How Twitter’s Iconic ‘Fail Whale’ Was Born

twitter fail elephant fail whale

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In an interview with PandoDaily, Twitter “Fail Whale” creator Yiying Lu spilled the beans on how the Fail Whale came to be.In fact, the iconic illustration didn’t begin its life as a whale at all.

Lu drew an elephant carried by birds back in 2002 “just because,” as a sketch for fun on a pad of paper.

She used it as part of greeting cards she’d mail to friends.

One time, Lu wanted to mail a card to friends from New South Wales (in Australia), so she changed the elephant to a whale.

Lu liked the whale design and drew several others which she posted to Flickr and since she didn’t have a website at the time.

In 2007 or 2008, a fan emailed her and told her that he’d seen her work on Twitter whenever the site went down. Lu wasn’t familiar with the then fledgling social network. Apparently, an early Twitter employee had found it on iStockPhoto and purchased it, and that’s how the Fail Whale came to be.

Check out the rest of the video Interview with Yiying Lu, which includes other cool whale designs, over at PandoDaily.