Free stock avatars for everyone
In 2017 I’ve noticed myself struggling finding good quality avatar placeholders for my designs. The most popular website available then was UIFaces but the size of the avatars there were far too small for retina screens and it often went offline. So one day I’ve decided to do something about this and created a little site myself. At the same time I wanted to experiment with Swift as a server side language and so I started hacking this project away using the Vapor framework. After several weeks TinyFaces was finally born.
The website was pretty simple. People signed up using Facebook and agreed on a little simple checklist of terms stating that other designers can use their avatar in their designs. After a few days I would accept those to ensure they were good enough quality and didn’t include anything offensive.
Before I wanted to launch TinyFaces I knew I had to make a Sketch Plugin since It wouldn’t be super useful if it didn’t provide a tool to easily import the avatars in your design tool. Several days later I finally hacked a TinyFaces Plugin for Sketch together.
The launch of it went beyond my expectations as it became the number 1 product of the day on ProductHunt and reached 800 upvotes. Hundreds of people added their images and I received over 200 stars on the Sketch Plugin Github repo too.
Several days later the Swift community also praised the project as one of the first real Swift server side projects. This brought in over 400 stars in the server side repo of TinyFaces.
While everything was a great success TinyFaces also has been criticised for it lack of diversity. It became instantly obvious the majority of avatars were white male. Immediately I’ve made a tweet to ask woman to submit their avatars too to be able to counter this. Sadly this only helped a tiny bit. So I’ve decided to add additional features to import only woman in your designs instead.
While I might had a tiny bit of success getting female avatars it didn’t solve the other issue that the majority of avatars were white. Another user even opened an issue about this on Github.
Since my projects depends on people submitting their images to ensure we got the proper rights it’s hard to do anything about it apart from keep on tweeting the community to ask for help.
Meanwhile the design tools kept on getting more competitive with the launch of Framer, Figma and Adobe XD. So one day I decided to quickly create a TinyFaces plugin for Framer.
While I love TinyFaces I can’t guarantee I will keep it alive forever. The backend would have to be rewritten and many things would have to be addressed to bring more diversity in it. I was hoping by making the project open source from the beginning the community would give me a hand there but unfortunately this never happened.
Written on 5th August 2019