PacSci Perspectives


The Award-Winning Wall of Failure

by | May 30, 2018

Wall Of Failure

If you’ve been to Pacific Science Center recently, you may have passed through the Ackerley Family Exhibit Gallery lobby and noticed the Wall of Failure. The Wall of Failure is a temporary exhibit that was designed to be a fun and eye-catching showcase of people from all walks of life and in various industries, who initially failed in their endeavors but persisted despite nay-sayers, before they became huge successes in our society. From failed professional baseball player turned successful professional basketball player, Michael Jordan, to struggling, rejected Chinese student turned billionaire business magnate, Jack Ma (co-owner of

Rowe Redick, exhibit developer at the Science Center and co-contributor to the exhibit explains that the idea behind the exhibit was to highlight, in a “bite-sized way,” one of the Science Center’s guiding principles—embracing experimentation and innovation and the demonstration that failure is a key ingredient of progress; where you can connect to any one of these successful people on some level based on your interests. Rowe says of the exhibit, “We wanted to create a space that was funny and eye-catching, and that would have people lean in and say, ‘huh, that’s funny, I didn’t know that.'”

Most recently, the Wall of Failure won an award from the American Alliance of Museums for Excellence in Exhibition Label Writing. Rowe and team wanted to make the content of the labels the highlight of the exhibit. This is why the portraits were purposefully designed to be black and white, with a texture to them that would essentially make an onlooker need to step back and look at the entire group of failures as a whole. The labels have a clever, bold, eye-catching element to them that informs an on-looker, in a succinct and relatable way, the true story of these “failures.”

Originally, Rowe and team envisioned the exhibit to have more of an “art gallery” type of feel, with gilded framed portraits, where guests would walk up to the wall and see these famous people and read the labels that had more of an “copyedited-feel” to them. Instead, they scrapped the gilded frames idea because they believed the gilded frames would take away from the key message of the exhibit:

“Humans are failures, and failure is something that we all grapple with at different stages in our lives. If we were all better at dealing with it, we could all be a little more patient and persistent. The people we use as examples pushed past some pretty amazing obstacles to achieve success, and they did so with such poise that most of society didn’t realize that these famous people had gone through these obstacles in the first place.”

If you haven’t seen this award-winning exhibit yet, then be sure to stop by before June 23, as that is the last day the Wall of Failure will be featured before our next temporary exhibit, Nikon’s Small Word: Photomicrography, will be installed.