Visual language has the power to shape, reinforce, and change our perceptions about the world. Symbols are some of the best universal tools to overcome language and cultural communication barriers, and it’s more important than ever that they communicate in a socially conscious way.
Despite the recent steps we’ve taken as a society to champion gender equality, many visual representations of women today still support outdated stereotypes. When you search the web for images related to words like “entrepreneur,” “leader,” and “boss,” the majority of results are images of men. Search results for words like “nurse,” “teacher,” or “caregiver” are, by and large, women. Meanwhile, the rising popularity of phrases like “Girl Boss” or “Boss Babe” do little to bolster women in professional settings.
As a leader in visual communication, Noun Project has a responsibility to make a positive contribution to more equal and accurate representation. This conviction is one of the reasons we host Iconathons — interactive workshops where we seek to grow the world’s visual language by producing mission-driven public domain imagery, free for all to use.
Earlier this year, Noun Project went on a three city Iconathon design workshop tour, bringing together nearly 200 passionate creatives and problem-solvers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York to reframe and modernize the icons we use to depict women in professional capacities. With the help of expert speakers from companies like Adobe, Heroine, NOW Ventures and NPR, we did a deep dive into the realities of representation, the importance of overthrowing out-moded stereotypes, concepts like “Symbolic Annihilation,” as well as the most effective ways to invest in women — with a hopeful eye towards building a more prosperous and inclusive future for all. Participants then worked together to concept and sketch icons for a brand new collection.
Today, we’re thrilled to share the Redefining Women icon collection with you. This collection of over 60 icons prominently features women in design, technology and leadership positions. From astronaut to president, graphic designer and entrepreneur, and terms like “equal pay” and “networking,” each icon has been donated to the Public Domain, free for anyone to use.
Noun Project worked with designer Elisabetta Calabritto to create the final designs, using the sketches and concepts from each Iconathon as inspiration.
This collection has been released with a Public Domain license because we want these icons to be used far and wide, in classrooms, conference presentations, marketing materials and more.
We are actively working on additional initiatives designed to support the creation of more equal and accurate representations in visual language. If there’s something you’d like to see get better representation, tell us in the comments, tweet us @nounproject or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And thank you to our event speakers, who each provided unique perspectives on the issue of equal representation in iconography for Iconathon participants: Cathi Kwon (Adobe), Majo Molfino (Heroine), Shiza Shahid (NOW Ventures, Malala Fund), Christine Outram (Everydae), Liz Danzico (NPR, SVA), and Susse Sonderby Jensen (Adobe).