Figma Config — Three Big Takeaways

By now, you’ve probably seen the big announcement (FigJam) and at least heard about some of the other exciting beta releases. If that’s all news to you, check out Figma’s official list of announcements from Config 2021.

Assuming you did catch the news, you might be wondering what all of this means for the design community. As one of our designers Timo likes to say, “we’re living in the golden age of design tools.” And our hunch is that a few of Figma’s recent announcements will prove to be significant turning points in that evolution. While there’s more to say than just this, we’ve boiled it down to three points.

#1 — Figma is becoming a true platform for product design

FigJam — the new digital whiteboarding tool — was Figma’s obvious nod towards the early stages of the design process, which can be particularly challenging during these remote times. However, looking back on all of the announcements made over the past year or so (auto-layout, interactive components, etc.), we see a platform strategy that truly spans the entire product design lifecycle, from ideation through to production and development. In this way, Figma is becoming a design platform unlike previous ones, which focused on the functional differences between different design mediums or skillsets (e.g. illustration vs. photography or prototyping vs. interface design). Instead, Figma is becoming a platform that meets cross-functional product teams exactly where they are, with the right tools at the right moments in the design process. Which brings us to our next point…

#2 — They’re doubling down on participatory design

Some of the other announcements, like branching, audio chat, and expanded multiplayer limits, are clear attempts to make the platform more conducive to collaborative, participatory design. Many of the talks and keynotes focused on building more empathy with users, striving for inclusive design, and bringing more people into the design process — all by embracing Figma’s natural disposition towards multi-player and open collaboration models. Other talks focused on building bridges between design and development, reinforcing that Figma isn’t just for “designers” as we’ve imagined tools in the past. Which leads us to our last point around how Figma is positioning itself in the market…

#3 — They’re embracing a new kind of competitive spirit

Whereas previous platforms might compete solely on how well they work for design-specific workflows, Figma is competing on how well the platform works for the entire design process.

For a long time, togetherness wasn’t the norm in design. When we first launched Figma, people thought design was a solo act. Teams opened up over time, particularly over this past year, as entire organizations — designers and non-designers alike — sought out digital spaces, like Figma, to be together. (Source)

The design process involves many more people than just designers, and Figma’s browser-based, democratic approach fits perfectly with this positioning. The new tools and features are meant to connect more dots across product teams, add more connective tissue between disciplines, and strengthen feedback cycles. This includes maintaining an open platform that other designers and developers can use to tap into the Figma ecosystem. As such, Figma’s competitive spirit feels more like community-building than conquering.

The ideas ☝️ are courtesy of Max Ritt, Janice Ducate, Timo Kuhn, and Chris Rodemeyer, all of whom attended Config 2021 live.

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