Museum of Mistakes

Identifying Potentials of Mistakes in Design

Seda Hancer

Niklas Sonnenschein

Museum of Mistakes

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. Anyone who tries something new and ventures out of the familiar comfort zone will sooner or later make a mistake.

How can we guide the way we deal with our own fallibility? How can we draw attention to how trivial our fear of making mistakes is in some respects? With the Museum of Mistakes, we want to create a platform and a digital experience that brings this dialog to life. The virtual exhibition illuminates the diverse field of mistakes, deceptions, and failures.

Designers, let's talk about mistakes

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.

A virtual exhibition of the beauty 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, and making mistakes itself.

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.

Mistakes are a planned stop on the road 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«.

Opportunities of a positive concept of mistakes were identified in the printed argumentation.
By using artifacts that do not necessarily work as they should, a new way of dealing with errors can be elicited.
A digital exhibition space presents opportunities of intervention to a wider audience.
The museum is divided into three sections that can be explored either linearly or exploratively.
A physical adaptation of the museum as a temporary exhibition.
Museum of Mistakes