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Facebook Updated One of Its Major Elements and You Probably Didn't Notice


"Question all icons"

Facebook might have made a subtle change to its main logo last week, but that's not all that's happened in recent months.

Take a look at the "friends" icon in your Facebook profile. You may or may not see a different image there.

Facebook is still rolling out its new 'friends' and 'groups' icons, so it might not look any different in your profile yet. But even if your profile is showing the change, it's probably so minuscule you didn't even notice.

Though most users might consider the changes small, a significant amount of thought went into choosing the new images.

Facebook Design Manager Caitlin Winner described how and why the change to the 'friends' icon came about in a post on the blogging platform Medium.

It all started with Winner taking offense to the original icon.

"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."

Setting out initially to fix the literal chip on the woman's shoulder, Winner found herself in a "descent into the rabbit hole of icon design."

First, she fixed the shoulder and then she decided the woman deserved a hairdo that wasn't reminiscent of Darth Vader's helmet. But choosing the right hair style for such a tiny icon proved a bit more challenging than one might imagine.

"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."

After giving the woman a makeover, now Winner said she felt the male portion of the icon looked "stiff and outdated." The man got a smoother hairstyle and slightly sloping shoulders.

But Winner's work didn't end there. No, the rabbit hole continued.

"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 was challenged to draw the male and female side-by-side, represented equally as if no one were in front and no one behind. Finding it difficult to manage this look without it appearing like a "two headed mythical beast," she opted to put the lady slightly in front.

Winner also took it upon herself to update the "groups" icon, which originally featured three people — two men and a woman. The new groups icon still has three people, but this time the silhouette of a woman is front and center with a male silhouette to the right and a more androgynous figure to the left.

Unsure of whether her newly created images would be adopted (Winner had taken it upon herself to design the new icons without any specific direction), she said half expected some angry designers to come after her.  Instead though, she started seeing the new images showing up in official products.

"As a result of this project, I’m on high alert for symbolism," Winner wrote. "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," she continued. "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."

(H/T: SlashGear)

Front page image via dolphfyn/Shutterstock.com.

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