Asterisk: Helping To Conquer The Fear of Failure

  • Asterisk is a scheme implemented in universities that helps students conquer their fears of failure by encouraging them to see beauty in mistakes.
  •  Do you find mistakes scary or beautiful?
  • [This spooky but beautiful animation, compiled from over 250 failed macro photo attempts of ink falling through water, goes to show what can be created from seemingly useless mistakes]
  • The Problem.
    I believe you must occasionally get things wrong in order to progress through life and I feel this philosophy is a vital part of being a student, especially because you are granted the opportunity to learn from your own mistakes in a relatively risk free environment. 

    Unfortunately this is not a common state of mind for many students, where the prospects of entering an increasingly competitive industry pressures them to seek perfection and instead actually leaves them afraid of mucking up! This can sometimes manifest into a phobia called Atychiphobia - the actual fear of failure.

    My final major project at uni aimed to tackle this issue and provide a fresh and interesting perspective on failure and the idea of making mistakes. This concentrated on literally creating beautiful design from actual mistakes.
  • The Solution - face your fear...
  • The Brand.
    I wanted to create a visually engaging and dark theme throughout the brand in order to show off both the good and bad elements of mistakes without sugar coating the message. I decided early on that this would not work with a bright and friendly campaign because I wanted to challenge the viewers to make up their own minds, not spoon feed them my personal opinion.

    Firstly I needed a clear and striking identity in order to catch student's attention. Whilst looking at symbolic representations of mistakes, I discovered that an asterisk symbol could actually be constructed from a plus (+) and a cross (x). Together these merge to form the brand's main symbol (an eight pointed asterisk), which represents a whole mistake made from two opposing elements (the good and the bad).
  • Since asterisks are commonly used to denote spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, I decided this would be a fitting name for the brand.

    The logotype subtly merges two letters ('r' and 'i') to emphasise the word 'risk' (e.g. to take a risk) and also to add an elegant morphed appearance to compliment the message of the brand - mistakes can be beautiful.
  • The Service:   FMP therapy programme.
  • Conquering your fear.
    I also designed a concept for the student service Asterisk provides. It is a 3 stage student therapy programme called FMP: 
    - It is available at participating universities through their existing student services department and 
      advice shops. 
    - It is designed to help students deal with the problems associated with being afraid of making mistakes. 
    - It is based on the real fear of failure called Atychiphobia, which is a damaging and potentially serious
      psychological condition.

    How it works.
    The therapy is split into 3 stages:
    3. Finesse - EMBRACING YOUR FEAR.
  • In each stage the student will undergo a series of carefully selected tests to help reveal the individual's weaknesses and aims to exploit them, gradually encouraging the student into failing at tasks they are uncomfortable with until they eventually succeed and acknowledge why they are failing, ultimately facing their fear.

    The concept behind this therapy is that the student experiences a challenging journey and faces their fear so that they can build their confidence and learn the benefits of mistakes, without ever worrying about getting things wrong/perfect again.
  • Appointment Cards.
    The student will need an appointment card to keep track of their progress throughout the 3 week long FMP programme. This acts similar to any multiple appointment card. Each box represents one week of the programme and upon completion of each successive week it will be ticked off by the Asterisk assessor.
  • The whole FMP programme will become quite challenging and frustrating so with this in mind each card can also be unfolded and reversed into an inspirational poster which the student can keep for motivation to keep going (the unfolded completed card on the reverse side can then be discarded by simply cutting off at the dotted line).
  • They feature an inspirational quote on the subject of failure combined with beautiful photography of splashes of black ink - a great visual metaphor of a mistake. These are combined in a suitably chaotic and random layout to reflect the quotes.
  • Awareness Campaign
    The following pieces of design work form an awareness campaign, both advertising Asterisk services within universities and at the same time raising awareness of Atychiphobia. 
  • 3D Awareness Poster.
  • Take a risk.
    The poster below is designed to entice people to interact with it and form the Asterisk logo from an initial extruding cross shape (x). When they rotate the x, they are actually creating a + as well as completing the asterisk symbol.

    This simply illustrates the ease in which something bad can be turned (literally) into something good.
  • Awareness Poster Campaign.
  • Change your view.
    I wanted people to literally start seeing mistakes in an honest but very different and amazing new way. So I photographed a close-up of an actual mistake in action:

  • The sum of its parts...
    It is important to note that the whole process and techniques used to capture this amazing image intentionally encouraged an outcome which was unpredictable and beyond my control in order to truly recreate the conditions of a real mistake, therefore giving it relevance in the campaign.
  • [Paint was poured into a fish bowl using a mug and then captured using a macro lens and flash-gun in complete darkness - this was necessary in order to create a high speed capture. This was the same set-up used for the initial failed ink shots that later made the animation above]
  • I did this on two (hundred?) different occasions, each time producing a unique, intriguing, and unusually beautiful image.

    The message, 'Change your view of mistakes', suggests people start thinking differently about how they perceive them and stop seeing them from one point of view as just a bad thing (x) and instead see them as something positive as well (+) - there are two sides to everything.

    People are taking a closer look at an honest picture of a mistake, so now they can decide for themselves if it's really a bad thing...
  • ...or a good thing?
  • Complete thinking... 
    The posters are designed to be displayed next to each other, making the two images form as one beautiful image - left and right.

    These two images represent the two halves of our brains: the left is logical and the right is creative.

    With this in mind, the right image is branded with a positive symbol (+), showing that responding to mistakes in a creative way can be a good thing. The left however shows a negative symbol (x), showing how logic unfortunately perceives mistakes to always be a bad thing.
  • Information Leaflet.
    This leaflet simply provides info for students about Asterisk and how to enroll onto the FMP programme at university. I wanted to create a contrast between the neat exterior and messy inner pages.
  • Inside.
    The inside of the leaflet features a special acetate sheet attached to the centre with a + printed on it. When people turn this transparent page to either side it rests on top of the X printed on the adjacent pages, completing the Asterisk symbol.

    This acts as a nice extension to the whole brand philosophy of combining two opposites to form one whole in a similar fashion to the previously discussed 3D poster.
  • Collectable Rorschach Ink Cards.
     I created these two sided promotional cards to raise further awareness of Asterisk services in a fun and potentially viral way throughout universities. These would be available throughout the year at advice shops or at university open days.
  • Mind Over Matter...
    With the brand's previous uses of ink and paint, I decided to base these designs on real Rorschach Test cards. This is a psychological test where a number of randomly generated ink patterns are used to determine a patients mental state, dependant on how positive or negative their associated responses are.
    What you see in these patterns is all dependant on your state of mind, so the cards test the audience to look past the menacing, dark appearances of the messy 'mistake' (x) and look at them in another way, where it is possible for your brain to instead process interesting, fun, and beautiful images (+). 
    For example, looking at the 4 cards below I can see (l/r):
    1. a baby darth vader   2. a space invader   3. a dog/wolf face   4. an elephants face (seriously try it out!)
  • [It is important to note that the process of making these designs was as uncontrollable as humanly possible in order to recreate the conditions of a real mistake thus staying true to the project ethos as a whole. I did this by randomly spilling ink onto paper and folding it in half to create an unpredictable mess]
  • This is really a psychological test applied as a fun excercise:
    The main goal is to get people thinking and seeing the bigger picture of mistakes by allowing them to subconciously teach themselves to see interesting things in the patterns.

    On another note, as stand alone pieces of collectible artwork I think they are great examples of how something beautiful can be made from a seemingly messy, random process. A lack of precision and complete disregard for making an error are actually essential to the creation of these works of art.
    Hopefully people can see this and take away one message from it: sometimes it is necessary to just let go!
  • Final Major Project Exhibition.
  • What do you see in mistakes?
    At the exhibition, people were encouraged to share what they saw in the random ink patterns, so what can you see?
    Below are the links to my Rorschach ink card designs, why not download them and test your state of mind. Let your imagination run wild then get in touch with your interpretations. Don't forget to rotate them to see different things. Enjoy.

    You can send your thoughts to:
    Why not get involved and spread the word by posting your test card and interpretations on the web:
    Tumblr - tag your post 'asterisk'
    Twitter - use the tag #asterisk
  • Thank You.