In July 2007, Yiying Lu, a designer from Sydney, Australia uploaded one of her illustrations to the stock photo site iStockphoto for distribution. Little did she know that a year later it would make her famous.
Twitter had been experiencing service problems, and they wanted an friendly image that worked with their brand to help ease the pain of outages. Instead of a simple "service unavailable" message, they chose the whale image because it suggested a team effort to fix a problem, and also made people smile.
The Fail Whale has since become a phenomenon in itself, sparking merchandising, blogs and fan art. All of which reinforce a positive feeling toward the Twitter brand and provides them with what amounts to free advertising for the product.
Plus, it's super cute.
Header image courtesy of: Rosaura Ochoa