On Saturday, March 16 Noun Project kicked off a three-city Iconathon design workshop tour to champion more equal and accurate representation of women in iconography. Over 50 participants gathered at General Assembly’s San Francisco campus to create new icons that more accurately represent women today.
The first Iconathon in the Redefining Women series began with a presentation from Noun Project Co-Founder and CEO Sofya Polyakov. Sofya shared an overview of key issues with the lack of diversity in visual resources that are currently available. To further illustrate the issue, she shared several examples from a recently published magazine where the overwhelming majority of advertisements only featured images of men.
Next, writer, speaker, women’s creative leadership coach and host of the Heroine podcast Majo Molfino shared the importance of having more women represented in creative leadership and overthrowing outdated stereotypes about women.
“Depictions of women throughout history have been problematic. This trickles down into icons. You look up “boss,” “entrepreneur,” you see men. You look up “teacher” and “nurse,” you see women. AND you see whiteness. Let’s not forget about that, it’s not just gender, it’s also race and ethnicity. We need to be intersectional when we think about icon design. There is a lot of work to do.”
“How can you aspire to be something if you don’t see it visually? If you don’t hear the stories? We need to write the future.” — Majo Molfino
Then, participants heard from Cathi Kwon, Principal Product Manager at Adobe. Cathi shared how she thinks about representation of women in the workplace and how she approaches visual representation in her work developing products and personas at Adobe.
“I worked for a few years and then I ended up at business school, which was a completely different experience. In 2008, the class was only about 30% female and even more noticeable than that was the faculty. I tried to remember if I had a single female professor there, and I couldn’t come up with one. The people that would come in to speak to us were also predominately male.”
“At Adobe, when I put together slides for presentations and for my work, I look at it as an opportunity to think about how we represent people in that context. These decisions are really important as far as what images you’re choosing and how you’re portraying people. It’s an opportunity to show your vision for what the landscape should look like, and it’s an opportunity to show what would be a better representation.”
Noun Project’s Design Director Geremy Mumenthaler walked participants through semiotics and symbolism, as well as best practices for icon design. He then took everyone through the icon design process they’d be using for the day to create new iconography for the Redefining Women collection.
Then it was time to start sketching! Participants spent two hours working together in groups, sharing ideas and creating sketches for new icons to communicate concepts common in business and entrepreneurship including referents like “Boss,” “Angel Investor,” “Networking,” “Elevator Pitch,” “Designer” and “Software Engineer.”
Final icon sketches were displayed gallery-style on the walls so everyone could easily see the work that was created and vote for the concepts that best represented each referent.
After voting was complete, Noun Project’s Design Director had representatives from several groups share how they arrived at their final concepts.
Here’s just a fraction of the many icons that were created during this Iconathon.
Thank you to everyone who participated! After our final Redefining Women Iconathon workshop in New York on April 20th, a selection of final icons created during the series will be vectorized and released as a full collection into the public domain, free for anyone to use.
This is just the first set in a series of Iconathons designed to support the creation of more equal and accurate representation in iconography. To stay up to date on future Iconathon initiatives, subscribe to our newsletter, the Noun Gazette.