back to the drawing board

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Alternative forms[edit]


Coined as “Well, back to the old drawing board.” as the caption of a Peter Arno cartoon of The New Yorker of March 1, 1941, depicting an engineer walking away from a crashed plane.[1]


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back to the drawing board

  1. (idiomatic) Back to the beginning following an unsuccessful attempt.
    Well, that didn't work at all, so it's back to the drawing board, I guess.
    • 1958, The Engineer, volume 205, page 920:
      For such cases the only thing is to go back to the drawing board and do it better; and it is here that the highest qualities of vision and human leadership are needed.
    • 1999, Mark L. Thompson, “Monday, October 28: Lake Michigan, Upbound”, in A Sailor’s Logbook: A Season Aboard Great Lakes Freighters (Great Lakes Books), Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, →ISBN, page 282:
      If we head for lay up tomorrow, those plans are right down the toilet and it's back to the drawing board.
    • 1999, Muhammad Yunus, “Opinion: Must There be Poverty?”, in Carolyn Dedolph, editor, Rice: Hunger or Hope?: IRRI 1998–1999, Makati City, Philippines: International Rice Research Institute, →ISBN, page 2:
      Poverty is created by institutions, concepts, and policies. We need to go back to the drawing board to redesign these and remove the barriers.
    • 2013 August 19, Lenore Taylor, “Go back to the drawing board on climate policy, business tells politicians”, in The Guardian[2]:
      Big business wants the main parties to go back to the drawing board on climate policy after the election to try to come up with an agreed plan for an economically efficient way to reduce Australia's emissions and offer investment certainty.
    • 2019 April 5, Sam Levin, “Google scraps AI ethics council after backlash: ‘Back to the drawing board’”, in The Guardian[3]:
      “It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted. So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board,” a Google spokesperson told the Guardian in a statement on Thursday.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Deis (2022 March 1) “The 1941 New Yorker cartoon that created the expression “Back to the old drawing board!””, in This Day in Quotes[1], retrieved 2024-01-07:But the saying “back to the old drawing board” is more recent and can actually be traced to a specific source and date. It was coined by the American artist Peter Arno in a cartoon first published in the March 1, 1941 issue of New Yorker magazine.