back to the drawing board

drawing board

a rectangular board on which paper is placed or mounted for drawing or drafting.
back to the drawing board, back to the original or an earlier stage of planning or development: Our plan didn't work out, so it's back to the drawing board.
on the drawing board, in the planning or design stage: The shopping center is still on the drawing board.

1715–25 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
drawing board
1.  a smooth flat rectangular board on which paper, canvas, etc, is placed for making drawings
2.  back to the drawing board return to an earlier stage in an enterprise because a planned undertaking has failed

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

back to the drawing board definition

A saying indicating that one's effort has failed, and one must start all over again: “The new package we designed hasn't increased our sales as we'd hoped, so it's back to the drawing board.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

back to the drawing board

Also, back to square one. Back to the beginning because the current attempt was unsuccessful, as in When the town refused to fund our music program, we had to go back to the drawing board, or I've assembled this wrong side up, so it's back to square one. The first term originated during World War II, most likely from the caption of a cartoon by Peter Arno in The New Yorker magazine. It pictured a man who held a set of blueprints and was watching an airplane explode. The variant is thought to come from a board game or street game where an unlucky throw of dice or a marker sends the player back to the beginning of the course. It was popularized by British sports-casters in the 1930s, when the printed radio program included a grid with numbered squares to help listeners follow the description of a soccer game.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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