Back to the drawing board

a rectangular board on which paper is placed or mounted for drawing or drafting.
back to the drawing board, back to the original or an earlier stage of planning or development:
Our plan didn’t work out, so it’s back to the drawing board.
on the drawing board, in the planning or design stage:
The shopping center is still on the drawing board.
a smooth flat rectangular board on which paper, canvas, etc, is placed for making drawings
back to the drawing board, return to an earlier stage in an enterprise because a planned undertaking has failed

A saying indicating that one’s effort has failed, and one must start all over again: “The new package we designed hasn’t increased our sales as we’d hoped, so it’s back to the drawing board.”


The matter must be reconsidered; it’s time to start again: So back to the drawing board. Find another way to go

[fr the caption of an early 1940s Peter Arno New Yorker cartoon showing a crashed airplane]
Also, back to square one. Back to the beginning because the current attempt was unsuccessful, as in When the town refused to fund our music program, we had to go back to the drawing board, or I’ve assembled this wrong side up, so it’s back to square one. The first term originated during World War II, most likely from the caption of a cartoon by Peter Arno in The New Yorker magazine. It pictured a man who held a set of blueprints and was watching an airplane explode. The variant is thought to come from a board game or street game where an unlucky throw of dice or a marker sends the player back to the beginning of the course. It was popularized by British sports-casters in the 1930s, when the printed radio program included a grid with numbered squares to help listeners follow the description of a soccer game.
see: back to the drawing board


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  • Back to the wall

    Also, back against the wall. In a hard-pressed situation; also, without any way of escape. For example, In the closing few minutes, our team had its back to the wall but continued to fight gallantly, or The bank has him with his back to the wall; he’ll have to pay up now. This term was […]

  • Backtrack

    to return over the same course or route. to withdraw from an undertaking, position, etc.; reverse a policy. Contemporary Examples “The amount of time you spend at the gym is not enough time to backtrack in your waist training,” she says. Waist Training: Can You Cinch Your Waist Thin? DailyBurn July 17, 2014 Almost immediately […]

  • Back-trail

    to backtrack. Historical Examples An’ I waited there all afternoon till dark, expectin’ mebbe they’d back-trail. The Man of the Forest Zane Grey “But, Jim, I’ll never be able to find the back-trail,” said Joan. The Border Legion Zane Grey After a while the foot-fall again gained upon him, and once more the walk merged […]

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