Another Win For Flat Design As Facebook Gives Its F Logo & Other Icons A Flatter, Cleaner Look

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Facebook has given its main “f” logo icon a makeover, flattening the design by removing the pale blue bar along the bottom, which gave the icon a reflective sheen/slight 3D effect, as well as moving the position of the f so it now bleeds right off the bottom. The overall effect is a simplified, unfussy and clean looking design with the f more clearly leaping out. Facebook posted the new logo as a downloadable resource for journalists today.

The refresh was flagged to TechCrunch by designer Tom Waddington who notes in a blog about the change that it appears to be part of a wider icon spring clean at Facebook, with a whole host of other icons used on various official Facebook pages also getting made over in the same flattened and more visually striking style. These icons including a developers icon, privacy- and security-related icons and a mobile icon, among others. Updates seem to have occurred last week.

Here are some of the other icon redesigns — see Tom’s blog for all the examples he’s noticed:

facebook icon redesigns

Flat design has spread its levelling influence all over the tech industry and its interfaces in recent years — from Microsoft’s flat, tile-based Windows Phone UI, to Google’s penchant for streamrollering its product interfaces, to scores of other apps and websites. Standing out — or rather above — all this levelling is of course Apple, which continues to prefer a skeuomorphic style of icon and interface design that tries to recreate the look of real-world objects or shapes, by incorporating shading and/or texture.

Cupertino has been roundly mocked for sticking out while the rest of the digital world is shedding pixels and going flat (there’s a great dissection of both sides of the flat vs skeuo debate here) but from a usability point of view, flat design can create confusion about which portions of the website or interface are designed to be clicked on, for instance. However when it comes to something as visible as Facebook’s f logo there seems no reason to hold onto the pale blue bar. As a marketing message, the new icon is much louder and prouder, even though it’s flatter.

According to Facebook’s logos & trademarks guidelines page, the “f” logo can be used for:

  1. Your Facebook Page
  2. Your Facebook Group
  3. An application you offer via Facebook Platform
  4. Your implementation of Facebook Connect

It’s also clearly one of Facebook’s most visible bits of brand furniture — appearing on its favicon, for instance, and its mobile app icons. The new look logo is already  up and running on Facebook’s own Facebook page. While an inverted version of the logo (white square, blue f) appears on the Facebook search bar (if you have Graph search enabled). In his blog Waddington notes that the new f logo download is fully transparent, ie with the f fully cut out — which may explain the inverted search bar version.

The original f icon was designed by New York-based design house Cuban Council back in 2006 which told TechCrunch it has not worked with the logo or with Facebook since. “Cuban Council produced the primary word mark for Sean and Mark in 2006,” Mike Buzzard wrote us in an email, “and have not worked with the logo or the company since.” His speculation is that the new icon system could be the the result of Facebook’s 2011 Sofa acquisition. Mike and some others from Cuban Council joined Google last year in an acqui-hire to work on Google+.

Facebook declined to comment when we asked about the icon redesign.

In addition to the general industry push towards flatter design, TechCrunch’s in-house Facebook stalker, Josh Constine, suggests the decluttered design could be a sign of internationalisation — i.e. to better communicate the Facebook brand to non-English language users who may have been confused by the horizontal line apparently connecting and extending the f symbol. He notes that the original design was conceived when Facebook was a domestic company targeting just U.S. users.