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It's Okay To Suck At Things: The Museum of Failure Pops Up in Shanghai

By Jan 31, 2019 Arts


The Swedish Museum of Failure has cropped up at No. 1 Department Store, introducing Shanghai to the concept of failure. Listen, Sweden, we know a thing or two about failure, all right? You're three floors down from where P.F. Chang's was. On display are over 100 instances of really, really bad ideas that not only weren't smothered in their infancy, but actually made it to market.


Inspired by the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Museum of Failure was created by Swedish psychologist Samuel West. It's built on two principles: first, successes are lame, while failures are hilarious. Second, failure is good. It's a learning process.


As Mr. West says, "it's okay to share your inadequacies, your failures, your stupid questions, your unrefined ideas without being negatively judged."

Let's negatively judge some of these unrefined ideas.

The Spray-On Condom

In 2006, the German Institute for Condom Consultancy (can't find the website) made a device that coated your dingdong in melted latex. It took three minutes to cool. That's the entirety of Prince's guitar solo from While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Even in spraycan form, it shriveled.


Tetrapak Rigello

Imagine a biodegradable alternative to metal and glass. Now, imagine it's not actually biodegradable. Disruptive.


Twitter Peek

In 2009, Twitter released a 200 dollar device for tweeting around the time smartphones cost 120 dollars. On the plus side, the twenty-character display made it really hard to read tweets.


Top-left, the pug with the earphones.

No More Woof

A device which swore it could convert your woofer's brainwaves into speech: "I'm hungry," "I'm tired," "let my people go," etc.

Four Loko

Criminal record in a can. What is this doing here.

All Of The Smartphones

Mr. West says he could fill an entire museum with failed smartphones. The 2003 N-Gage, Nokia's phone/Gameboy, sucked at being either. The 1998 Iridium, which needed a 5 billion dollar satellite network, was obsolete when it launched. The 2014 Amazon Fire had a dedicated buy button. Imagine being able to buy things at a button press. Terrible idea.

The Zune

The best joke in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II.


It's all in good fun! The victims were mostly the creators. Except...


Whoops, couple more lifeboats next time, haha! How about the "Icepick Lobotomy," with celebrity endorsement from J.F.K's sister Rosemary? Hoho, the science might've been a bit premature there, but at least the Kennedys learned from their mistake and created the Special Olympics in her honor.

Remember "My Friend Cayla," the internet-connected doll from 2014 that harvested everything it saw and heard and sold it off to marketers? Just an unrefined idea on the road to success! Remember Google Glass? The company that knows everything you do in an Incognito window was floored when people didn't want to be filmed by strangers without their knowledge.


Worth a visit. Mostly it's funny, occasionally it's horrifying. Thalidomide gets an entry, on loan from the Museum of Corporate Atrocity. No one likes to be reminded of failure, and that's the real failure the museum wants us to confront, so we can reflect, grow and learn. There's an entire wall for the greatest, the best learning experience of all.



The Museum of Failure is open daily until March 17. It's on 3/F, Bldg B, Shanghai No. 1 Department Store. Entry is 60rmb per person, or 100rmb for two. The signs are in Chinese, but you can ask for English handbooks at the front desk.


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