How We Changed the Facebook Friends Icon
Caitlin Winner

Icons are an interesting subject, because they’re simultaneously ubiquitous and kind of invisible; we use them for everything, but hardly ever question why they appear the way they do, or how they got to appear that way. As technology has developed, and demanded the use of new icons in the digital space, the needs of the users have quickly outpaced the development of appropriate icons to represent services and morals present in online communities.

This is a really interesting piece, because the little inanities- hairstyle, gender signifiers, relative position of the genders- come together to make an interesting design challenge for Caitlin, who solves the challenge in novel ways, and spurs action within Facebook, a company many users view as monolithic (though, from the content of this article, I’m starting to second-guess that judgement).

Thinking about it, these tiny icons- small in size and limited in perceived user importance- are viewed by the millions upon millions of facebook users on a daily basis. That enough thought and care went into their redesign to form something of a short saga isn’t baffling at all, but rather completely appropriate.

Looking through the responses to this article, it’s also clear that something as seemingly innocuous as the placement of the two ambiguously human icons in relation to one another is actually quite meaningful to a large group of people.

Caitlin, I really enjoyed this article, and hope to read more! If you have any recommended reading on the design and social importance of icons, I’d like to hear about it!

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