You may not have noticed, but Facebook recently gave their friend icon an update following the discovery of gender inequality in the logo by Caitlin Winner, a design manager at the social network.
“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,” Winner wrote in a piece titled “How We Changed the Facebook Friends Icon” on Medium. “I assumed no ill intentions, just a lack of consideration but as a lady with two robust shoulders, the chip offended me.”
Once the Facebook designer made this groundbreaking discovery, she decided something had to be done. Winner then took it upon herself to completely redesigned the friend request logo for Facebook.
While working on this project, Winner found that often times, Facebook chose to use male icons for generic representations of actions like adding a friend. To Winner, this just wasn’t right.
“It didn’t seem fair, let alone accurate, that all friend requests should be represented by a man,” she wrote. “So I drew a silhouette for cases where a gendered icon was inappropriate.”
Most Facebook users probably didn’t notice the supposed sexism displayed on the social networking website. However, Winner writes in her piece about the logo change that it caught her eye so she couldn’t just sit back and leave it.
Winner says that when she informed a co-worker of her complaint, the fellow Facebook employee pointed at a poster next to the designer that said, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.” The managing designer took the words to heart, and quickly took action.
“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 explained.
In her journey to re-design the friend request logo, Winner tried and failed to create a logo where the man and woman were standing side-by-side without the pair looking like a “two headed mythical beast.” In the end, Winner completely turned the tables, placing the “slightly smaller” woman in front of the man.
“As a result of this project, I’m on high alert for symbolism,” Winner said. “I try to question all icons, especially those that feel the most familiar.”