James Governor's Monkchips

The Designer Who Gave Us Fail Whale and Showing The Whale

Share via Twitter Share via Facebook Share via Linkedin Share via Reddit


I had assumed Twitter was using designs it had paid for for its Fail page, but apparently not. Courtesy of John Wilson’s comment on my last blog about Twitter, a couple of hours ago, came news the famous whale is a stock shot from here.

Yiying Lu is the fantastic designer behind the image we all see, and love, so much. Frankly I think Twitter should use more of their work to give us some variety, and also give Yiying a lot more credit. How about a service sleeping owl?

With respect to celebrating downtime here is a link to the Fail Whale Fan Club (“Celebrating Twitter and our favorite error page cetacean“), funnily enough it seems it was started by someone I follow, Sean O’Steen. I love the fact Tom Limongello sent the Twitter team t-shirts!

He told them:

FailWhale is quickly becoming a brand, and that is a very good thing. Twitter has proven that it does a great job of bridging the online world to the physical world, in fact it’s better than any service I’ve ever used. I wore my FailWhale t-shirt at Internet Week in NYC and that simple test returned an immediately favorable response. I wanted to help the FailWhale succeed as a symbol, even though what it represents has not been completely defined (also a good thing, because you can define this to benefit Twitter’s image as a service that supports all of its users).

Perhaps one day we’ll be able to rename it the Scale Whale… but I am not going to hold my breath. Best of all- guess who is now on twitter… Yiying. Subscribed. I must admit I am thinking about Greenmonk logo possibilities… Certainly Yiying is now going to win a lot of work based on Twitter’s use of the image, which is GREAT, and proves the value of open content. There are so many great angles to this story. A community taking control of the brand, an artist creating a visual language that defines the way we talk about a service, the celebration of downtime that I mentioned earlier…

The Fail Whale is a classic social object. I wonder what Hugh MacLeod will make of it. 

I think a lot of web people are going to start using Yiying’s art. I know its now on the agenda as an image source for a chinposin Friday. To Whit To Who.




  1. Great post, James! Love the references, and good call on social object status. It certainly is! I’m the newest fan on FB.

  2. It’s been interesting to see the appopriation of the Fail Whale as a CafePress t-shirt design and so on. In my view, it’s *good* news for Twitter in that it builds their brand. You don’t go to the trouble to pay homage to a fail screen unless you *care* about the thing that’s failing.

  3. You will be pleased to know that there’s now a Wikipedia entry for Fail Whale, a competition to design a beer label for Fail Whale Pale Ale, and plans for a global for Fail Whale Pale Ale Tasting Day in September 2008.

  4. […] James Governor had written an article “The Designer Who Gave Us Fail Whale and Showing The Whale”: I had assumed Twitter was using designs it had paid for for its Fail page, but apparently not. […]

  5. Used to really hate it but with the cute balaena designs now I’m actually looking forward to more Twitter outages.


    Luv the designs really.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *