I’d like to be a bridge between art and technology, as well as a cultural bridge between East and West, to inspire more people to create.

– Yiying Lu

From the Twitter Whale and Dumpling Emoji to Disney Shanghai Mickey Mouse, Yiying Lu creates iconic brand designs which transcend linguistic barriers and enchant a global audience.  

You’ve likely seen Lu’s work, whether you realized it or not. Her artwork “Lifting a Dreamer”, an international fan favorite, caught the attention of the team at Twitter who decided to use the design for the new sites error page – thus prompting the name Fail Whale. The Fail Whale quickly dominated the global creative conscious, resulting in sculptures, murals, even beer inspired by the Whale.

To experience another notable project of Lu’s, look no further than your mobile phone: In 2015, Lu made the surprising discovery that there was no emoji for some of her favorite foods, particularly dumplings, boba and other staple Asian staples  that have transcended geography to become part of the international palette. This had to change, and luckily Lu was up for the challenge. Although inspired by the Chinese potsticker dumpling, through this project Lu realized that the dumpling was a universal food that manifested in different forms across the world – A clear example of how food brings us together as a global community! Through this understanding, Lu created a number of important emojis which brought us together through visual communication.

Through iconic illustration and design, Lu speaks to our global community with a universal language rooted in creativity. Rich symbolism and visual storytelling is key element of her artwork, which is deeply inspired by her experiences as a global citizen of the world.

Focusing on universal themes like food and nature, Lu highlights our human experience, prompting the realization that we are more alike than we may think, integrating art and technology as a bridge to connect global audiences, inspire togetherness and cultivate community.

Learn more about Yiying Lu in her interview with us below!

Yiying Lu in The News:

For more, visit Yiying Lu’s website.


Experience a visual journey of signs, symbols, and meanings shaped by vivid colors and bold shapes, inspired by nature, animals, and astrology. YIYING LU’s newest series, The LUminary, invites the audience to step into a world of a whimsical, imaginary, and playful new reality through the visual interplay of Gestalt: the relationship between figure and ground.

Something special is in the airCollectors of all drop artworks will receive a LUminous surprise! Stay Tuned!

The Luminary

Editions: 1
Pricing: Accepting Offers Only

*A 24 hour auction will ensue once reserve price is met

Lunar Stream of Thoughts

Editions: 5
Pricing: $2000 or ETH equivalent

*Final edition will be auctioned

Cherry Blossom Friends

Editions: 5
Pricing: $2000 or ETH equivalent

*Final edition will be auctioned

It’s not blood, it’s pomegranate juice.

Editions: 10
Pricing: $1000 or ETH equivalent

*Final edition will be auctioned

Winky Magick

Editions: 10
Pricing: $1000 or ETH equivalent

*Final edition will be auctioned

$1 Collector Raffle

Candy Crush 1

Editions: One

Pricing: $1

*Raffle entry limited only to current owner of Yiying Lu’s artworks on MakersPlace. Entry period is for 15 minutes only, between 3:30 -3:45 PM PT on 11/10.


Tell us a bit about yourself – what brought you to San Francisco?

I was born and raised in Shanghai, China. I spent my university years in Sydney, Australia, and London, UK. In 2008, around my college graduation, one of my art pieces, “Lifting a Dreamer”, became the Twitter Fail Whale, a symbol of Twitter’s service outage in its early days. It has inspired thousands of funny, clever, and amusing homages and take-offs from users globally. This art piece got featured in the New York Times and earned me a “Shorty Award” winner in Design in 2009.

For me, this turned into an opportunity to build real-life friendships and business relationships that have lasted over a decade! Over the next few years, I found myself creating brands and creative campaigns globally with startups, through working at the intersection of art, technology, and business. My clients have included DisneyAppleGoogleAdobe, and the hilarious Conan O’Brien!

In 2015, I moved from Sydney to San Francisco to become a creative director at the global venture capital fund and accelerator 500 Startups. Over the last 10 years, I also traveled to more than 20 countries, including Singapore in 2016, as a bilingual speaker on cross-cultural design. In April 2021, Mayor London Breed appointed me to be a San Francisco Arts Commissioner to bring more art and artists back to the City.

How did you get into digital art? What is your favorite thing about it? 

I didn’t get into digital art, digital art got into me. Haha. 

I started my artistic practice like most kids who are using crayon, pencil, and pen on paper. But over the years,I found it sometimes feels quite wasteful (and expensive!) to create art pieces, because of material usage: paper, paper, ink, and so on, and it’s not portable when traveling because, I used to do a lot of water color sometimes, I can’t find the piece I created years ago. Around the same time, the personal computer became available in the late 90s, and I started to learn how to use Adobe Softwares in local learning centers in Shanghai when I was in highschool, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, etc, It was pretty cool to see that I can make as many art pieces as I want on the computer, 

What / who inspires you creatively? 

What inspires me is what brings out our true nature. 

Nature always inspires me: Trees, Flower, Birds, Animals, Sea shells, Insects, Whales, Fishes, constellations, planets. 

The nature of humans as well: music, food, books, travels, cultures, communities, mythology and Children’s Books!

Nature is the nurture of my creativity. 

There are many people inspired my creative career, one of them is Milton Glaser, the designer behind the iconic I NY symbol. And I’m forever grateful to have a rare opportunity to interview him and learn from him back in 2017, where we chatted about technology, intuition, and what really matters in life, I hope this short interview inspires more people.

How would you describe your style? How has it evolved to get here? 

I am style agnostic. I don’t adhere to one specific style, because I believe that styles are different ways of expression. Same subject matter but with different styles could evoke very different emotions towards the audience. 

Over the years, when working with digital art, my style changed and evolved a lot…

You have worked on some amazing projects over the years – Are there any that have really stuck with you and why? 

Over the past ten years, I have worked with hundreds of startup founders and large corporations. One common thread I noticed is that: The best work I created was always inspired by the community and for the community. 

500 startup team wearing Yiying Lu’s Unicorn shirts at the Pride Weekend 2016, San Francisco

I realized that the art that I enjoy creating is something that could be a reminder of the ephemeral human experience, and creates belonging. These art pieces become visual anchors, evoking people’s experience together as a community, whether through working or celebrating together.

And that is how the human experience is made. To this, it is also how we create culture because culture is a shared experience through widespread human interactivity together.

Get in Touch

If you’re a digital creator, you can learn more about MakersPlace here.

Ready to start your rare digital art collection? Join here.

Follow us on DiscordTwitterMediumInstagramFacebook and Pinterest.

Leave a Reply