Fail Whale: Originally an Elephant
Before Twitter existed to pique our dreams, before the Fail Whale surfaced to break our hearts, there was the Fail Elephant. Australian designer Yiying Lu devised the ancestor to Twitter’s current uh-oh indicator way back in 2002: Originally titled “Lifting a Dreamer,” it was meant to be “a visual greeting” to the overseas friends of a designer who was constantly on the go. Lu tells LTL Prints that the pictures symbolized “this giant wish [to see her friends and family] that is so heavy (the elephant), and the birds represented my free spirit and good wishes.”
How, then, did it morph from elephant to whale? It involved a pun:
I created different animal images across different mediums for many years – literally thousands of them. After returning to Australia from my exchange study in Central St. Martins London, around early 2007, I created an updated version of my ‘birds lifting an elephant’ image. I created a vector graphic with color and smaller size to send via email. And this time, instead of an elephant, it featured a whale – since I was living in New South *Whales*. I first used it as an eCard for a friend whose party in London I couldn’t attend. Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter, found it online and used it on the page that displays when Twitter was overloaded.
Lots more info about the designer and her more recent work in her interview with LTL.
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