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Failed It!: How to Turn Mistakes Into Ideas and Other Advice for Successfully Screwing Up
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Failed It!: How to Turn Mistakes Into Ideas and Other Advice for Successfully Screwing Up

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  763 ratings  ·  94 reviews
A fun and fabulous take on the art of making mistakes. Erik Kessels celebrates imperfection and failure and shows why they are an essential part of the creative process.

Failed it! celebrates the power of mistakes and shows how they can enrich the creative process. This is part photobook and part guide to loosening up and making mistakes to take the fear out of failure and
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 16th 2016 by Phaidon Press (first published April 4th 2016)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  763 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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Start your review of Failed It!: How to Turn Mistakes Into Ideas and Other Advice for Successfully Screwing Up
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
What an interesting book. I found myself laughing at some of the photos included. There are many fails and amateur photographs that are relatable but also inspiring, which is the entire point of the book.

Failed It! is a good motivator and will keep the creative flows going.
Dec 11, 2016 rated it liked it
A quick read on happy accidents in art and photography. For me there weren't enough great examples or enough insights. The books big message is that mistakes and failures often lead to genius. I believe that. So for everyone I know out there reading this...I promise to make more of them.
Dr. Tobias Christian Fischer
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One extraordinary book. One creative mind. The perfect match to craft something new.
Sarah Ellis
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a quick read with some interesting insights on creativity and imperfection. It made me laugh, but also made me think differently about the creative process. I only wish it was a little longer and more in depth. I feel like it just skimmed the surface and would have liked the author to have gone a little deeper into the subject matter.
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In this book, Kessels describes a wonderful, inspiring and mind-changing perspective on failures and the importance of making mistakes in order to achieve success. No success without failure, as if failure leads to success. Or is failure our success?
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it
imperfection is always closer to reality.
Jaelynn Jenkins
Dec 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Stories of failure are good for the soul. Seek failure and you'll find success.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Equal parts art book and motivational treatise, Kessels describes how many of our strongly held opinions about success and failure — that the former requires perfection and the latter should be avoided at all costs — only work to impede our creative process. Everyone fails, he says, and only through such unsuccessful attempts can truly imaginative progress be made. "f you don't feel like an idiot at lest once a day," he suggests, "you need to work less and play more." All that is required is a m ...more
Alexandria Bianca
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up thinking it was a motivational book. It was but on the contrary it happened to be a book on photography. But hey, it has some great insights that could be applied to not just art but life. It was fun, witty & brilliant. He spoke about living outside the norm and accepting you're failures & turning them around. He put me at ease in my thinking about perfection. The biggest thing I took from it is that there isn't a thing such as "perfection." Perfection was merely a creation ...more
Rick Marcello
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Dare to be disliked", is my favorite quote from this book. If you like to win popularity contests, chase perfection, or uphold the status quo, then this book ain't for you. Failed it main concept is to embrace mistakes and "failures", especially within the context of art. The book balances thought with visuals of mistakes and screw-ups. It is a great book because it challenges the reader to think differently about perceived mistakes and embrace the abnormal to foster creativity.
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A funny, inspiring and quick read that will instantly help you to feel better about your artistic work. Because who hasn't felt like a failure before? Kessels shows that great artwork wouldn't be possible without making mistakes and that perfection will mostly lead to boring art.
Jabali Sawicki
Great quick read on creativity and failure. Full of wisdom and thoughtful photography. Will definitely go back to it like those Austin Kleon books...
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This is less a review than it is a "spoiler" in that I'm going to share my favorite parts without really critiquing the structure of quality of the writing. But I do recommend having in on your shelf if you're a designer or any other human being who is required to come up with ideas as part of your occupation or because it's part of your native substance.

For newcomers to creative works or for the anally retentive perfectionist, yes, the cover is put on backwards on purpose.

Anyway, It's a quick
June Kweh
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Brilliant short book. Found inspiration for both work and art.

My favourite parts:


"If you're anything like me, you're called an idiot at least once a day.

And that's okay.

Because making mistakes, flirting with disaster and pure, outright failure is how you get better. Without it, you're stuck in a zone of mediocrity and 'meh'. Sure, you probably won't be nervous, self-conscious and potentially mortified, but you won't be admired, either.

You'll be...

If you want to be creative, do original w
Slow Culture Magazine
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Bought after our visit at the ADAM Brussels Museum for the Punk Graphics exhibition, we found Failed It!: How to Turn Mistakes Into Ideas and Other Advice for Successfully Screwing Up at the gift shop. Didn't expect much at first. Just a souvenir.

Phaidon never disappoints, and Erik Kessels continued along that path. A clever, enriching, critical book to possess, read, and stain with coffee. What we loved the most is that this title goes beyond the dull LinkedIn philosophy by giving real tools an
Fouad Kazan
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a ridiculously funny and inspiring small book. Even the front and back cover are switched with one another. Hence, if you have screwed up so much in your life, you will find this work comforting (unless you are narcissistic, have an over-inflated ego, and assume that every damn thing you do is a work of God). It shows us how you can simultaneously screw up and succeed at the same time making it excellent for entrepreneurs, immerging artists, etc… It mentions stories of popular business m ...more
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
A quote from the book:

If you’re anything like me, you’re called an idiot at least once a day.

And that’s okay.

Because making mistakes, flirting with disaster and pure, outright failure is how you get better. Without it, you’re stuck in a zone of mediocrity and ‘meh’. Sure, you probably won’t be nervous, self-conscious and potentially mortified, but you won’t be admired, either.

You’ll be …


If you want to be creative, do original work and surprise the hell out of someone every once in a
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a student of all things Leadership/Personal Development, it seems every non business book has made my "Best books of 2020" list. So far we have "Outlearning the Wolves", "Shark and the Goldfish" and now "Failed it".
The expression we hear frequently is "Fail big". I hate that expression. We need to remove it from our every day vocabulary today!
What makes this book great is sure we fail, but look at what possible treasures may come from your mistakes. With the many examples (The Hans Eijkelbo
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Well this is rather strange book to read and it is actually supposed to be a strange book. It tells you that failure is ok, the beginning of something good or a possible new opportunity raising from the failure. Then you have a lots of photos which are either mistakenly taken or show you things that are surely down mistakenly done. It takes 20 minutes to read this book, you simply run through it in no time. But that is no it. This book is made by an artist creating a different kind of a book the ...more
Danielle Carter
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had a hard time reading a book about failure from a man who is evidently very successful (although his argument is that all of his failures have led him to creative success). I also couldn't help but wonder how/if a woman would ever talk about failure in this manner, since I think women are a lot less able to get away with failures/imperfection. His observations and statements are vague and not very profound or practically helpful; however, I did really like that artwork that he included to pu ...more
Robin M
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: advice
Very inspiring. Especially since recently I noticed that I wanted more stimulation for my brain.
This book talks about this: Finding stimulation in your and other's failures.

I read it within about an hour and started turning something shitty into something interesting right afterwards.

This book is a great example of curation turning into creation. And in the progress it doesn't only encourage, but, inevitably causes curation and creation.

A must have for pretty much anybody who enjoys creating, w
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At a first reading this book may seem a collection of curious examples in which one or a series of errors have brought innovation or some kind of success, but digging deeper leads you to discover some interesting concepts on how to deal with the fear of failure and insecurity in your abilities.

A word of advice: don't underestimate it because of its simplicity of reading or for certain passages that may sound banal. It is true, it would have been nice to go deeper about some points, but in my opi
Prudence (Marina Puente)
A quick light read, recommended to me by a creative. The book helps to unlock creativity and stop perfection seeking. I found Kessels’ take on confidence really interesting: confidence is overrated - when it comes to creativity, insecurity is essential.

However I was slightly underwhelmed at the examples given, I thought they would be more insightful and less product-focused.
Tim Belonax
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-reads
A quick, entertaining read full of cherry-picked examples that range from clever to epic. If you’re a perfectionist or someone stuck in a rut, this might be helpful. If you travel in this world a bit, you won’t be surprised by what you read, but you may be comforted knowing that you’re not the only one paying attention to the world in the same way as Mr. Kessels.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the variety in the photography and the brevity of the accompanying explanations. In general, the messages seemed to be about embracing imperfection, avoiding the common and finding opportunities for creativity. I see the connection to failure, but failures didn't stand out as the central theme, for me.
OIivia Mitchel
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Easily read, finished it in two hours. It’s more like a brochure, for me it felt like a ‘break’ from the more difficult books that I’m currently reading. I couldn’t say that it helped me but it opened my eyes a bit, when it comes to failure. I’m still a perfectionist though (and still hating it 🤦‍♀️)
Yassir Jbari
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
I really like the the general idea of the book: making mistakes is a good sign of improvement and it may lead to great creations. The examples makes it more fun to read. However, I felt like the book don't go deep enough in explaining ideas. Whenever I get hooked, amazed and more curious about a certain idea the book stops there and moves on to another one.
May 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The whole book is an epic failure. The pages are not numbered correctly, it does not follow the western reading style but the Japanese one as you read it from the back to front. The many wonderful pictures show the beauty of imperfection and shows very effectively that instead of always pursuing perfection you could also try basically the opposite.
Jason Machinski
This book is going on my recommended reading for my Visual Perception & Design course. The book really makes one think differently about creativity. Which is great for all those looking to be more creative. No spoilers here read the book to get the most out of it. ...more
Shufi H
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Finished it only in less than 1 hour during train commuting, what a fun book! It told us how imperfection or failure can be turned into ideas, inspirations and other unique form of creativity - somehow it reminds me of lomography or analog photography.
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Erik Kessels (1966) is a Dutch artist, designer and curator with a particular interest in photography, and creative director of KesselsKramer, an advertising agency in Amsterdam. Kessels and Johan Kramer established the "legendary and unorthodox" KesselsKramer in 1996, and KesselsKramer Publishing, their Amsterdam-based publishing house, both of which they continue to run.

He is "best known as a bo

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“Because making mistakes, flirting with disaster and pure outright failure is how you get better. Without it, you’re stuck in a zone of mediocrity and “meh”. Sure, you probably won’t be nervous self-conscious and potentially mortifies, but you won’t be admired, either. You'll be boring.” 0 likes
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