Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

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

Rate this book
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 encourage experimentation.

It showcases the best and most hilarious examples of imperfection and failure across a broad range of creative forms, including art, design, photography, architecture and product design, to inspire and encourage creatives to embrace and celebrate their mistakes.

We live in an era when everyone is striving for perfection and we have become afraid of failure, which limits our potential. Mistakes help us find new ways of thinking and innovative solutions, and failures can change our perceptions and open up new ways of looking things. This book transforms mistakes from something to be embarrassed about into a cause for celebration.

It includes over 150 visual examples drawn from Kessels personal collection of artworks and found photographs, along with tips, quotes, anecdotes and wisdom for celebrating with failure. To quote Kessels: 'the ubiquity of Apple + Z, means that we can literally undo any mistake before it has had time to breathe, be considered and — perhaps — evolve into something else: a fascinating, strange, provocative or even original piece of work. This book asks readers to embrace their fuck-ups, learn from them and celebrate their tawdry glory'.

192 pages, Paperback

First published April 4, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Erik Kessels

62 books17 followers
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 book publisher specialising in absurdist found photography", extensively publishing his and others' found and vernacular photography. Notable works include the long-running series Useful Photography, which he edits with others, and his own In Almost Every Picture. Sean O'Hagan, writing in The Guardian, said "His magazine, Useful Photography, forgoes art and documentary for images that are purely functional. ... Humour is the unifying undercurrent here as it is in KesselsKramer's series of photo books, In Almost Every Picture".

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
240 (22%)
4 stars
417 (38%)
3 stars
309 (28%)
2 stars
86 (8%)
1 star
23 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 120 reviews
Profile Image for Thanawat.
436 reviews
June 29, 2020
ก็ ok นะ ถ้าหนังสือเล่มนี้ออกตัวว่าเป็นหนังสือรวมภาพศิลปะแห่งความผิดพลาด เพราะทั้งเล่มเต็มไปด้วยรูปภาพที่พลาดหรือเฟล ซึ่งในที่นี้ใีทั้งที่ตั้งใจและไม่ตั้งใจ พร้อมกับคำบรรยายที่มาหรือแรงบันดาลใจในการรวบรวมภาพเหล่านั้น

ถ้านึกไม่ออก ให้นึกถึงตอนเล่น facebook แล้วมี feed จำพวก
- ดูดีๆ สิ ภาพเหล่านี้อาจไม่ได้เป็นอย่างที่ตาเห็น
- รวมรูปสุดเฟล
- You had one job

ที่เหนือกว่า feed พวกนั้นคือผู้เขียนไปรวบรวมที่มาที่ไปและแรงบันดาลใจของการรวบรวมภาพของเหล่าศิลปินมาลงไว้ด้วย ซึ่งอ่านดูแล้วก็ ok นะ มีคนที่สามารถเอาเรื่องเฟล เฟล มาเป็นแรงบันดาลใจ รวบรวมเป็น collection ได้เหมือนกัน

อ่านแป๊บเดียวจบ เพราะส่วนมากของหนังสือเป็นรูปสี่สี ส่วนเนื้อหาก็เบาบาง จะดีมากถ้าไม่ได้ใส่คำสั่งสอนเชิงที่ว่า “อย่าไปกลัวความล้มเหลว ดูสิ ของเฟล เฟล ยังทำเป็นศิลปะได้เลยนะ” เพราะรู้สึกว่าหนังสือเล่มนี้มันไม่ได้ไปถึงฟังชั่นนั้น

รูปเฟลๆ + เจ้าของ collection + แรงบันดาลใจในการรวบรวม

Profile Image for Arnied.
116 reviews2 followers
December 12, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Evi.
430 reviews23 followers
December 22, 2016
Zoals we op het werk tegen onze stagiaire zeggen: 'je moet fouten maken om te kunnen leren'. Zo ook Erik Kessels, die in dit boek een ode doet aan missen, falen, mislukken, vallen, spelen en alle mogelijke woorden om ditzelfde begrip aan te duiden, en dit in alle mogelijke creatieve contexten.
De achterflap is bewust foutief gedrukt: omgekeerd. Zo kan je het boek fout vastnemen. Op p5 staat de meest geweldige lapsus: loftuitingen. Laat ons vanaf nu vooral loftuitingen maken over missen. Hoera voor het milsukken!
Profile Image for Sarah Ellis.
55 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Sandra.
14 reviews28 followers
March 17, 2022
A quick read that encourages you to make mistakes and turn them into creative ideas. It’s about letting go of perfection and embracing imperfection.

“Perfect is the enemy of the good. Free yourself from the tyranny of perfection!“

I‘m disappointed with this one. I didn‘t expect it to have any groundbreaking insights but I compared it to Paul Arden‘s It‘s Not How Good You Are, It‘s How Good You Want To Be , which I loved. I am just not feeling the writing and the examples of photography in this one.
Profile Image for Sacha.
88 reviews
May 31, 2019
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?
Profile Image for Julienne Reads.
147 reviews87 followers
April 12, 2022
“We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it… in the process we will catch excellence.”

A great morning read! It was short and the message is sort of redundant throughout the pages but I enjoyed the examples very much! I enjoyed how different artists formed their pieces through all kinds of imperfection.
Profile Image for Beatriz.
19 reviews
August 23, 2022
⭐⭐⭐1/2 (Re-Read) It was an enjoyable quick read. It has mostly examples for photography and creative work, which was good for me. It is also uplifting and motivating. I just didn’t find it particularly astonishing. Just alright with cool examples.
Profile Image for Majla.
16 reviews8 followers
October 6, 2022
This book would have been better if it included just the pictures and not the text.

It is superfluous and not an easy task to explain why some mistakes are actually no mistakes at all, especially if pictures speak for themselves.

Accident, fallibility, inexperience, dilettantism, the instinctive feelings but not the conscious reasoning make a photo sometimes excel (fail better?).

Why the spoilers?
Profile Image for Zehra.
23 reviews
July 14, 2018
Hızlı okunan bir kitap. İçeriği ilham verici. Yorumunu bir ara yazarım herhalde ❤️
Profile Image for Ayat.
145 reviews33 followers
February 18, 2021
من الكتب الي ماحبيتها..
فيه افكار غريبة ماتقبلتها أو يمكن ماوصلت لي اي فائدة معنية 🙄💔💔.
Profile Image for Julia.
54 reviews2 followers
August 24, 2021
Zaznaczyłam pare zdań, ale książka nie wniosła nic do mojego życia.
Niektóre obrazki były bardzo ładne, dlatego 2 gwiazdki.
Profile Image for Julia Kasprzyk.
12 reviews
January 26, 2022
Luźna, fajna i inspirujaca ksiazka, niestety nie ze wszystkim sie zgadzam
Styl przyjemny, nawet sie uśmiałam na niekotrych fragmentach
5 reviews
October 7, 2021
Sehr gut geschrieben und viele Denkanstöße!
Es sollten mehr Leute lesen und beherzigen. Fehler sind nicht schlimm, sie sind Teil unseres Lebens und man sollte aus ihnen lernen
Profile Image for S.
60 reviews
May 25, 2020
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 modification of what we view as success, and he urges readers to think out of professionally lit-and-shot box by finding the beauty in imperfection. It's boring to be too clean, too neat, too predictable; finding worth in the unconventional provides all the ammunition required.

Charming and an easy read, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Alexandria Bianca.
14 reviews3 followers
September 14, 2016
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 from people that think they need to put measures on life. What I may think is odd or a big flop could actually be the start of something beautiful or successful. Don't put measures on life.
Profile Image for Rick Marcello.
62 reviews2 followers
December 13, 2018
"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.
Profile Image for Hanna.
483 reviews30 followers
April 29, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Obeida Takriti.
394 reviews41 followers
July 14, 2019
فكرة الكتاب بسيطة وصغيرة يشرجها بكثير من الصور والأمثلة..
ليس كتاباً تعليمياً بقدر ما هو كتاب لتحفيز بعض الأفكار المختلفة..
الكتاب عبارة عن أمثلة لأشياء فشلت، والسؤال هو هل بالفعل فشلت أم هي صورة مختلفة لم نعتدها فقط..
106 reviews1 follower
September 19, 2016
Great quick read on creativity and failure. Full of wisdom and thoughtful photography. Will definitely go back to it like those Austin Kleon books...
Profile Image for Isfp.
311 reviews73 followers
November 6, 2018
الكتاب ملهم جداً لا سيما في مجال التصوير، لكنني أعتقد أنه لا يصلح للتطبيق في جميع أمور الحياة.
Profile Image for Jeff.
53 reviews
June 16, 2017
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 read, covering some familiar territory for me. By which I mean, many of the ideas presented are familiar, and some of the images presented are things that have been shared in epic fail type blogs, but still some fun points.

The three takeaways I enjoyed most were new, or seemed new at least in the way they were phrased were
1) Confidence is overrated - "great ideas come from doubting them, interrogating them and allowing other possibilities to take root."

2) "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." ~ Winston Churchill
Considering the author it seems like something I may have stumbled across before, but stayed with me this time.

3) My favorite example of "creative failure" or "doing it wrong" was the example of Kent Rogowski who realized that some jigsaw puzzle companies use the same die-cut pattern to make all of their puzzles, making the pieces interchangeable from puzzle to puzzle. So he interchanged the pieces in what the author rightly refers to as beautifully "stunning imperfection".

Makes me want to die cut puzzle pieces out of many things and interchange the pieces.

Profile Image for June Kweh.
47 reviews13 followers
May 15, 2020
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 work and surprise the hell out of someone every once in a while, you need to get over your fear of looking stupid."


"Feel humiliated? Get used to it.

If you're not making mistakes. If you're not regularly feeling stupid. If you don't believe your ideas are inadequate. If no one is arching an eyebrow while slowly, condescendingly asking why on earth you're doing this. If your ideas aren't routinely mocked when shared with those who follow the rules.

You're probably doing it wrong."


With the bravado I have newly acquired from reading this book, I did experiment around quite a bit at the risk of looking stupid. But I'd take looking stupid over being mediocre and boring any other day.

Profile Image for Slow Culture Magazine.
90 reviews4 followers
February 26, 2020
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 and food for thoughts.
Profile Image for Gemini.
253 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2022
Well I certainly would''ve guessed to have read this on one day, but I did. There are some interesting tidbits in here, bunch of photos that you won't generally see elsewhere either. I was intrigued to find a book at how failure can actually lead to success. Making mistakes us a good thing because you don't know what that is going to look like afterwards. I mean who would have guessed this ia way to think about things? Might as well keep an open mind, right? Not to say every single mistake will come to that but it certainly helps to look at it differently. Apparently w/out certain mistakes wonderful discoveries aren't made. When accidents happen they can actually be an eye opener to something new. It's not just about being creative but that certainly helps though. Too much right brain thinking, time to switch to left brain creativity & imagination. So yeah considering the easy read, check out the photos, read some inspiring stuff & see where it leads you.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 120 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.