Facebook makes male and female icons the same size
MANILA, Philippines – You might not have noticed it, but Facebook Design Manager Caitlin Winner has now put women first all over the world.
In Winner’s Medium Blog, she talks about how the empowering company culture at Facebook inspired her to redesign what she felt were outdated icons.
She began her project one month into her stint as a Facebook designer when she came across two vector files: the first one was the perfectly symmetrical iconic man with spiked hair while the other was a woman with a noticeable chip on her shoulder. The chip marked the exact place where the male icon would overlap the female.
Winner redesigned both the male and female icons by giving them more shapely hairstyles and a smoother, cleaner look. However, she was still left with the problem of the order.
She writes, “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.”
Winner tried to create an icon that had both the male and female equally in front. Dozens of iterations that often resembled “two-headed monsters,” she settled for creating an icon that put the woman just slightly forward.
Winner also created another silhouette for times when a gendered icon would not be appropriate. Winner explains, “It didn't seem fair, let alone accurate, that all friend requests should be represented by a man.”
Winner also changed the “Groups” icon and replaced the 3 silhouettes that featured two men and one woman with the woman left in the back. The new icon boldly shows the woman in front with the two males right behind her.
Making the redesigns was the easy part. Winner explains that she just replaced the old glyphs with her own version, and half expected the other designers to attack her for messing with Facebook’s glyph kit.
Instead, much to her surprise, her designs began to pop up all over the company and its multiple platforms. Other Facebook employees began to adapt the new icons and tweaking the social network’s algorithms to ensure that the new icons were available to all Facebook users.
Not the first time
This isn’t the first time Facebook took in new designs to be more culturally and politically aware. In 2014, designer Julyanne and engineer Brian Jew worked to create new notification icons that represented not just the Americas. The globe icon now features the African region and the Asian region, depending on where the Facebook user lives.
Winner thought of just brushing off the woman’s chip on her shoulder, but not without first expressing her sentiments to a colleague. Rather than telling Winner to dismiss the whole thing as a petty, unnoticeable feature, she pointed Winner to a poster of Facebook’s slogan: “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.”
In any other company, Winner could have been reprimanded for changing things to suit her preference. But Facebook is a tech giant that thrives on innovation and is led by one of the youngest billionaires in the world, Mark Zuckerburg.
Winner writes that at the end of the day, the people at Facebook just want to “build a platform that is relevant for people from it’s core features down to the smallest of icons.” – Mayelle Nisperos/Rappler.com
Mayelle Nisperos is currently an intern at Rappler.