in Design

Exciting Avatars for The New Flickr

I love Flickr!

Flickr: The social network that has shaped today’s world of photography. The social network that became the best place for image lovers on the internet. A precious source for photos and visuals. The home of museums and institutes that offered the world the best image archive on the internet.

Charis Tsevis is a Pro Member of Flickr since 2005 and back in 2008 he even used the site as his website for some time. So when Yahoo!, who owns Flickr, asked him to create a part of the new, revised edition of Flickr, Charis was more than excited. They previously collaborated on the London 2012 Yahoo! coverage so he knew they knew they were a pleasure to work with.

The Brief

Flickr has decided to replace the default avatar used for new accounts. The old avatar (aka “Howdy”) is retiring, and will be replaced with more vibrant options. As part of the upgrade Flickr will be displaying avatars at larger sizes throughout the Flickr product.

The new avatars had to reflect several key aspects of the Flickr products and community:
• Flickr is photo / photography centric
• Colorful – include the use of our brand colors
• Individual / personal

Technical Aspect

Flickr avatars will continue to be shown as square images. They must work at across a range of sizes including those listed here: 48×48 px, 96×96 px (retina), 150×150 px, 300×300 px (retina).

Orientation & Background

“We love this!” the Yahoo! group told me about our last work for the Olympics. They wanted to find a way to keep the same visual language but scale it down to the size of an avatar.

He previously called this kind of illustration “Neo-Futurism” and sometimes “Neo-Cubism”. The great school of Futurist “Aeropittura” and the later movements of M.A.C. (Movimento Arte Concreta) and other mid-century artistic idioms have influenced him. Credit is always due to his teachers Nino Di Salvarore, Carlo Nangeroni, Augusto Garau for having introduced him to Gestalt psychology and to the love of pure form and color. Garau’s studies on “Continuum Cromaticum” and Rudolf Arnheim’s ideas about color harmony are behind the color palettes and juxtapositions.

How It’s Done

The most common question Charis receive is “how do you it?”. He always include a line mentioning all software used in hiswork. But many people believe that there is some hidden magic software wand that has created these shapes. Sorry guys! No magic wand of any kind. Just many hours of work trying to choose the best forms. And of course many years of studies on Gestalt, Design and Color theory.

The Flickr Avatars

The Making Of:

Version 1

Here you can find the work in progress that was done to create the new Flickr avatars. His first idea was to include a human element in the avatars. The hand of the photographer or even some fingers could make the icons more personal. Everyone was very happy with the result but it was too complicated especially in the small sizes of 48 x 48 pixels.


The first version was created using a very limited palette. The two Flickr colors (Red and Blue) plus the Yahoo! purple. Shades of these three colors have been added in order to give a more realistic look to the set of avatars. We have abbandoned this direction quickly as it was creating a less bold and more romantic look. We kept the three colors for the background and added a much wider palette.

They experimented with different color backgrounds. We tried black, a darker purple and a lighter blue or red.

They then tried a light grey to put the emphasis on the camera forms.

They all agreed that the Yahoo! purple was probably the best color for the background. The Flickr Red and Blue could then find their place inside the camera forms, most of the times in the center of the icon, for example the lens.

The Avatars on the new Flickr website


Alexandru is the co-owner of TopDesignMag. “If it looks easy, it's hard. If it looks hard, it's impossible. If it looks impossible, it's due tomorrow. At 8 A.M.”