The internet doesn’t always do a very good job with gender equality. But a designer at Facebook has taken control of the social network’s icons to bring a little more balance to its website.
You may have never looked closely at Facebook’s friends icons. But on arriving at the social network to assume the role of design manager, Caitlin Winner sure did. On Medium, she explains:
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.
That’s the icon you see at the top of the page. Elsewhere, she’s also updated the group friends icon, putting the woman front and center with a man to each side. Like this.
Interestingly, this whole project started when Winner decided to tweak the female icon, which she noticed has a strange chip on her soldier — put there by a previous designer to help align the icons for the man-in-front-of-woman combination.
Spending so much time stating at the things, she’s also modernized each of the single icons, adding “a slightly more shapely bob” to the female icon, smoothing down the hair of the male icon, and creating a new non-gendered icon for situations where previously a single male icon was used as a proxy for a man or woman.
Winner goes on to explain in her post that she offered the new set of icons up to front end engineer Matt Sain, unsure of what might happen. Well, what’s happened is that they’ve been rolled out! Check on your mobile device, at least, and you’ll see an updated female-up-front friends icon, though it doesn’t yet appear to be live on the website. A small victory for feminism on the internet.