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This is why Facebook just changed its friends icon

People silhouetted against Facebook logo
Dado Ruvic | Reuters

Facebook has made another public gesture in favor of gender equity.

Following the company's very first logo redesign, the social network is also introducing some new icons. After realizing that the "friends" and "groups" icons were symbolically putting women on the back burner, one designer took the initiative to make some changes.

Caitlin Winner, Facebook's design manager, explained the story behind the icon's redesign, through a post on Medium.

Not long after taking a job at Facebook, Winner "found something in the company glyph kit worth getting upset about." She noticed that the icon depicting a man was symmetrical while the woman glyph literally had a chip on her shoulder, in the area where the man icon would typically be placed in the "friends" icon.

Once she'd realized the chip on the woman's shoulder, Winner took a closer look at the "friends" icon. "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 was not in a position to lean in," Winner wrote.

Thus the redesign.

"My first idea was to draw a double silhouette, two people of equal sizes without a hard line indicating who was in front. Dozens of iterations later, I abandoned this approach after failing to make an icon that didn't look like a two headed mythical beast. I placed the lady, slightly smaller, in front of the man," she explained.

Next up was the "groups" icon which featured two men and one woman, the woman placed in the back behind the larger man in the center. Winner redesigned the icon to place the woman in the middle, in front of the two men.

Winner also gave both the men and women figures a modernized update by changing their hair and sloping the men's shoulders.

This project has inspired Winner to be more cognizant of symbolism and hopes Facebook will continue "to build a platform that is relevant for people from its core features down to the smallest of icons."

Facebook didn't respond to requests for comment.