Following up on its subtle logo redesign last week, Facebook is introducing some new friends icons — or rather, Facebook design manager Caitlin Winner is introducing them. In a post on Medium, Winner explains how she changed the social network's icons to bring women to the fore. She discovered that while the male friend icon was symmetrical, the female glyph literally had a chip on her shoulder.
"The woman was quite literally in the shadow of the man."
"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," writes Winner. "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 can be seen at the top of the article.)
The old group friends icon on the left and the new group friends icon on the right. (Caitlin Winner / Facebook)
Winner also redesigned the female icon's "Darth Vader-like" silhouette, giving it a "slightly more shapely bob" and reconfigured the group friends icon (above) to put women out front. She says that after saving the new files, Facebook's engineers "shipped them to the world without much fanfare," although, at The Verge, we've only been able to spot the redesigned icons on mobile, not desktop. "As a result of this project, I’m on high alert for symbolism," writes Winner. "I try to question all icons, especially those that feel the most familiar."