RGD Book Club Review: Failed It! by Erik Kessels
A beautifully-designed book, filled with thoughtfully curated collections of "failures" that inspire—Loved It!


Title: Failed It!
Author: Erik Kessels
Publisher: Phaidon
Publishing Date: May, 2016
No. of pages: 167
Designed by: Julia Hasting

Reviewed by: Heather Angell, Prov. RGD


Failed It! by Erik Kessels was the inaugural book of the RGD Book Club and appropriately so our inaugural review as well.


From the absolute beginning (literally the beginning, the title is printed on the back cover) Failed It! is a clever, quirky and overall fun read for designers and non-designers alike. As the book points out, we've all failed, so the universality of its subject matter is inherent. 


Using examples from his extensive photo collection and other artists' pieces, Kessels sheds new light on situations that would otherwise be considered as failures by presenting them from the perspective of playful possibility.


He sets this tone and begins to assuage our fears of failure in the introduction by writing, "Perhaps the mistakes and circumstances that join forces to create failure are not your mortal enemy but are, in fact, the key elements in producing something new and exciting". Here, Kessels is giving us license to fail and to see these failures as moments in which to find opportunity. 


There were many great examples and anecdotes throughout the book, such as artist Kent Rogowski’s puzzle mash-ups made with pieces from different puzzles cut from the same die, a billboard that was installed incorrectly that got more attention than it ever would have if it were done right, and happenstance photos taken in cityscapes like a blue dumpster positioned just right in front of a Harry Winston ad with a peacock to look like its body. A favourite though of the Book Club was that of an amateur photographer who for years could just not take a good of photo of their family dog. Try after try, the dog was always a dark silhouette in every photo. Until one day, a photo was over exposed and revealed the details of the dog's face and body. For Kessels, this had the result of removing the mystery and spark of imagination that the dog provided in the former shots as a silhouette. It's a good reminder that imperfection is not always a bad thing and to leave room for imagination. 



I would highly recommend Failed It! to anyone. I found it to be a call to action to everyone to slow down, lighten up, don't be obsessed with perfection and look for humour and inspiration in unexpected places. As a designer, I see this is a valuable tool that can make my work relatable and in-turn unique and more successful.


To practice Kessels' advice would not just be for the betterment of our work, but our lives as well. Life isn't perfect, so why not find some humour in that imperfection?


As Kessels declares in his last sentences, "Failure isn't fatal – quite the contrary. It's downright fabulous". And frankly, who doesn't want to be fabulous?


About the Reviewer

Heather Angell, Prov. RGD

As founder of the book club, Heather is happy that the RGD Book Club is a thing, and more than just a thing, but a thing that people enjoy and are benefiting from. She is grateful to the RGD for giving her and fellow designers a place and reason to dust off all those design books on our shelves and read, discuss and learn together as a community. Heather currently works as a graphic designer at Forge Media + Design where she and their team work to impart thoughtful boldness into every project.


Photographs by Deanne Cameron


To find out more about the RGD Book Club and to join, please email book club organizer Heather Angell Prov. RGD at .