Public failure at Interesting 09


I had the great honour of speaking this Saturday at what I can only describe as a great British institution and cocked up massively trying to talk 300 people into making an origami box. Failure is a good thing, it’s something you can learn from, it makes you humble and since it was only the top of the iceberg of what I wanted to talk about, I thought I’d do it here and apologise for screwing up in a totally public way.

First things first, the theme was paper and since I’d done a 15 minute session at Papercamp last Feb, Russell thought it was a good idea to invite me back. I’m sure he regrets it now. This is what I would have talked about if given a second chance (these thoughts were enhanced from speaking with the lovely Georgina Voss):

– Paper as a tool for 2D to 3D thinking in design and creativity.

The invention of the paper bag

How paper was soaked with a vinegar-based solution during the plague

– Ransom letters, public ads, confession postcards, shopping lists, found magazines, sketch books, scrap booking, notes left behind.

– The new world of Kindle and what it means for paper.

– Quotes from Books vs Cigarettes.

– Lots and lots of images from Un/Folded.

– The myth of the paperless office and consumption of paper and paperboard per capita in the UK:
In 2005: 201.20 KG/person/year
In 1985: 138.41
In 1975: 108.66

– The reassurance of paper

– Humphrey Bogart for good measure (don’t ask)

Instead of all of that, i decided to pick from what I thought was the simplest origami I’d seen (after staring at books my friends lent me for months). It turns out you learn so much about language, signs, importance of steps and procedural thinking in origami, that taking 300 people cold turkey through about 20 different steps in 10 minutes was a rather bad idea. I enjoyed trying though and I hope people won’t be too cross with me. I was tired of giving talks and at the time, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea, until half way through when only 10 people were still tagging along…oh well. Next time.

By designswarm

Blogging since 2005.


  1. It was brilliant. Ambition and charisma are always more interesting than dull competence.

    We’ll have another go next year. But we’ll get everyone to practise beforehand.

  2. I don’t think you have anything to apologise for. If anything, it was us, the audience, that failed to rise to your challenge.

    Weirdly, the passive-aggressive photo you used was taken by my friend Alice who was sat next to me in the audience. Small world huh?

  3. What Nick and Russell said. Failure is good, it means you’re pushing the boundaries.

    Whilst I was sat in the audience on Saturday being repeatedly awed by each presentation I was trying to work out what I’d talk about if I was up on stage. And it’s tricky, given that the only interesting stuff I do is work. The only interesting idea I could come up with would be a talk about all(/some – the more interesting I guess) times I’ve failed.

    Hmm, I thought there was a point to this comment when I started writing it – I’ve even failed at that ;-)

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