Thanks to Caitlin Winner, one of Facebook’s designers , the “Friend” icon unassumingly sitting in the upper right corner of the social network’s page has undergone some changes in recent months.
Upon starting her job at the Silicon Valley giant, Caitlin said she noticed something was not right regarding the design of the faceless silhouettes of the generic man and woman that represent users on Facebook.
The male glyph was fully equipped with shoulders, while the female one had a slight chipped off shoulder – a marker, she later found out, that showed where the male glyph should be placed in front of her. She then proceeded to make slight, but important changes to the design, so as to show more consideration to the gender equality.
But after she completed drawing in the female’s shoulder, Winner continued her quest by re-doing both of the gender’s Facebook icons, starting with the helmet-haircut the woman sported and improving the hair of the male icon.
When it came to placement, Winner noticed that the old icon had the man in front of the woman, who was scaled down to appear to be a distance behind him. As an educated woman who strongly supports gender equality, Winner could not help herself but see the symbolism of the current icon: the woman’s icon was designed to literally be in the shadow of the man.
Winner tried several variants for the placement of the male and female icons, most of which had them placed equally. In the end, she decided to place the woman in front of the male, scaling it to be slightly smaller.
If you haven’t noticed, the people represented in the “Groups” icon have also changed their position, as Winner had the woman placed again smaller and yet in the front. Her changes were welcomed by her colleagues at Facebook, who even helped her implement the new icons. Some users might have observed the changes starting six months ago.
According to a blog post Winner wrote, she is now highly aware of symbolism in icons inside and outside of Facebook. Her self-conducted project led her to question all icons, especially those that we are so familiar with that we don’t even notice. For example, “work” is usually represented by a briefcase, but is it the best symbol?
Upon consideration, we realize briefcases were carried by men, and being a gender-equality supporter, Winner started thinking of other ways in which “work” could be translated in an icon that is representative for the majority of people on Earth.
It might not sound like much, but changing these small icons that we see every day can shape our perspectives, from both design and representation point of view.
Image Source: App Advice