Back to the Drawing Board

Meaning of “Back to the Drawing Board”

The phrase “back to the drawing board” means to start a new design, idea, or proposal. It is similar to ‘Back to square one’. However, it is commonly used in architecture or design field. As the phrase suggests, it means that an engineer or a planner has failed to use the existing idea. He/she must make a new plan. The phrase can be used for any failure.

Origin of “Back to the Drawing Board”

The phrase “back to the drawing board” was perhaps used during the Second World War. However, a US-based newspaper Walla Walla Union-Bulletin made it popular in print format in its publication of December 1947. It mentioned thus: “Grid injuries for the season now closing suggest anew that nature get back to the drawing board, as the human knee is not only nothing to look at but also a piece of bum engineering.” Later it has become popular in the same words and used in print and spoken formats of English.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Back to the Drawing Board by Bernard F. Asuncion

B-ack to the drawing board,
O-verhaul the system;
B-egin to start once more, to avoid any mayhem.

M-ake another new plan
O-f action if you fail;
I-ntroduce fresh products,
S-oar to increase your sale.
E-arly twenty-fifth of August, you haven’t received reward;
S-tand up and think again, go back to the drawing board.

The above is an acrostic poem written for a person named ‘Bob Moises’ as birthday wishes. The poet encourages Bob to restart the system. Here’s the system is a metaphor for physical, emotional and work-related plans. The poem also means that every person should remain positive without worrying about failure. If something fails one time, there is always another opportunity to get it right.

Example #2

God made the world in six days flat,
On the seventh, He said, “I’ll rest,”
So He let the thing into orbit swing,
To give it a dry-run test.

A billion years went by, then He
Took a look at the whirling blob;
His spirits fell, as He shrugged, “Ah well,
It was only a six-day job.”

The poem is about God being unhappy at his creation. Hence, he decides to restart every few billions of years. According to the major creation theory from The Bible, Torah, and Quran, the universe, including the earth created in six days. Hence, the poet mentions that God was running a trial and error program by creating the world and humans. Hence, he is disappointed when he checks his handiwork and decides to do it again.

Example #3

Back to the Drawing Board by Donald Ainely

Back to the Drawing Board is a biography of a seasoned aeronautical engineer and designer, Donald Ainely. He details his life and how he started his career without any computer and without any skill. He went on to serve in the (Royal Air Force) RAF and later worked as a designer for tools for aircraft. He also recounts how he served in Malta and Cyprus in the RAF squadrons. The main point of the biography is to come back to the work from where he started new projects. Therefore, the use of this phrase in the title echoes throughout the book.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “When their boss informed them of his decision about the new designs for XY building, they were back to the drawing board.”

Example #2: “Noel decided he had to be back to the drawing board as his business plans needed new tactics.”  

Example #3: “It’s okay to be back to the drawing board, as long as you remain faithful to the right principles.”

Example #4: “Sheryl is back to the drawing board like an architecture who repeatedly works to make a building unique.”

Example #5: “Failure doesn’t mean you have to give up. It gives you a chance to restart as said by someone go back to the drawing board. You can do it!.”