The Brilliant Failure Award – Thinkibility Nibble

Earlier in the post The Charm of Imperfection we wrote about figure-ground reversal or negative space: in art it is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image. Have a look at this brilliant but difficult to see perception tricks.


There are many Innovation Awards. to name a few: the Chicago Innovation Awards, the Philips Innovation Award, the Science Innovation Award, the Tech Awards, the Accenture Innovation Awards, The BIG Innovation Awards; the list is endless.

But what about the negative space: Awards for Brilliant Failures?


The Institute for Brilliant Failures developed 20 archetypes that help you identify and learn from failures. To learn from brilliant failures, look here for their data base.

One of the most interesting failures is that of the Museum of Failed Products. Robert McMath – a marketing professional – intended to accumulate a reference library of consumer products. Starting in the 1960s he started to purchase and preserve a sample of every new item he could find. The collection soon outgrew his office and he moved it into a converted granary, where it continued to grow rapidly.


What McMath did not take into account was that most products fail – so that his collection was overwhelmingly made up of products that did not survive the test of the marketplace.
The insight that ‘most products fail’ proved to be the making of McMath’s career. The collection itself – now owned and operated by GfK Custom Research North America – is now regularly visited by consumer product manufacturing executives eager to avoid mistakes they or their competitors have made in the past.

What are your nominees for 2017? What can we learn from it?


5 Replies to “The Brilliant Failure Award – Thinkibility Nibble”

  1. Salon des Refusés – Exhibition of Rejects

    Any exhibition of works rejected from a juried art show.

    More than a thousand visitors a day visited the Salon des Refusés. The journalist Émile Zola reported that visitors pushed to get into the crowded galleries where the refused paintings were hung, and the rooms were full of the laughter of the spectators.[5] Critics and the public ridiculed the refusés, which included such now-famous paintings as Édouard Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe and James McNeill Whistler’s Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl. But the critical attention also legitimized the emerging avant-garde in painting.

  2. “In the sixties of the nineteenth century, works by young impressionist artists such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, Bazille and Sisley were refused by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, organizer of the official Salon de Paris. Even paintings by Courbet, who were already among the recognized artists at that time, were regularly refused by the jury.”

  3. The Museum Of Bad Art Has Been Celebrating Failure Since 1993

    From the garbage to gallery walls, Boston’s Museum Of Bad Art is dedicated to preserving “art too bad to be ignored.”

    The Museum Of Bad Art has “exacting standards,” according to Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director Louise Sacco. When considering new acquisitions, MOBA looks for artworks with that “special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent.” Curator in Chief Michael Frank regularly sifts through offers from prospective donors across the globe, and he and others scour flea markets, thrift stores, and curbside trash to find striking pieces worthy of the MOBA spotlight. Word has spread so effectively that trash collection companies even call the museum with tips on spectacularly bad finds.

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