Facebook’s friend icons have just received a redesign – and there’s more to them than better haircuts.
Yes, both the male and female silhouettes have had their day at the stylist, but the more important change comes from a slight tweak in how the icons are positioned.
For the first time, the woman is now in front of the man.
Here’s how Facebook Design Manager Caitlin Winner came up with the new friends icon:
I was moved to do something about the size and order of the female silhouette in the ‘friends icon’. 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.
According to Winner, this all came about after noticing that the iconic Facebook woman’s iconliterally had a chip on her shoulder.
“The iconic man was symmetrical except for his spiked hairdo but the lady had a chip in her shoulder. After a little sleuthing I determined that the chip was positioned exactly where the man icon would be placed in front of her, as in the ‘friends’ icon, above. I assumed no ill intentions, just a lack of consideration but as a lady with two robust shoulders, the chip offended me.”
Fixing that led to further investigation, and multiple redesigns putting the woman in a more equal position. The new groups icon also favors the woman (old on left):
You should already see the changes on mobile.
A small, subtle nod to better gender equality. Hopefully it has some ripple effect through Facebook’s hiring practices.