Girl Power for Facebook’s Friends Icon

Facebook’s friends icon joined its logo and its notifications icon on the list of design elements that have undergone minor tweaks.

Facebook’s friends icon joined its logo and its notifications icon on the list of design elements that have undergone minor tweaks.

The woman and man in the social network’s friends icon are now represented in a more equal fashion, rather than appearing as if the woman was standing behind the man, and Facebook design manager Caitlin Winner described the process in a blog post. Highlights follow:

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. 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. I assumed no ill intentions, just a lack of consideration, but as a lady with two robust shoulders, the chip offended me.

I shared my complaint with a designer friend, and she helpfully pointed me to the poster next to mine, which proclaimed, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.” The lady icon needed a shoulder, so I drew it in — and so began my many-month descent into the rabbit hole of icon design.

It turns out this kind of self-initiated project is not unique at Facebook. Last year, designer Julyanne Liang worked with engineer Brian Jew to give the non-American half of the globe an accurate world view from the notification icon. Since then, they’ve added an Asia-centric globe, too.

Winner also credited the following co-workers:

  • Front-end engineer Matt Sain, for adding the new male and female silhouettes into Facebook for the desktop Web and shipping them globally.
  • Product manager Lexi Ross, for “hacking several much-needed additions to male and female gender options in profile creation and adding the corresponding alternative silhouettes.
  • Product designer Brian Frick, “master of icons,” for updating the entire glyph kit and reworking and adding several new icons.

Readers: Did you notice the new friends icon?