What is an 'Oopsmark' anyway?

November 10, 2014

Hitting the Oopsmark

I used to have the bad habit of swearing every time I messed up while working. I was collaborating with a friend (who goes by the name 34) on a metal and leather design when one day she called me out on my bad habit. I had messed up and made a hole in the wrong place, and after some expletive-ridden complaining, she told me that I hadn't make a mistake, but rather I had hit the oopsmark, and because of this, the design ended up being better than I had originally planned. She explained that the oopsmark is an unintentional outcome that often ends up being better than what you had wanted to do in the first place.

The meaning has evolved for me a bit since then. As part of the design process, the oopsmark is a way to stay open to all possibilities, to allow research and development and trial and error to coexist. Some of the greatest discoveries of our time happened because someone was looking for something and ended up finding something else. The Big Bang theory was unintentionally discovered when astronomers working with an antenna discovered background noise, not unlike common radio static, which turned out to be leftover cosmic radiation; fireworks were accidentally invented 2000 years ago in China when a cook combined common kitchen items charcoal, sulphur, and saltpeter in a bamboo tube, which exploded when compressed (making a fancy dish, perhaps?).

Oopsmark as a company came to be in much the same way. I had quit my job as an environmental engineer, and was working on a idea to collaborate with musicians and have their music distributed through a product I had designed, the USB Bracelet. I was in talks with band managers and music producers when I designed the bicycle wine rack for fun and sent it to a few blogs. I laid the idea to rest... until a week later it got picked up by Design*Sponge and was more popular than I ever imagined. I still make music and collaborate with musicians, but my main focus is the ongoing development of products for my business.

An oopsmark doesn't only happen when you're making something; it can also be a life philosophy. Did you ever miss your flight only to be seated next to the person who would eventually become your bestfriend/partner/boss on the next plane? How did you transform a mistake into something better? Crazy oopsmarks happen all the time, and we want to hear yours!

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