody wants to fail to learn a lesson, but sometimes life needs us to.

Hellicar & Lewis, interaction designers 

Joel Lewis: Define failure. I mean it! I think everything happens for a reason.

Pete Hellicar: Right now I am dealing with failure by attending physiotherapy and taking pain killers. Dislocated elbow from a skate fall. It really hurts.

Nelly Ben Hayoun, experience designer 

I fight! Failure is always part of the process. I fail a lot and I look for it; the more I fail, the more I learn. I continuously look to the new challenges, to the future, without dwelling on what happened. 

Watch the Talk with Nelly Ben Hayoun