Do mistakes really make us smarter? The Museum of Failure is home to roughly 100 examples of failed products from renowned companies – many of which have gone on to serve as the point of departure for successful innovations. The museum’s new corporate look reflects the positive power of failure, and establishes the museum as a brand.
When it comes to advice about how to make the most of an idea gone wrong, there’s more than enough to go around. But despite the time-tested wisdom of sayings meant to console us when we fail – “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” or “If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again” – there is still a general stigma attached to failure. For companies and the new products they invest so much time, money and hope in, the rule of thumb ought, paradoxically, to sound more like this: “failure is good if it brings you success”. Which, as we all know, quickly leads to the realisation that, in the end, it is only failure – unnoticed and without exception – that leads to successful products.
At the Museum of Failure, evidence for this claim is showcased in the form of more than 100 examples of failed products and services from some of the world’s most well-known companies. The examples cover a wide range of products, including a plastic bicycle that was twice as expensive as a conventional bike while also proving to be far less stable; the Ford Edsel, a car that promised to be the automobile of the future, but failed to live up to expectations; and a DVD that would automatically delete its contents after 48 hours.
Welcoming and learning from failure
The idea to open a museum about failure came from Dr Samuel West, a psychologist living in Sweden with Icelandic-Californian roots. His curatorial concept was based on the recognition that “we must welcome, accept and investigate failure. We must document failure seriously in all of its impressive grandiosity, observe it objectively and value its ability to teach us”. Following the success of the pop-up museum’s exhibitions in West’s home country of Sweden, as well as in the United States, the United Kingdom and China, more locations are now being planned for Europe – to continue shedding light on the positive power of failure. After all, for every Apple iPhone, VCR and Ford Mustang, there’s a spectacular failure like the Newton, Betamax or Edsel that came before it
Visualising the positive power of failure
To transform this unusual museum into a brand and to help it symbolise the culture of failure for potential visitors, the Düsseldorf-based brand design agency KW43 has developed a new corporate image for the Museum of Failure. The new design visually reflects the positive power of failure, and places a paradox at the heart of the museum’s corporate identity by combining two powerful icons into a single universal symbol in the museum’s logo: a positive green check (for success) and a red X (for failure). The resulting green X is the key symbol of the museum’s new corporate design.
From MOF to MOX
Professor Rüdiger Goetz, Creative Director at KW43, explains the redesign: “The key visual across all devices is the embodiment of positive failure. The green X is a very conscious statement, and it draws attention to the Museum of Failure while crossing national barriers as well as language barriers. We are also proud that we were able to give the museum a new name through our rebranding work. The somewhat linguistically unpopular MOF has become MOX — what more could you ask for?” And it’s worth noting that neither the MOX nor its new corporate design have failed. Paradoxically, this goes to show that success is reserved for those who work intensively with failure and are able to draw the right conclusions from it.
By ndion editorial office. All pictures © KW43.