Facebook has made a change that is so subtle you probably didn’t even notice.
Take a look at the “Friends” icon on your page, and you may see something very different there. They are still rolling out the changes to all accounts, so it may not have reached yours yet, but they have switched the gender icons so that the woman is in front of the man. According to The Blaze, this is meant to promote “gender equality.”
— Wellesley Magazine (@Wellesleymag) July 7, 2015
It all started when Facebook Design Manager Caitlin Winner took offense to the original icon, which put the man in front of the woman.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Winner then went on a mission to “fix” both the male and female icons, finding herself in a “descent into the rabbit hole of icon design.”
She ran into some trouble when she tried to modernize the woman’s hairdo.
“Ponytails felt modern, if a little youthful, but at 32 pixels the pony resembled a small rodent more than a hairdo,” Winner explained. “Silhouettes with long hair or very full hair were similarly hard to disambiguate at reduced sizes and eventually I landed on a slightly more shapely bob.”
It was when Winner turned to the man that things REALLY got crazy.
“In updating the man I discovered the many places on Facebook where a single figure is used to represent an action, like in the ‘add friend’ icon,” she wrote. “It didn’t seem fair, let alone accurate, that all friend requests should be represented by a man, so I drew a silhouette for cases where a gendered icon was inappropriate.”
Winner wasn’t sure that her new icons would be adopted by Facebook, but the social media site immediately scooped them up. Later, she wrote about what she learned from her little “project.”
“As a result of this project, I’m on high alert for symbolism. I try to question all icons, especially those that feel the most familiar. For example, is the briefcase the best symbol for ‘work’? Which population carried briefcases and in which era? What are other ways that ‘work’ could be symbolized and what would those icons evoke for the majority of people on Earth?”
“All those good intentions I met on the first day were real. We all want to continue to make Facebook the best it can be, to have culture of doing rather than complaining, to grow a company where ideas can spread organically, and to build a platform that is relevant for people from it’s core features down to the smallest of icons.”
What do you think about these changes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.