origin of ‘back to the drawing board’




The phrase back to the drawing board is used to indicate that an idea, scheme or proposal has been unsuccessful and that a new one must be devised.




The New Yorker of 1st March 1941 published a cartoon by Peter Arno (Curtis Arnoux Peters, Jr – 1904-68), showing a smouldering airplane which has just crashed head first into the ground. In the background, the pilot is coming down by parachute. Service personnel are looking on in horror or rushing forward while a civilian designer, a rolled-up engineering plan under his arm, is walking away, saying:

Well, back to the old drawing board.

Back to the drawing board, by Peter Arno


The following cartoons were also published in The New Yorker during the same period:

Now that’s enough! Run along!

just married, by Peter Arno

You’re making a grave mistake, Miss Loesch. We Scoutmasters are not entrusted with military secrets.

scout, by Peter Arno

Maybe after this you’ll realize that when I say I’m going to dive, I mean it. Now go below and dry yourself.

submarine, by Peter Arno

Well, what’s the excuse this time?

boat, by Peter Arno

Never mind the damned cake! Where are the reporters?

birthday, by Peter Arno

You never can tell what they’re thinking, can you?

art and Japanese, by Peter Arno

Well, if you ever need us again just give us a ring.

fireman, by Peter Arno

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