When Facebook design manager Caitlin Winner started at the company, she noticed something about the Friends icon on the site.
She felt compelled to act, and has now spoken about how she went about changing the look of the icons.
“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,” she says in a post on Medium explaining the change that has been made.
Winner has now flipped the position of the two silhouettes, as well as replaced the “Darth Vader-like” female outline by giving her a “slightly more shapely bob”.
The move comes after a subtle re-design of the main Facebook logo last week, and also with the debate over the gender gap in the world of technology continuing.
“Much to my dismay, not long into my tenure as a Facebook designer I found something in the company glyph (logo) kit worth getting upset about,” said Winner of discovering the problem.
There in the middle of the photoshop file were two vectors that represented people. The iconic man was symmetrical except for his spiked hairdo but the lady had a chip in her shoulder.”
The female part of the icon did indeed have an indent on one shoulder where the male icon would slot in next to it. This was the first thing to go, she explained.
“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 end result has also been applied to the Groups logo, with the new silhouettes being user here too, with the woman again pushed to the front.
“The old ‘groups’ icon featured two men and one woman, the woman sat in the back right behind the larger centered man. It was an obvious refresh to use three unique silhouettes instead and, here again, I placed the lady first,” said Winner.
All her work was apparently done unofficially, but quickly caught on among staff.
“Timidly, I saved out a new version of the glyph file, not sure if I was breaking any rules and half expecting a bunch of angry designers to message me asking why I was messing up Facebook’s glyph kit. Instead, and somewhat magically, the new icons began to appear in new products across the company and our many platforms.”