Back To The Drawing Board


The phrase back to the drawing board means to start 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: My sink leaks whenever I use it. I tried fixing it for hours, but the problem remains. I guess it’s time for me to go back to the drawing board and figure out what I’m doing wrong… or I could just call a plumber instead.

Synonyms: back to square one, back to where we started

An architect going back to the drawing board.
An architect using a drawing board.

The Origin of ‘Back To The Drawing Board’

The Idea Behind ‘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.

The Origin

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: Back To The Drawing Board

  • After a month of being on this new diet, I still weigh the same as I did before. I guess it’s back to the drawing board for me.
  • I built a toy race car, but the wheels don’t turn properly. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what I did wrong.

Note: Sometimes, a phrase’s origin is not always known. So when that happens, I’ll usually list any explanations or theories that talk about where the expression comes from. If no plausible sounding theories exist, well, then nothing will be listed. But at the very least, you can usually find the earliest known quote of the idiom in print on the page, so that’s something I guess.

Anyways, there are hundreds of phrases and sayings on here to read about, so check ’em out!

Sharing is caring!