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 expression is used to describe an idea that went wrong and it’s implied that changes are needed if success is to be found the next time.

Example: My sink has been leaking lately and I want it to stop, so I looked up how to fix it. I then spent some time trying to solve the issue, but no dice. So I guess I need to go back to the drawing board in order to figure out what I’m doing wrong… or maybe I should just call a plumber instead.

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

Going back to the drawing board.

The Origin of ‘Back To The Drawing Board’

The Idea Behind ‘Back To The Drawing Board’

Before creating something complex, a drawing board (also called a drawing table or architect’s table) is often used to design it first. As it turns out, making a basic outline of what needs to be done, a blueprint of what will be created, is quite useful.

For example, an architect uses a drawing board to plan a house’s measurements before its built. He can also figure out the layout of its inside and get a clear idea on how he wants it to look overall once it’s finished. Then, when the house is in the process of being built, if something were to go wrong, the architect would literally have to go back to where his plans first began—the drawing board—if he wanted to make any modifications.

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 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.”

It’s implied that the man wearing the suit in the cartoon has done work on this plane before. Why? Because he’s carrying what looks to be some kind of rolled up blueprints under his arm. So if he did have a part in designing the plane, hopefully the next one won’t go so poorly!

Example Sentences: Back To The Drawing Board

  • After a month 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 miniature race car, but the wheels are not turning properly. It’s time to go back to the drawing board so I can figure out how to fix this.

Note: Sometimes, a phrase’s origin is not always known. 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 explore, so check ’em out!

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