Exploring the Potentials of Mistakes – Museum of Mistakes

Anyone who tries something new and ventures out of the familiar comfort zone will sooner or later make a mistake.
The Museum of Mistakes explores the fascinating world of mistakes, deceptions, and failures.
Trial and Error: Try, fail. Try again, fail again.

When we’re talking about mistakes in a business context, failures are seen as risky, costly deviations. This is contrasted by a term with positive connotations, which describes mistakes as a place of opportunity: Following the natural learning process, one can only become better through failure.

We have a hard time admitting to our mistakes – designers even more so: When creatives fall short, they too often bury their stories of failure out of shame. The discipline of design exists in this state of tension between constant improvement towards a flawless future and creative freedom that profits from solutions that don’t arise in a linear manner. Hidden within lies valuable knowledge about how something does not work – the so-called »negative knowledge«. This allows us to learn from our mistakes, avoid them in the future and find other ways of solving them.
Mistakes are layovers en route to success.


In design, we’re taught to »fail fast, fail often«. This undermines a deeper examination of what it means to make mistakes. We believe in the importance of recognizing possibilities within mistakes – after all, a mistake only appears wrong because it violates applicable norms. But perhaps it also reveals a new approach? We need to remember to be inspired by examples of failure. And that is the vision for our »Museum of Mistakes«.

Our research took us on a rollercoaster ride through the world of failure. By talking to people from all walks of life we were able to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the varying thought processes behind dealing with mistakes and coping with failures. We tested our hypotheses through a series of experiments, mainly focusing on the analysis of the factors affecting error tolerance.
Exploring the fascinating nature of mistakes, failures, and errors: Ready to enter the Museum of Mistakes.

The »Museum of Mistakes« acts as a platform to facilitate a critical examination of our attitude towards mistakes. We invite other designers to enter into a dialogue and question the negative stigma of failures. In doing so, we advocate for a new, diverse understanding of mistakes as well as making mistakes in the first place.

MA Strategic Design
Master Thesis 2021
Hochschule für Gestaltung
Schwäbisch Gmünd

supervised by
Prof. Benedikt Groß
Prof. Dr. habil. Georg Kneer
Seda Hancer
Niklas Sonnenschein