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New Facebook icon puts women on the front foot

Facebook has made some small but significant tweaks to some of its icons.

Following a minor makeover to the logo last week, Facebook has now altered the friend and group icons. The “man” has lost the cow-lick, and the “woman” has a more shapely bob, as opposed to the dodgy Darth Vader cut of old.

That’s not the big news, though.

The silhouette of the woman has now been moved to sit slightly in front of the man. She also takes centre stage in the group icon, in front of two men.

Caitlin Winner, the Facebook designer responsible for the tweaks, explained that her reason for making the change stems from the fact that the iconic man was symmetrical except for his spiked hairdo, but the lady had a chip in her shoulder.

“The lady icon needed a shoulder, so I drew it in  –  and so began my many-month descent into the rabbit hole of icon design.” She explains on her blog.

But what was it that led her to rearrange the genders?

“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 tried to make the sexes equal, but abandoned that idea after icons started to look like “a two-headed mythical beast”. As a compromise she placed a “slightly smaller” lady in front of the man.

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Quite aside from the symbolism, there’s another good reason Facebook should put the woman ahead of the man. A number of statistics reveal that women outnumber men on the social network: the spilt is around 60/40.

Right now, the new icon can be seen only on the Facebook smartphone app or its mobile site. It appears the man still dominates when it comes to the old-school website accessed from a PC or Mac, where the old logo is still on display.  

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