Facebook icon redesign puts women first

9 Jul 2015

In redesigning the Facebook Friends icon, Facebook designer Caitlin Winner has literally removed a chip from women’s shoulders. Yes, literally. Not only that – in a redesign of the Groups icon, she has put women first.

The traditional Friends icon on Facebook showed silhouettes of a man and a woman. But, if you looked closely, you would have noticed that the male appeared larger and overshadowed the female profile.

Now that has changed thanks to the efforts of Facebook designer Caitlin Winner, who took it upon herself to change the picture altogether.

Unsure of what to do when she had the epiphany to do something about issues with the original image, a colleague reminded her of the Facebook work slogan, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.”

The new Facebook Friends icon now has a picture of a man and woman of equal proportion, with different, more modern hairstyles for the man and woman.


Facebook’s Friends icon: before and after

Furthermore, there was an indent on the female icon that appeared to be a chip on her shoulder, and Winner decided that also had to go.

“Much to my dismay, not long into my tenure as a Facebook designer I found something in the company glyph kit worth getting upset about,” Winner said in a post on Medium.


Lady with a chip on her shoulder

“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. 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.”


Facebook’s Groups icon redesign puts women first

Winner didn’t stop with Friends. She noticed that the old Groups icon was also due an overhaul, as it featured two men and one woman with the woman to the back.

In her new design, she placed the newly coiffed woman to the front, with the two men standing in the background.

‘Symbols matter – and a small image can carry a giant message’

“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.”

Winner’s initiative has struck a chord at Facebook, with chief operations officer Sheryl Sandberg praising her efforts.

“For a long time, we used an icon on Facebook that showed silhouettes of a man and a woman. The only problem? The male was larger and placed at the front – clearly overshadowing the female profile. So one of our designers – Caitlin Winner – took it upon herself to redesign the icon, making both genders equal.

“Facebook is a global community, and we want to represent the many kinds of people who use our service. Symbols matter – and a small image can carry a giant message.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years