The New Facebook Friend Icon Is Leaning In

Genevieve Fish

Facebook design manager Caitlin Winner embodied Sheryl Sandberg’s mantra to “lean in” with her recent redesign of the ubiquitous Friend icon. After noticing a disparity in size, balance, and placement between the male and female friend icons, Winner endeavored to create a friend symbol that put the two figures on equal footing.

The original Friend icon consisted of two vector icons. The male icon was symmetrical but for a spiked hairdo, while the female icon literally had a chip in her shoulder. The chip was the result of the male icon being placed in front of the female icon. In her Medium post, Winner wrote, “As a lady with two robust shoulders, the chip offended me.”

After correcting the chip, Winner tried to equalize the size and order of the icons. “As a woman … 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 not only reinvented the Friend icon with a woman in front but also used her self-initiated project to bring attention to the problem of using gendered icons altogether. The new Groups icon features a woman’s silhouette in front, with a male and gender-neutral silhouette on either side of her. Way to take on female empowerment and gender identity issues in one go, Winner! Your designs, and the story behind them, blew us away!

To read Winner’s full account of her icon reinvention, visit Medium.

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