Jacqueline Jensen

Community Evangelist | Piktochart

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we wanted to take you behind-the-scenes of our work to design a new set of icons with advice from the women’s rights organization of the United Nations, UN Women, to better represent women in your infographics and presentations. We wanted to explore how International Women’s Day came to be, how the idea for these new icons came about, and why we think deliberate and inclusive design matters.

International Women’s Day first came about from the activities of labor movements in North America and Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. The United Nations officially started commemorating the Day on March 8th during International Women’s Year in 1975.

International Women’s Day is now observed annually across the globe. The day unites women and men from all corners of the world around various thematic focuses that change from year to year.

International Women's Day 2016.jpg

(Photo by UN Women/ Ryan Brown | Source: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/international-womens-day)

In 2016, the official United Nations theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” This year’s UN observance will focus on two major initiatives:

  1. Reflection on how to accelerate and build momentum for the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  2. A focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative.

Let’s take a closer look at both initiatives.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

On September 25, 2015, UN Member States unanimously adopted Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a set of 17 goals that aim to end poverty, combat inequalities, and promote prosperity while protecting the environment by 2030. Also known as the Sustainable Development Goals, the agenda includes a standalone goal and a number of important targets on gender equality that need to be achieved by 2030. These include, for instance, access to education for all girls and boys, an end to all forms of discrimination against women and girls, eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private, and ending harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation.

Step It Up for Gender Equality Initiative

UN Women envisions a world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030. Its Step It Up initiative, which launched on International Women’s Day 2015, asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap – from laws and policies to national action plans and adequate investment. More than a year later, the initiative now has more than 90 government commitments. These include Algeria committing to ongoing efforts to promote peace and tolerance,  Bangladesh committing to end to child marriage and Iceland committing to close the gender pay gap. Learn how other countries around the world are stepping it up here.

Step It Up Map.png

(Source: http://www.unwomen.org/stepitup)

Piktochart’s New Icon Series

Here at Piktochart, we wanted to do something above and beyond special to commemorate International Women’s Day. Our icon library has over 5,000 icons for users to utilize in their creative designs, but when we searched for terms like “leadership”, “success”, or “teamwork”, we noticed there was room to improve our representation of women. Because the team at UN Women has a unique perspective on women’s issues worldwide, we wanted to get their feedback on some of our design decisions.

“More often than not, women and girls are either missing, stereotyped, sexualized, or portrayed as victims in visual narratives,” said Jaya Jiwatram, UN Women’s Digital and Interactive Media Specialist in New York. “While this narrative is slowly changing, we need to step up the pace. Given the power of visual communications to shift public discourse, the design community in particular plays a critical role in showing women and girls as valuable contributors in all walks of life. The move to expand the icon library to be more inclusive of women is a positive step in this direction.”

Mok, one of our talented designers, headed up the project. Taking advice from Jaya and Carlotta Aiello, the Production and Branding Specialist at UN Women, she uncovered icon categories where we could make improvements. The following is what we decided to focus on in time for International Women’s Day:

  • Education, including women and girls in school
  • Women at work, including farmers, fisherwoman, doctors, scientists, technologists, officer workers and domestic workers
  • Women in a leadership roles and achieving success
  • Teamwork, including collaboration between men and women
  • Representation of vulnerable groups, such as elderly women and refugees, and important topics, such as violence against women
  • Women in motherhood, including pregnancy and nursing

Throughout the back-and-forth discussions that followed, it was helpful and insightful for our team at Piktochart to hear a new perspective from Jaya and Carlotta. They encouraged us to think about how women are represented across the world, not just in our necks of the woods.

Seemingly small design changes made a big impact on the inclusiveness of the designs.

To incorporate the edits, we brought in another member of our design team, Rin. She designed the final set of icons you see today.

“After looking at where Mok started with the draft designs and where we ended up after UN Women’s feedback, we can point to many lessons learned,” explained Rin. “For instance, when looking at how to represent a difficult subject like violence against women, Mok said she learned how an icon can really represent action, depending on the angle and point-of-view. Jaya and Carlotta’s work with UN Women helped us to approach issues women experience each day all around the world in a new light. It was important for us to take note of design details like clothing and hair style to be inclusive to as many women as we could.”

“A simple icon, if well-designed, can bring a valuable story to life,” added our Head of Design See Mei.

We are thrilled to announce the release of 80 new icons to the library to celebrate 2016 International Women’s Day! We are thankful for feedback from UN Women during the design process, and we greatly appreciate their expertise. Our hope is that Piktochart users will have more options to choose from when making creative work that includes women.



Tell us what you think! What are your favorite icons in this new collection? Based on your own life experience, how would you have changed these designs? Do you have any plans to make your design choices more inclusive? Do you have any other suggestions on what we can include to better showcase the potential of women and girls?

(Cover image by UN Photo/Martine Perret. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/)