Asterisk: Conquer The Fear of Failure


  • Asterisk is a scheme implemented in universities that helps students conquer their fear of failure. Their primary offering is a therapy programme which encourages you to make mistakes in order to see the beauty in mistakes. It's time to face your fear.
  •  Do you find mistakes scary or beautiful?
  • The Problem
    As the saying goes, you must occasionally get things wrong in order to progress through life and I feel this philosophy is a vital and overlooked part of being a student. Unfortunately this isn't a common state of mind for most students and often the prospects of entering an increasingly competitive industry pressures them to seek perfection and 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 university aimed to tackle this issue and provide a fresh and interesting perspective on failure and the idea of making mistakes. This concentrated on creating beautiful design from actual mistakes.
  • The Identity
    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. This would not work with a bright and friendly campaign because I didn't want to preach anything, I wanted to challenge the viewers to form their own opinions about mistakes.

    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, which represents a whole mistake made from two opposing elements (the good and the bad). With this, the name of the brand was also decided.
  • 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
    This is a 3 stage student therapy programme 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 through a series of carefully selected test based on the individual's weaknesses. 

    The therapy is split into 3 stages, each one named after the associated letter:

    1. Prepare - 1 week focused on recognising your fear and identifying weaknesses that cause the failure you are afraid of.
    2. Mature - 1 week focused on confronting your fear where weaknesses are exploited and you are encouraged to make mistakes.
    3. Finesse - 1 week focused on learning to take positives from mistakes and embracing your fear of them.
  • 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 or perfect again.
  • Appointment Cards & Motivational Posters
  • 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).



  • Awareness Campaign

    Take a Risk Poster
    The 3D poster below is designed to entice people to interact with it and form the Asterisk logo from a 'x' shape. When they rotate the 'x' they are actually creating a '+' as well as completing the asterisk logo. This illustrates the ease in which something bad can be turned (literally) into something good.
  • Anatomy of Mistakes Poster
    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 - paint spilled into water.
  • The whole process and technique 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 legitimacy 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.
  • The message, 'Change your view of mistakes', suggests people start thinking differently about how they perceive mistakes and stop seeing them as just a bad thing (x) and instead see them as something positive as well (+) - there are two points of view.

    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. The posters are designed to be displayed next to each other, making the two images form as one full picture.
  • Information Leaflet
    This leaflet simply provides info for students about Asterisk and how to enrol onto the FMP programme at university. I wanted to create a contrast between the neat exterior and messy inner pages.
  • 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 act as a psychological examination disguised as a fun creative exercise.





  • These illustrations are based on real Rorschach Test cards, 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 darth vader helmet   2. a space invader   3. a dog/wolf face   4. an elephants face

  • I created these by randomly spilling ink onto paper and folding it in half to create an unpredictable mess resembling a mistake.​​​​​​​
  • The main goal is to get people thinking and seeing the bigger picture of mistakes by allowing them to subconsciously teach themselves to see interesting things in the random blobs of ink. They are also 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 pieces of art.



  • 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.

    1. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/ballet%20dancers.jpg
    2. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/bunny.jpg
    3. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/big%20headed%20alien.jpg
    4. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/butterfly.jpg
    5. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/cow.jpg
    6. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/darth%20vader.jpg
    7. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/eagle.jpg
    8. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/human%20profile.jpg
    9. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/kitten%20face.jpg
    10. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/macho%20gorilla.jpg
    11. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/marching%20poodle.jpg
    12. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/person%20bending%20over%20showing%20rear.jpg
    13. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/space%20invader.jpg
    14. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/viking%20helmet.jpg
    15. https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90371824/woman%20doing%20yoga.jpg​​​​​​​
  • Thank You.