Back To The Drawing Board


Starting over again because a plan failed to come together; going back to square one.

This phrase is used to describe a plan that goes wrong, and it’s implied that changes are needed if success is to be found the next time.

Example: I wanted to start doing an exercise at home that didn’t require any equipment, and so I chose squats. However, a week in and my knees hurt whenever I do them, so I’m going back to the drawing board to try and figure out how to improve my form.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
back to square one
An architect going back to a drawing board.
What’s he drawing?

The Origin of ‘Back To The Drawing Board’

A drawing board (also called a drawing table or architect’s table) is used for designing things. Before creating something complex, it can be useful to make blueprint of it first. This can give a basic outline of what needs to be done.

An architect, for instance, might use a drawing board to plan out a house’s measurements before its built. He can also plan the layout of its inside and figure out how he wants it to look overall once it’s finished. While the house is being built, what if something went wrong with the design? Perhaps you can picture the architect literally going back to where his plans first began—the drawing board.

Anyways, the origin of this phrase is believed to come from an American artist named Peter Arno. He wrote a cartoon for the New Yorker in 1941. The cartoon consists of a crashed plane in the background, and there’s a man dressed in a suit walking away from the crash site, saying:

“Well, back to the drawing board.”

The man wearing the suit is carrying what looks are some kind of blueprints. They are rolled up under his arm. This might be suggesting that he worked on the plane. If that’s the case, hopefully the next design won’t go so poorly!

Example Sentences:

  1. After a month of being on this new diet, I still weigh about the same as I did before. I guess it’s back to the drawing board for me.

Note: Sometimes, a phrase’s origin is not always known. So when that happens, if there are any explanations or theories that exist about where the expression may have come from, then I’ll mention that. If no theory is given, then I’ll at least try to include the earliest known quote or the earliest citation that I could find of it in writing.

Anyways, thanks for visiting Know Your Phrase, a place where you’ll find the meanings of common phrases and sayings

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