How We Changed the Facebook Friends Icon (medium.com)
over 7 years ago from George Kedenburg III, Product Designer at Facebook
over 7 years ago from George Kedenburg III, Product Designer at Facebook
You can always count on americans to get offended over the most insignificant shit.
As an American I find your comment highly offensive.
Alex, why does her opinion bother you?
Guess not. What moved you to make your comment then?
If she were getting offended at this and making tumblr posts about how facebook should fix it, i'd probably find that a little annoying too. But she works at facebook, and she fixed it herself. The impetus for fixing it was an objectively broken icon, fixing a bit of gender bias was just a side effect, a "while you're in there..." sort of thing. And the finished product is much more aesthetically pleasing than what she started with, regardless of gender issues. This is a good change.
Is reversing the bias fixing it?
Why not find a solution that's entirely gender neutral instead.
Funny, may I suspect that those of you calling this "insignificant shit" are primarily white men?
Why 'white' men though? Wasn't this just about gender? I don't really see how race has anything to do with this.
"white men" is the new boogyman. It's not enough to just say one without the other.
"white men" is the new boogyman.
It's not that it's new. It's just that everyone else who isn't a white man is finally being given a platform to express their grievances.
Honestly, I'm proud that because of the work of devs and designers like us, there are now so many ways for minorities to have their voices heard.
White men have run the world since...well, forever. So when everyone else finally gets to have their say, don't be surprised when they have some negative opinions about the guys that run everything.
EDIT: And before you say it - Yes, I realise that you and I in particular may not be in positions of power. But that does not negate the fact that white men overall have much more power than other groups.
White men are the demographic with the least (none) issues of representation in the media. As a more or less white guy, I can see people who look like me—in non-demeaning roles—everywhere I look. Not so for pretty much every other demographic.
As a result, white men are understandably less inclined to understand issues of representations, which is why we're brought up in discussions like this. Rather than question it, how about we learn for it?
And that's why Designer News needs a downvote button.
Entrenched sexism is not insignificant.
A single icon may feel like a small thing, but there's tonnes of this stuff around and it all adds up. These subtle images only help to enforce unconscious sexism.
I would have though a Graphic Designer would understand the power of symbols.
Honestly I'm rather indifferent towards this, I mean the silhouettes themselves look nicer I think, but I don't quite get the logic;
"The man was in front, which is unfair, so I put the woman in front, which is fair"
Plus, couldn't you go even further and argue that assuming those silhouettes have to be men or women is a bit old-fashioned? Women can have short hair and and men can have long hair.
But yes, the silhouettes do seem fine to me.
The 'in-frontness' of the man was exacerbated by the woman being significantly smaller. The woman appeared to be standing a step behind. Now, yes the woman is in front but the two are equal size.
That to me is a significant change.
This is an odd change in my opinion because women are on average shorter and smaller than men.
Search Noun Project for "users" (LINK) and you'll see that it's a common design pattern to make the user behind smaller, regardless of gender.
I would in no way be offended if the original icon was reversed with the female larger than the male, and it's puzzling that people would take offense to the opposite.
As a matter of fact I believe there is some logic to having one smaller than the other.
The logic must be to have one glyph of a person that is as large as possible within its confinement to make it as easily dissectible as possible. When the communication then is to present more than one, obviously a second person must be added, this second user does however not need the same size, as the viewer will recognise the pattern and see it's another person, and the purpose of it is to show that there are more than one.
Therefore I imagine it went something like this: "We have an icon of a person, we need to add in one more (it doesn't need to be big) so it communicates several people, why don't we make the second one a woman to show diversity."
Instead some people decide to read into it: "Let's make an icon with a small woman behind a man, because women are worth less than men"
Would be cool if it switched them around randomly.
Men are represented everywhere as the default "user" or "person" icon. Having a woman in front here is very fair considering the current landscape.
It could be that you've misread the icon your whole life and the shape is in fact a woman with short hair..
Not sure how that's fair at all. It was biased before so it's okay to be biased now is some shit logic.
This is like saying "why is there no white history month?"
Reversing bias isn't a solution to bias.
How exactly is this reversing bias? This is one instance out of a million instances of male representation. This is only a good thing and I honestly don't understand how it isn't to you?
If the bias is that user icons are predominantly male forward, then reversing that to make it female forward is still a biased solution.
Ok, what's your solution?
Seems pretty obvious that you either do away with using silhouettes, or at the very least gendered ones. Hell, I'm sure facebook has the resources to serve specific gendered icons to specific users even.
This only makes sense in a vacuum devoid of history, society, and context. Women have lived in the shadow of men since the beginning of time. The icon in question pretty much summed at up. The man is dominant, the woman subordinate. The new icon, though slight, is progress. At least it's not representative of the shitty status quo.
So it's okay to be sexist if it's against men?
A male figure dominant to a female figure is representative of pervasive gender bias. It's a way of thinking that society constructs (that men are naturally dominant). Men and women lack parity in almost all aspects of society. The icon update attempts to remedy that by leveling the playing field. Here's another way to think about it: When asked when will there be enough women on the supreme court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, "When there are nine." Meaning, we've had 200+ years of all men on the court, now it's time for 200+ years of all women.
That's not equality.
Sorry but did anyone laugh at:
hundreds of people earnestly trying to to make the world a better place
Is this an episode of Silicon Valley?
How much kool aid do you have to drink to legit think that you're changing the world for the better as a Facebook employee?
if either of you ever find yourself in SF and are interested in a different perspective on this, i'd be happy to show you around campus
I can highly recommend Kedenburg Tours. Facebook is portrayed as this big evil corporation and honestly it really isn't.
I would like a Kedenburg hangout tour time, also to play life size chess. :)
My world did get significantly better once I found the Close Account button.
She put a lot of work into this, but I don't think the end result is better. It's just different.
I'd just like to point out that we're a bunch of dudes discussing this change without truly understanding how the new icon (and its predecessor, and the current state of user icons) feels for the other 50% of users.
Also, good designers have empathy, and right now it seems as though most of the discussion here is centered around why this change is unnecessary, rather than flexing that empathy muscle.
It's been interested reading this discussion as part of that "other 50%. Although I don't often make comments, I've been a long time reader of DN. At this point, I've more or less come to the conclusion that discussions about gender or race can sometimes contain a dismissive, "why does this matter?" style tone. I think it's easy to have that attitude when one's gender and/or race has privilege and positive representation not afforded to others.
This work done by the designer at Facebook is a small example of how diversity in design can bring forth different, often overlooked, perspectives. Yet even the ability to think outside of one's default POV can also be a great thing and any designer can attempt to do this. The question is whether many designers, especially those who are seen as the "status quo" in society, are even interested in attempting to do so.
I've more or less come to the conclusion that discussions about gender or race can sometimes contain a dismissive, "why does this matter?" style tone.
This. Its so disheartening. I used to post on DN a lot more, but I find it really hard to engage with a community that doesn't make an effort to understand or support me. It sucks, because I want to see more women on here speaking up, but I'm just not gonna check a site every day filled with dudes talking about things like "reverse bias."
These post comments strike a similar, awful chord to this one: https://www.designernews.co/stories/38965-a-challenge-to-all-dn-users
This. 1000 times.
Why not design a better icon without gender implications then…
If anything this is just another iteration of a bad design.
Product Manager, hacked several much needed additions to Male and Female gender options in profile creation and added the corresponding alternative silhouettes
The default profile picture always made me think of Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element.
and the woman was darth vader.
Enjoying the cognitive dissonance here, where you'll find threads on DN obsessing over border-radiuses and "flatness" but lots of people here saying "meh, how women are depicted doesn't seem like a significant detail".
Are aesthetic details more important than social (as in society/culture) ones? Who are we designing things for?
To the people who don't think these details are significant, should we continue to use these icons for black, asian, mexican, indian people? http://hilobrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/gmdh02_00146.jpg
It's incredibly easy for the most well-represented demographic to ask why representation matters... Would expect a reasonable amount more empathy from folks building products for larger markets.
I liked the article, it's great to see people taking it upon themselves to bring about change. If you can get people to think from a different perspective & spark constructive discussion, I think it's for the better. What would I identify with work? Probably a keyboard, or something computer related, but that's also fun/project time for me as well.
Read these comments. Then remember that this...
...was posted like two days ago here.
Hmm, the icon is more stable at a smaller size — However, the previous icon would be better recognised due to the different heights..
Nevertheless, why is there a need for two persons while the digital capabilities have increased so much. Would the following be an idea worth researching?
The icon will be one person, of which the gender will be specified to the last friend request. Example: Scott added me on Facebook, therefore the icon becomes a dude. Two days later, his girlfriend Emily adds me (don't ask me why) therefore the icon becomes a dudess.
What do you think?
P.S. I can't imagine that the performance would drastically decrease, but I can imagine that the experience would improve. You can (possibly) predict who would add you.
Example: Eric had saved a few bucks (he's a great little saver) and decides to take a few mates to the pub. Here he buys them a drink and at the bar he meets a girl named Vanilla. Time passed and lovely jokes about ice-cream were made.
Next morning he logs in on Facebook and sees that someone has added him, the icon appears to be female and his hearts raises. Could it be her? The delicious vanilla flavour? Could it? He clicks and YES, accepted and married happily ever after.
*Plot twist: She melted, or did he...?
Why are the icons even gendered in the first place? I agree the new icons look nicer, but ultimately they shouldn't be binary male/female and instead be just 'people'... obsessing for a month over haircuts and which gender is 'dominating' the other, seems like a bit of a waste of time to me :/
Because in this overwhelmingly male industry, nongendered icons appear male — linguistically and visually, we treat male as a reductionist gender — less clothes, less hair, less detailing. Even w/o specifically gendering an icon, it will have a male appearance.
This reminds me of an article from a few years ago, about a class and race divide between Facebook and MySpace users. MySpace was perceived as more "ghetto": http://www.cnet.com/news/facebook-myspace-a-raceclass-divide/
Considering that Facebook is global, I wonder if she gave any thought to what ethnicity is symbolized by the new icons.
Seems overly trivial.
Haha is this a parody
I actually loved the original one. Still neat to see her process.
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