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Figma’s new Community feature isn’t just a way to show off designs

The browser-based design tool now lets you publish creations to the web—not as static images, but as editable, remixable files.

Figma’s new Community feature isn’t just a way to show off designs
[Source illustration: frikota/iStock]

Figma, the web-based tool for user interface and user experience design, is introducing a new feature called the Figma Community. It lets you publish any design you’ve created in Figma to the public web, thereby sharing it with the world.

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Now, designers already have a variety of online venues to present their work—most notably Dribbble and Adobe’s Behance. But Figma cofounder and CEO Dylan Field still saw an opportunity for Figma to offer its users something valuable and new. For one thing, Figma-built community features could hook directly into Figma itself—which, since all Figma work is stored in the cloud, would make it easy to share creations without having to export and import them.

More important, Field had something different in mind than giving users portfolio sites of the traditional sort—the kind of places you put your favorite projects when they’re finished and ready to be admired. He wanted to provide them with the ability to share live Figma designs that other people could deconstruct and learn from—much as the best way to learn how to build websites has always been to inspect the code behind other people’s pages.

“Our hope is to [create] a kind of ‘view source’ for design, which I think has been missing from the internet for a long time,” Field says.

With that in mind, the Figma designs you publish to the Figma Community remain editable, and the idea, for now, is that you’ll use the feature to share items that you’re happy to let other people use or remix. Anything you post is shared with using Creative Commons Attribution 4.0, a liberal license that lets you retain ownership but makes you agree that other folks can use and rework your creation as long as they give you credit.

[Screenshot: courtesy of Figma]

Not that everyone will want to give that freely. The Community is launching as a beta so that Figma can get feedback from users; Field says that the company is thinking about adding licenses that would allow users to retain tighter control. “I definitely think there’ll be people that don’t want to make their work reusable by others,” he says. “And so that’s one thing that will go into the conversation with the community.”

But even in its initial have-at-it form, he adds, lots of the earliest companies to get their hands on the new feature have happily used it to reveal their work to the world. In some cases, they’ve created cool stuff that they’re happy to give away to others who might find it valuable: Dropbox, for example, is sharing its “culture kits,” which feature designs for cards with questions to spark conversations at work (“What habits or rituals help you maintain focus?”).

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In other instances, sharing Figma work is a way to help encourage third parties to adopt design conventions you’re trying to spread. For instance, Chicago—yes, the city—has created a design identity for itself and is using Figma to distribute its logo and other building blocks. “The idea is that people can pull off this design system, use those Lego pieces in their work as well, and hopefully create things that are within the parameters of a design system,” says Field. Similarly, Slack is using the Community to share elements for use in third-party Slack apps.

If Figma users embrace this public sharing, it could be good for everyone concerned—including Figma itself, since fiddling around with someone else’s Figma designs should be a powerful way to get introduced to the service and all it can do. (The company offers free basic accounts and paid ones with more features.)

Beyond the folder

Along with rolling out the new Community feature, Figma is starting to reorganize how works in progress are organized within organizations, with the goal of deemphasizing files in folders in favor of projects and the people behind them. There are new pages for projects, teams, and organizations, along with internal profiles for users. It feels like the start of a more social approach to design collaboration, which might be especially helpful in large organizations where there’s a lot of material to wrangle and not everybody knows what everyone else is working on.

Figma’s experience for internal use is moving toward emphasizing projects and people, not files. [Screenshot: courtesy of Figma]
Field emphasizes that there’s more to come. But he adds that Figma’s new functionality is the long-delayed initial draft of concepts that the company first toyed with when it was founded seven years ago, then didn’t get around to pursuing until recently. And the vision involves solving fundamental problems about design teamwork that are even older.

“If we’ve never met before and we’re trying to collaborate on design, it’s basically impossible right now,” he says. “I think if we create these tools and put them out into the world, we’ll start to see people working on visual work together in a different way than we’ve ever seen before.”

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About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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