A brand (often referred to as a logo) is the single most important piece of a company’s identity. It speaks to users, clients, and consumers constantly and consistently. It expresses the very heart of a company’s ideals, progressive nature, and spirit. As the world changes, business changes. As business changes, your logo needs to reflect the changing world in which it thrives.
Thankfully, the world is changing in favor of a more gender equal workplace. One global brand is seeing this change happen in and around its company. This company had a choice - change a logo or change the world to better suit that logo. This company has the financial might, marketing capabilities, and even the staff to change the world. Instead of changing the world to fit their logo, they decided to change the logo to better fit a changing world. We’re going to take a look at how Facebook has redesigned their branding to better suit a more gender equal market, and possibly a workplace.
Facebook has just made a powerful leap into what can only be described as a very politically correct progression. They’ve moved to a more gender neutral user interface. They’ve recently made subtle changes to their branding and iconography throughout parts of the Facebook website. They’ve updated not only their logo, but they’ve even redesigned their friend icons to be more inclusive of women (or people who identify as women) in their architecture. This is great news as the world around us is continually changing and human rights are more important than ever.
We’re not saying the previous Facebook logo was in any way bad - not at all. The original Facebook branding was something playful and blocky that became an iconic brand. The new “slightly” modified branding will hopefully aid in pushing the company into the progressive future.
The new logo is a better representation of a gender neutral world. The typography isn’t as hard-edged, the letters themselves are more rounded and humanist, and the letter spacing appears less dense, too. The most noticeable change, at least for we as designers, is the weight of the logo itself. It’s not as heavy anymore and is more forgiving to its baseline. The characters are lighter and more neutralized. The distance from the baseline to the tops of lowercase letters is shorter than it was.
One particular thing that Facebook apparently didn’t want to change is the “f” itself. It maintained almost the exact same shape. The crossbar is still cut off angularly on the right side even though the a’s ascending shoulder is no longer there to meet it as it did before the rebrand. Perhaps it was needed to maintain their iOS / mobile icons and the Like button’s design. This is an example of a redesign that was subtle, yet definitive for the welcomed tides of progressive change.
Caitlin Winner, a Facebook Design Manager, has recreated the “friends” icon. The old version depicted a male silhouette visibly larger than the female silhouette behind it. From a hierarchical standpoint, this could imply that Facebook believes men are the dominant gender, and is apparently not what they wanted, given the new icon design. The new version includes gender icons of the same size with the female in front of the male. This change edges towards Facebook’s understanding that being more equal towards both genders is the best route to take moving forward, considering their audience and overall brand.
Facebook's Newsroom has pointed out that internal numbers published last month show that more than 66% of all Facebook employees are male. Only 16% of Facebook's tech employees are women, and only 23% of the company's senior leadership are women. A recent study conducted by The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has published extensive research on gender issues in Silicon Valley. The information cited in the recent report states that women currently make up 26% of the tech industry’s workforce and earn 19% of all computer science and related bachelor's degrees. Catherine Hill, AAUW VP of Research said, "These numbers represent a decline in women's representation over the last 2-3 decades."
This could very well be part of the future practices and goals Facebook wants. It could be inferred that they wish to implement gender neutral hiring practices in their workplace. For Facebook, ideals like this would level the playing field, as it were, making hiring less about your gender and more about how you can benefit the company. By changing these small parts of their brand, they have systematically taken a step into a more politically correct direction. More importantly, they’ve stated all of this to all of their users - all with icons and a logo redesign. Pretty powerful.