What was learned at Figma’s Config 2020

September 25, 2020
Liam Matteson
Paul Novak
Creative Lead

Hey everyone! Paul Novak and Liam Matteson tuning in to give a recap of our time at Figma Config 2020. Figma Config was a first of its kind, one-day conference where over 1000 Figma users came together in San Francisco to learn from one another and share their insights on the world of UX-UI and Product Design. In this post we will be discussing some exciting new Figma features, an overview of what we learned about Figma plugins, how to name and simplify design systems, and finally, ways of addressing public/open source design feedback. If you have any questions about our experience while at Figma Config, send us an email or join us on social!

Display of Figma's prototyping skills.

New features available to Figma

The first keynote of the day started off with founder and CEO, Dylan Field, who spoke about 7 awesome new features. Some are available now to the public while others that will be available to Figma users very soon. The team at Figma stated that they were focused on three key areas: Creation, Collaboration, and Community. Figma sees these themes as a way to focus on working faster/smarter, building products as a team, and learning from each other. Features that excited us most include the new auto layout feature with responsive components, the selection colors feature, as well the ability to hyperlink to any page on web, or any page/frame within the editor. We’ll link the official Figma blog here so you can learn more about all of the cool new features that Figma recently released.

The team at Figma Stated that they were focused on three key areas: Creation, Collaboration and Community.

Brian Lovin presenting at Config.

Design tools are starting to become shaped and built by their users more than ever

From the Extend what’s possible with Figma Plugins talk/demo a handful of designers from companies like GitHub, Atlassian, and Uber showcased the plugins they have built and are using day-to-day. They are adding fresh concepts right inside Figma in order to boost productivity and bring their accuracy to the next level. This mentality comes from the heart of the open source movement, plugins allow users to build upon pre-existing design tools benefits you and your workflow. (Ex. Switching from dark to light mode in an app design). The more these explorations and ideas keep progressing, our design tools will reach closer to a true open source environment like those that exist in the development world.

Jules Forrest presenting at Config.

When it comes to naming something, going cute is not the answer

When it came to naming and advocating for Credit Karma’s designs system within the company, Jules Forrest presented a strong argument about how you’d be better off going with the utilitarian type of naming system as opposed to a funny or clever name. The most important part was ensuring that everyone involved in developing the CK product felt included. Instead of going with "Design System", Jules chose the words "Product Language" so that it would be more inclusive to everyone. 

Naming things is hard and it’s easy to get too cute or funny. Go simple & utilitarian.

A portion of Jon Kerwin's talk at Config.

Simplifying the complexities of your design system

Jon Kerwin broke down the simplification items and components used at Thumbtack. He talked about how they handle spacing within their web designs and how they went from 200-something different amounts of spacing to just 8. Throughout all of their environments, the 65 different sizes of typography were reduced to 25.. When things like spacing and a solid type scale are in place, the system automatically begins to feel cohesive—not only across web pages, but also across a whole suite of apps and services.

A screen from Devon Zuegel's talk at Config.

Congestion Pricing

Devon Zuegel drew comparisons from issues within the tech industry to how some of the world’s greatest cities have handled growth and population problems. A major thing that stood out was when she touched on Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing, which charges a small fee for driving through certain areas during peak times. This system resulted in a nearly non-existent rush hour. Traffic isn’t really an issue because those who are about to start driving will think twice before starting up their cars. Ideas like this can be compared and applied to many tech issues such as GitHub's open-source features and ease of use for feature/component requests. GitHub's solution to this was to create a "sponsor project" button, which helped prioritize some of the traffic on popular projects.

Themes in the feedback

Miguel Solorio, head designer for Microsoft’s VSCode, lead a talk about gathering feedback from the communities you’re designing for. He has worked within the communities of GitHub and Reddit to pinpoint their sore spots within the design before code is even written. By letting users make comments, designers can then look for themes among those comments and adapt as needed. Since these communities are very active and engaged, they get lots of interaction. Noticing those themes lead them to true issues that required attention and helped improve the product experience. These experiences are as close as we have ever been with embracing open source design.

The Future: Open Source Design

The conference wrapped up with speaker Soleio, the man behind the Facebook Like, and now founder of VC firm, Combine. Soleio spoke about his past at Facebook and his experience helping tech startups grow. He made a bold prediction that the future of innovation lies in the continued evolution of Open Source Design. 

As we continue to enhance mobile and web applications, there will be an increased need to give everyone the opportunity and ability to innovate. Additionally, by enabling open source design, we are able to create a feedback loop that is driven by community engagement. This not only pushes innovation but also allows us to become better designers and problem solvers. Simply put, open sourcing design enables us to solve design problems that we may not have had the capacity to tackle before.

By enabling open source design, we are able to create a feedback loop that is driven by community engagement.

The need to push open source design to the next level brings us to the core idea of why Figma has so much potential and is already so powerful. Figma’s new community feature, expanding plugin library, thoughtful design library management system and multiplayer capabilities allow designers around the world to push further and engage on a deeper level. All of this provides us new outlooks for inspiration and methods of attacking design problems. These insights and approaches make us really excited to continue using and advocating for Figma. We’re very optimistic of Figma’s future, and know that it will improve how we think about and act on design decisions daily!