Rethinking our default profile photo

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For the past seven years, everyone who has created an account on Twitter starts out with their default profile photo as an egg. This was a playful way to reference how eggs hatch into birds that send all the Tweets you see on Twitter! But now it’s time for something new – something that encourages people to upload their own photos for more personal expression. So today, we’re introducing a new default profile photo.

There are a few reasons why we’re doing this:

  • Last year we refreshed our brand, with a new look and feel highlighting the diversity and expressiveness of the people around the world who make up the Twitter community, in all its color and vibrancy. As part of our work to bring these ideas into the product, we realized it was time to change the default profile photo, to help prompt more self-expression.
  • We noticed that some people kept the egg default profile photo because they thought it was fun and cute, but we want people to use this space to show us who they are! The new default image feels more like an empty state or placeholder, and we hope it encourages people to upload images that express themselves.
  • We’ve noticed patterns of behavior with accounts that are created only to harass others – often they don’t take the time to personalize their accounts. This has created an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behavior, which isn’t fair to people who are still new to Twitter and haven’t yet personalized their profile photo.

How We Did It
Our first step was to look back at all of Twitter’s default profile photos throughout the years. We originally chose the egg, with a different colored background for each new account, because we wanted something that was playful, fun, and unique.

Twitter default profile photo, through the years

For the new default profile photo, we decided that we wanted to use people’s existing expectations for default profile photos and how they serve as a temporary placeholder. From this process, we identified a set of traits the new default profile photo should have:

  • Generic
  • Universal
  • Serious
  • Unbranded
  • Temporary
  • Inclusive

We went through many iterations to develop the new profile photo to make sure it displayed those traits. First, we explored gray, generic images to communicate that this profile photo is intended to be temporary. We looked at figures, photos, and patterns. For the figures, we thought about combinations of very common, circular shapes – these were a good starting point because they didn’t have any notable physical attributes. Because photos are usually communicated with a landscape icon, we felt that this was also a good route to explore. We additionally considered a simple, line-based pattern to try something without a figure.

After deciding on a figure, we began our refinements. We had to determine how to bring inclusivity into our single default profile photo, given that we don’t require people to specify their gender on Twitter. We felt that the circle of the head in the figure still seemed masculine, even though it technically had no design characteristics to indicate that it was a man. So for inspiration, we looked at how women are portrayed in generic, wayfinding iconography, such as bathroom signs, and noticed that the only difference between the sexes is the shape of their clothing.

Bathroom sign iconography

Regardless, people have come to associate the circle head with masculinity, and because of this association, we felt that it was important to explore alternate head shapes. We reviewed many variations of our figure, altering both the head and shoulders to feel more inclusive to all genders. When the shoulders were wider, the image felt overly masculine, so we decreased the width of the shoulders and adjusted the height of the figure. As a result of these iterations, we ended with a more gender-balanced figure. We chose grays because they feel temporary, generic, and universal. With that, we included a higher contrast color combination to make this image accessible for those with visual impairments. Because of its coloring, the new profile photo also gives less prominence to accounts with a default profile photo.

Progression from our initial to final figure

New default profile photo

We hope this new default profile photo encourages more people to express themselves on Twitter! We’re always happy to hear your feedback, let @design know what you think.

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