Stars, Hearts, Horseshoes, Clovers, & Balloons: Why Twitter’s Icon Change Matters

November 04, 2015


If you have used Twitter in the past day or two, you may have noticed that something looks a little different. On Tuesday, November 3, Twitter announced a major change to the platform that we all know and love for our 140 character musings. Gone are the days of clicking a small star to indicate a particular Tweet as a favorite, now replaced by a pink heart to mean you “like” it. What does the change to a heart mean, and why does it matter to Twitter’s users? We’ve got a few ideas.

Why did Twitter make the change?

According to Twitter, the change is aimed at making the platform easier for all users to operate on. Specifically, the differences between the words “like” and “favorite.” Favorite implies something a little more special than just a simple like. Furthermore, the heart is a symbol that resonates across the board, with people understanding that the heart icon indicates satisfaction, versus the star icon with its range of meanings. Considering the wide usage of the heart on other platforms, users can apply this to show any kind of reaction to a Tweet. Now when you click on the new heart icon to show you like a tweet, the icon expands and bursts as a reaction.

Since Twitter has experienced slower growth recently, it’s possible that they are attempting to gain crossover users that are used to seeing hearts on popular platforms such as Instagram and Periscope. Longtime users are used to seeing the star icon, which helped differentiate the platform from numerous social media sites vying for users. No matter whether you love or hate this new change, it has definitely succeeded in raising some important issues about the digital age, especially around the meanings of icons and how we interact with them in our daily lives.

Icons Matter!

Already, there have been outspoken commenters on Twitter’s decision to make this change. While Twitter aimed at using the heart as a universal symbol, users have noted that the “Favorite” button functions more like a bookmark rather than a symbol of liking something. The heart, and the way that users interact with hearts in general on social media, vastly differs from the way the star has been used and changing it is something that can essentially change the meaning of Twitter at its core.

Any designer and artist will tell you that icons matter. From serving a concrete purpose to aiming at symbolism, icons communicate a meaning. Large companies pay tens of thousands of dollars where icons and branding are concerned since it needs to resonate with their clientele. If you’re a smaller business, you should pay close attention to your logos and icons when developing your brand so you too can develop a comprehensive message.

With so many of our interactions occurring in the digital realm, we have come to rely on icons to entice our purchases, affect our interactions, and even navigate us around web pages. Universal icons appeal to users that want consistency when they are interacting with them, and Twitter has recognized that a heart may be more understood than a star in this day and age.