There’s something about Figma

As a designer who learned the basics using print-based programs such as Adobe’s Photoshop and InDesign, it’s a bit of a trip to look back and realise the amount of progress that has been made within the design industry especially when it comes to digital side of things.

Knowledge of print-based design is certainly relevant to designing digitally, however there are many constraints and pitfalls which are specific to the digital medium. Issues like raster images, colour theory, typesetting, interactions, and animations are an entirely different ballgame when designing for screens, and it is increasingly apparent that using traditional print programs to prototype these concepts are less than ideal within the scope of today’s web standards.

Just as print designers may spend time ensuring a specific colour prints accurately on with different paper stocks and printing processes, a web designer may spend just as much time testing colour contrast and typography across a spectrum of interfaces to ensure the design meets a range of design and accessibility criteria.

With the rapid development and standardisation of the web, design tools have also had to match the pace of innovation. Programs such as Sketch and InVision were some of the first design tools that were specifically built for designing within the digital space. Then came Adobe XD, and finally Figma, which in my opinion, has been the saving grace for digital designers up to this point.

Why Figma beats every other design tool

*~~disclaimer: I have not been paid off nor am I an advocate in any way but hey, I’m always open to a sponsorship. :)~~*

I started using Figma in 2019 and instantly knew it would be a game changer for the design industry. This is because it isn’t just a design tool, but a whole new paradigm of how we think about design as a whole.

At its core, Figma is built with the knowledge that the web has its own constraints and advantages, allowing you to design responsively and account for real world issues such as flex layouts and hover states that are easily update-able and manageable.

Where Figma really shines is its philosophy towards collaborative, open source design, and version control. Much like how developers use Github, Figma acts similarly, allowing teams to work and interact on the same file at the same time. Versioning on a file happens automatically, or you can save a snapshot to come back to at any time. Design systems are also able to be easily integrated into a project, where brand styles and type can be easily referenced and *used at any time.*

No longer do we have to be constrained by raster images and laggy artboards filled with hi-res images and SVGs only to export it all to a static pdf. Instead, we can now simply share a URL and anyone with the link can view or even edit the file and any relevant prototyping attached to it, and even make edits if they wanted to right within the source file. Collaborators don’t even need to be knowledgeable of how the program works because using it can be as complex or as easy to use as you want it to be.

One of the biggest things I can respect about Figma is its generous free tier that arguably democratises the design industry significantly. The ease at which you can sign up and start designing opens up the industry to just about anyone with a computer, where previously a designer would have to fork out a significant chunk of money for an Adobe subscription without even knowing how suitable it was to their needs.

The cherry on top of it all is that Figma allows social interaction to happen alongside design, allowing users to publish their files, share free resources, remix content, and even create additional plugins that increase its overall usefulness. The ability to create profiles and even design and share a piece of work or folio alongside its source files is honestly revolutionary, and something Behance or Dribbble can’t even match.

Long story short, Figma is an impressive digital design tool and has completely changed how I think about design. Collaborative design opens up a whole new world of possibilities and ideas, and the steps Figma have taken to make this a reality makes design a pretty exciting industry to be in right now. Most of all though, it’s just nice to be able to design without being gate-kept by a monolithic subscription service, and I’m glad to see design tools are finally catching up with web standards too. Maybe in the future we’ll even start designing with real live code, and honestly, it may not be as far away a reality as we think.