Companies rebrand themselves and what they do all the time. Twitter has rebranded their site more times than we can count, and with it the default profile picture has now changed 5 times since Twitter was created in 2006. The staple of new accounts on Twitter was introduced in 2010, changed in 2014, and is now being sunset in 2017 to a more generic default photo akin to Facebook’s default avatar. In a blog post that went up on Twitter’s site today, the reasoning for the change of the Twitter default profile photo, as well as the thought process that went into the design was explained.
If you’re curious about the progression of avatars, you can check them out below:
The driving focus behind the switch is to get people to change their profile pictures and to “prompt more self-expression” on the Social Media site. While Twitter acknowledges that many have embraced the egg and kept it for its playfulness, they also want people to change their profiles and believe that a profile photo that is more of an “empty slate” should prompt new users to do so. Another unintended consequence of the lack of diversity in new users is that many accounts that participate in harassment are (according to Twitter) unpersonalized accounts that still have the default egg avatar. Due to this, the change of profile default is also hoping to disassociate the “Egg” with harassment as well as remove the association from new accounts, so that new users that haven’t yet set up their profile aren’t lumped in with the “Eggs” as many call them.
In the post, the design team from Twitter outlines their progression of thought as they came up with what the new Twitter default profile photo would be. Starting with the traits of “Generic, Universal, Serious, Unbranded, Temporary, and Inclusive” – they created a number of ideas around figures, landscapes, and lines (seen below) that eventually had them leaning towards using a figure as the default.
From there, they determined that a circular head was overly masculine and associated with masculinity, and wanted to ensure that the default photo was inclusive to all genders. They changed the shape of the head, widened the shoulders, and in an effort to reduce issues with visual impairment – added a higher color contrast to the image. The reasoning for greyscale imagery was to continue to promote a feeling of “temporary” that would (Twitter hopes) encourage people to change their profile picture after signing up. You can see the progression of the final picture below:
Twitter is hoping that the changing of the Twitter default profile photo will encourage “more people to express themselves on Twitter” and create a bigger diversity in the use of profile photos on their platform. As of today, this new profile photo is live for all new users on the Twitter platform, and will be used for the foreseeable future.
While I can understand the “Eggs are associated with harassment” line that they’re giving, changing the profile picture isn’t going to do anything to combat harassment on Twitter. If anything it’s just going to shift the label of harasser onto their new “Grey Person” default photo. With that said, it was actually really interesting to see the thinking and progression of design behind this change. I hope more companies do the same with their changes – it’s a refreshing look at how and why the changes are being made. P.S. I’ve changed TechRaptor’s default avatar to “EggRaptor” on Twitter as a subtle nod to the sunsetting of the “Egg”.