Back To The Drawing Board

If you have encountered a setback before, chances are you’ve found yourself going back to the drawing board. We’ve all had to restart a task or rethink our approach to overcome obstacles and achieve success. That is essentially what the phrase “back to the drawing board” is all about. In this article, we will delve deeper into this idiom to see what we can discover.

To make things easier, use the table of contents to navigate through this article.

Table of Contents


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 expression describes the need to go back to the initial planning stage, often with a sense of disappointment. It implies that the previous effort was unsuccessful and requires a fresh start. Let’s look at three key aspects that capture the meaning of “back to the drawing board”:

What It Means
1. The phrase refers to a task or project that has to be restarted due to a previous failure.
2. It suggests that the earlier attempt was flawed or unsuccessful and that a new strategy may be needed for success.
3. The phrase acknowledges that setbacks can happen and emphasizes the importance of persevering and trying again.

Example: Despite my efforts to fix the leaking faucet with my limited plumbing knowledge, the problem remains. I think it’s time to go back to the drawing board and reassess what I could do better.

Going back to the drawing board. / Paul Bradbury

Synonyms For “Back to the Drawing Board”

1. Back to where we started
2. Start over
3. Back to square one
4. Start from scratch
5. Try again
6. One step forward and two steps back
7. Give it another go
8. Hit the reset button
9. Restart the process
10. Reconsider the options

Synonyms for back to the drawing board include phrases such as “starting from scratch,” “back to square one,” and “giving it another go.” You can use these and the other synonymous phrases to indicate that you need to start over and rethink things.

The Origin of “Back To The Drawing Board”

Before starting a project, someone may decide to use a drawing board (or architect’s table) to design it first. Writing down details and creating a basic outline of things beforehand can be very helpful indeed. It’s like making a blueprint.

For example, what would an architect do before making a house? Likely, he/she would use a drawing board to first plan its measurements. They could also work on how they want the overall interior of the home to look like, such as the layout and placement of each room. Using a drawing board helps the architect get a clearer idea on how the house should look once it’s finished. Then, if anything goes wrong during construction, the designer could go back to the drawing board—the place where their plans first began! From there, they could make any modifications or improvements to their original design.

The Origin

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 shows a crashed plane, and there’s a man dressed in a suit walking away from the crash site, saying:

“Well, back to the drawing board.”

This implies the man in the suit designed the plane and things went seriously wrong. Hopefully his next attempt will go more smoothly!

Examples and Sentences

Let’s begin by examining some sentence examples that illustrate the usage of this phrase. Then we will go over a few demonstrations that substitute in synonyms in place of the expression. Here is the first set of examples:

  • I added more detergent to improve the smell of my clothes, but it’s not working. Looks like I’ll have to go back to the drawing board to find a solution.
  • To come up with a more effective approach, I will need to return to the drawing board to think things through.
  • The chefs had high hopes for their new soup dish, but they realized that they needed to go back to the drawing board after several failed attempts.

Now let’s look at three more examples, but this time we will use a similar idiom instead:

  • I lost all the progress I had made when my dog chewed up the paper I was working on. Now I’ll have to start from scratch.
  • While counting, he lost track of the number he was on, so he decided to restart the process to ensure it was done properly.
  • The flower I planted is not thriving, so it’s back to square one until I figure out what went wrong.

Notice how in all of these examples, the phrase “back to the drawing board” and its synonyms are used to convey the idea of starting over. That’s a key aspect to this expression. Additionally, with this phrase, it’s not about giving up after a problem presents itself, but rather bouncing back and finding ways to improve.