At a previous job I did a lot of print design, and at one point I was tasked with creating a series of brochures for my employer explaining the various services they offered. I was provided the text and images I had to use, and I built my design around that. After the final designs went out to the printer and we received the final product someone discovered a major typo that everyone along the line had totally overlooked: the business phone number was incorrect. Not a small detail to be sure. I then spent the rest of the week making labels and putting them over the incorrect info on all 500+ brochures.
I’m sure we’ve all made plenty of boneheaded mistakes in our lives, wether at work or in our personal lives. I know it’s very easy to feel stupid when these happen, but even the best of us mess up once in a while. To err is to human, as they say.
Take a Deep Breath
It’s not the end of the world. People will probably be upset or disappointed with you, but you can’t control how people feel. Instead focus on what you can control. Chances are the mistake isn’t going to cause a catastrophe, so there is usually a solution to fix the issue.
In my case I offered up the inelegant but effective solution of putting labels over the typo. But before that I went into the design file and corrected the information so I wouldn’t forget to do it for the next printing. Sure my bosses weren’t thrilled with the fact that the mistake was there, but they recognized that I had the initiative to find a workaround.
What Did You Learn?
We make mistakes so that we can learn. We learn so we don’t make the same mistakes. Coming up with a fix is a great immediate solution, but being able to identify what you did wrong and why is the first big step in preventing more errors.
My problem at the time was that I didn’t take the level of care and attention that I should have. I put my heart into the design, but I didn’t double check, triple check, and quadruple check the work. From this experience I learned that I should pay attention to every detail, including the content that bosses or clients provide for a project.
Share What You’ve Learned
You’re not the first person who made a particular mistake, and you certainly won’t be the last. There is a market out there for sharing the valuable lessons you learned, use that as a jumping off point for teaching. Or if you already teach, use it as a personal story to enhance the information you’re sharing. It doesn’t matter how “dumb” you think your mistake was, someday someone else will avoid messing something up because they found what you shared.
The biggest mistake you can make is keeping those valuable lessons to yourself.