The Story of the Agile Testing Days Unicorns

The Story of the Agile Testing Days Unicorns

You have probably watched the movie or at least heard the story of one of the most popular unicorns of all times, that finds out it is the last one of its species and wants to know what happened to the other unicorns. But have you ever heard the story of Unity and Akira, the unicorns of Agile Testing Days and how the unicorns become a vital part of this agile testing days conference’s identity?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a unicorn is an imaginary white creature that looks similar to a horse with the difference of a single horn growing from the front of its head. Other sources state that the unicorn is a symbol of magic, miracles, purity, and enchantment.

Do Akira and Unity, the Agile Testing Days unicorns have the same symbolic meaning? What are the reasons behind the unicorns that make some developers, software engineers, and agile testers go crazy about?

Before I answer those questions, let's take a look at the story of a unicorn that changed the Agile Testing Days forever. I can tell you from the beginning that the unicorn was not the result of a master plan, it was the result of a united community that shares the same value.

Since Agile Testing Days was founded in 2009. The conference has created a vibrant and unique spirit having attracted over 4.602 attendees from around the world. Every year, the conference has its special moments and highlights, such as the famous entry of Lisa Crispin in a horse to the MIATPP Award party in 2011 or the time the attendees built a car using scrum methodologies. But it was in 2012 when a new era of Agile Testing Days began.

For the first time, a unicorn became more than a childhood toy or a mythological creature, the unicorn developed into an identity that represented for every member of the Agile Testing Days community something different yet very positive to be brave, take risks, make the next step in one’s career or spread the goodwill of agile testing.

The History

On November 20, 2012, the Agile Testing Days was like any other conferences. Testers, developers, product owners, coaches and managers from every corner of the world gathered together to learn new ways to improve software quality, meet with old and new friends and have fun. However, on the morning of said day, things went their own way and led to a change that could not be undone.

Gojko Adzic, the Most Influential Agile Testing Professional Person of the Year 2011 and one of the most important agile testing thought leaders and successful book author came back to the Agile Testing Days in 2012 and got frustrated by the fact that some speakers kept repeating that agile practices work differently “in the real world."

He shared his frustration openly on a tweet:

Gojko Adzic Tweet "another f*ing "In the real world". Does everyone else live in the unicorn land? #agiletd

His reference to people “living in the unicorn land” when they practice agile not according to the books fueled a twitter storm and movement at the conference. In a twinkling of an eye, some attendees started tweeting, commenting and talking about Gojko’s tweet and so the unicorn topic spread all over the conference.

Minutes later Gojko and others urged all the speakers to add unicorns in their presentations and some speakers referred to people living in the land of unicorns during their presentations.

Gojko Adzic tweet "New task for #agiletd speakers. Add unicorn pictures in your slides"

AgileTD tweet: "if you are not at #AgileTD. You just loosed the start of the #unicorn myth! Waiting for the rainbow"

José Díaz, the founder of the conference and Uwe Gelfert, the main organizer decided to embrace the unicorn into the conference’s culture.

After Goijko’s tweet went viral, the conference went from a conventional conference to a learning festival full of happiness, learning, friendship, safeness, inclusion, fun and a lot of unicorns.



From 2012 to Present - The Evolution of the AgileTD Unicorn and the Community

Initially, the first look of the AgileTD unicorn was just a spontaneously done sketch during the ATDs 2012 by Maik Nogens. This sketch got copy-pasted by many speakers in their slides, even on the name tags people started to draw a copy of this unicorn to wear it and to show their pride and opinion. It was some kind of a movement by the community as a statement against all the "real world preachers". Over the years, the unicorn developed more and more into the signature character of the conference and started to play a stronger role in the Agile Testing Days.

The evolution of the Agile Testing Days unicorn. The different unicorns drawings

For the 10th anniversary in 2018, the organizing team decided to give the Agile Unicorn a loyal companion to form an Agile Unicorn tag team and therefore, developed a campaign on social media with the goal of finding a name for the unicorns. The community took part in the decision making, the team received so many suggestions that they had to do a decision lightning jam to choose the best names. In the end, the team decided upon Unity for the bigger unicorn and Akira for the smaller one. The name Unity is related to a state of forming a complete and harmonious whole. Akira, on the other hand, refers to the Japanese word for “light coming from the sun”, “wisdom” and “truth”.

The current version of the agile testing days unicorn. Two unicorn, the bigger is Akira and the smaller is Unity

The unicorns have evolved together with the conference to reflect modern agile testing culture and diversity. Our community goes crazy about unicorns because Akira and Unity remind them to be open mind, to love and to be supportive to their colleagues and spread the goodwill of agile testing.

At the 10th anniversary, Akira not only became the most photographed unicorn at the conference but also became a popular topic in various talks. Many sessions included unicorns in their titles or presentations and many of the speakers included a picture of a unicorn in their slides.

A collage of pictures from the conference. Different people hugging the AgileTD unicorn

A collage of 3 pictures showing 3 different speakers having unicorn on their slides.

The Agile Testing Days unicorns have been incorporated into the culture of Agile Testing Days to represent the diversity in the agile testing community and a safe place for support, sharing ideas, open discussions and being who you are. As one attendee once said: “Agile Testing Days’ is a magical place for care’.

Akira and Unity have increasingly become an identity not only for the conference but also for the AgileTD community. For every person, the unicorn represents something else: for instance, openness to ideas, devotion, dedication, awareness, and motivation.

We asked our community to share with us their meaning of the Agile Testing Unicorns, here are some of the answers.


Tweet from Jantien: "To me, AgileTD unicorn depicts the unexplored, unexpected, often ignored or even denied elements of software, and software development processes. Often you are told you are seeing that aren't there, but you just need to help them open their minds

Tweet from Tobias Geyer: "To me, the AgileTD unicorn represents that testers dont always take themselves too seriously and also know how to have fun. With regards to its origin story it also represents that testers are able to adapt (their slides) quickly if new information is uncovered.

Tweet from Ursula Beiersdorf: "Agile testers ofter are very nice to each other, understanding, supportive. That is not my real land. That is unicorn land.

Tweet from Andreas Schliep: "The AgileTD unicorn stand for freedom, resilience, defiance, love, sharing, sense of wonder, hugs, music, wisdom, strength and diversity. And so much more.

Tweet from Stephan Kemper: The ability to react to the 'real world', the power of imagination, the mind setting the things can be different (& changed) and last but not least: a power bank and a plush figure.

Tweet from Alt_lv: "It represents for me the freedom to be a bit more true to myself even if that makes me seem a bit more limited edition. Its like permission to learn my own quirks and embrace them safely.

Tweet from Craig Risi: "I dont think a tester is a unicorn. I just dont think people understand testing enough to know that they are looking for. There are a lot of very good, highly technical testers out there. So for me, it's the concept of testing that is the unicorn.


All in all, The Agile Testing Days unicorns represent all testers, developers, coaches, product owners, scrum masters who are not scared of trying out new things to improve the quality of the software and the way of working. A unicorn is also someone who gives back either to their colleagues or the community, who inspires others to keep on learning and improving. And even though work in software development is something stressful, they are passionate about what they do.

A special shout to every member of our community, because you are the best unicorns ever and big applause to the new members of the community because after attending the Agile Testing Days you will be a unicorn.

We are so happy to have a diverse and inclusive community that believes in unicorns. The organizer team is looking forward to welcoming our community at the Agile Testing Days, learning festival, home of the unicorns.


About Isabel Maldonado


Born in Latin America, Isabel Maldonado brings the fire of the Caribbean to the AgileTD team.

She is fearless when it comes to new topics and challenges, however, she is afraid of driving the bicycle on the wild streets of Berlin.

During her free time, she creates new ideas for her blog. As the time goes she has become a tester! She loves to eat and write therefore every time she tries a new restaurant she will test the food, decoration, location, and customer service!