How one designer helped Facebook take a step towards gender equality with one small design tweak
Have you ever looked closely at the Friends icon on Facebook?
Design manager Caitlin Winner certainly did.
The Facebook designer has updated the small icon – which sits in the top right-hand corner of the Facebook banner – and placed the woman’s silhouette in front of the man, for the first time in the social network’s history.
Designer Ms Winner explained the change in a blog post:
“As a woman, educated at a women’s college, it was hard not to read into the symbolism of the current icon; the woman was quite literally in the shadow of the man, she was not in a position to lean in.
“My first idea was to draw a double silhouette, two people of equal sizes without a hard line indicating who was in front.
“Dozens of iterations later, I abandoned this approach after failing to make an icon that didn’t look like a two headed mythical beast.
“I placed the lady, slightly smaller, in front of the man.”
The previous Friends icon, LEFT, and the refreshed symbol redesigned by Caitlin Winner, RIGHT
“It was an obvious refresh to use three unique silhouettes instead and, here again, I placed the lady first,” the designer explains.
Finally – Ms Winner took the opportunity to refresh and update the hairstyles used for both genders.
“I was tempted to remove the Darth Vader-like helmet and give her hair some definition,” she wrote on blog website Medium.
Facebook’s previous Group icon, LEFT, and the new version with the woman front and centre, RIGHT
Reflecting on her icon refresh, the design manager claims she is now “on high alert for symbolism”.
But Caitlin Winner is not the first Facebook designer to have kickstarted a worldwide change from a “self initiated project” within the US company.
Facebook design manager Caitlin Winner explained her design choices in an in-depth blog post
“Since then they’ve added an Asia-centric globe, too.
“We all want to continue to make Facebook the best it can be, to have culture of doing rather than complaining, to grow a company where ideas can spread organically, and to build a platform that is relevant for people from it’s core features down to the smallest of icons.”
The refreshed icons will roll out across Facebook over the coming weeks.