Facebook Icons Just Got a Feminist Facelift

Facebook has just made a subtle but important change to their icons.

And it’s all in the name of gender equality.

If you’ve ever taken a close look at Facebook’s ‘Friends’ icons, you may have noticed that a woman was in the shadow of two men.

If you didn’t, Facebook’s new design manager Caitlin Winner definitely did.

It all began when Winner decided to tweak the female icon when she noticed an usual chip on her shoulder – the work of a previous designer. It was there to help align the icons for the pre-existing icons for the man-in-front combination.

And as for the whole woman-behind-man thing, she wasn’t having it.

Winner wrote the following in a Facebook post:

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.

Winner also breathed new life into the existing single icons, adding more shape to the bob of the female icon, smoothing down the hair of the male icon, and creating non-gendered icons for times where a male icon had previously been used as a proxy for a man or woman.

The woman is also updated in the group friends icon, and is now in the centre, with a man to each side of her (that’s right).

While the small change sends a large message, it’s tough to tell whether users will even notice the changes. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction.