Figma, the story thus far and thoughts on the future

Source: Figma

Everyone loves a good underdog story. Underdogs are appealing not because they simply beat the odds but overcome an injustice that explains those odds — such as the game being unfairly rigged due to privilege and power. However, in the case of Figma vs Adobe, designers were led to a rather anti-climatic, and maybe even dejected place.

If you follow any kind of design news, you would have heard about the 20 billion dollar acquisition of Figma by Adobe. The whole design community collectively went through a shock. It is always sad when big tech massacres a beloved product that seemingly belonged to the community. It happened with Whatsapp and Instagram, and now designers fear that Figma will be the latest victim of this “antitrust land grab”. However, that is not necessarily the case. Now that the dust has settled let’s look at the good and bad aspects of this deal and what might lie ahead for designers.

The story thus far

Figma was launched back in 2016. Right from the get-go, Figma had a similar (yet vastly different) offering to Adobe’s XD. While the latter has been an industry titan, it always lacked agility and is often criticised for being clunky. Figma came in like a breath of fresh air, and at the perfect time. With its minimal UI, smoother workflows and hyper-optimised software, Figma was set to be the operating system for designs.

Borrowing and improving almost every aspect of rather bland Adobe XD, Figma also focused on the community. This is where a lot of designers feel Figma washed out Adobe. Creatives finally had hope that the product they so dearly love loves them back. Figma went above and beyond to create an open dialogue within its product ecosystem. With great free workshops, amazing collaborators and a relatively good free plan, Figma truly became people’s champion, contrasting to their now new owners.

Figma Community is built right into the main product flow. Source: Figma

Meanwhile, Adobe was struggling in the same departments Figma was excelling. After failing to adapt to the new web platform, Adobe XD’s feature release was hit or miss. Combine that with their big cooperate vibe and their (borderline) ignorance of user complaints, and you can see why Adobe never got its hold on the product design vertical.

Comparing apples and oranges

Although we can compare the philosophies and products of Adobe and Figma, when it comes to scale and resources, Adobe is, well, Adobe. The hopeful and optimist designers can see just how good this “collaboration” can be if done right.

Adobe and design have been synonymous for the past four decades. Over these years, Adobe has managed to maintain its supremacy in the content creation space with over 50 products! This experience is spread out in different genres ranging from photography to 3D. Adobe is also arguably doing better when it comes to mobile apps, with Lightroom and Premier Rush being reimagined for social media content creation.

Figma’s CEO, Dylan Field, on the new acquisition and future plans. Source: Bloomberg

Figma now has access to all of this knowledge and resources. This is exciting because Figma could pick up different technologies that they want to integrate without the clunkiness of Adobe’s implementation — a possibility Dylan Field is really excited about. Imagine a port of Photoshop’s object selection tool to Figma, or the image tracing function of Illustrator.

Learning goes both ways (or rather, we hope it will). Just as Figma could use the experience of Adobe, the latter can learn new tricks to improve their product experiences. Figma’s vision has been to eliminate the gap between imagination and reality. This essentially translates to focussing on workflows rather than features. Figma works for people because it helps people work faster. Things like showing selection colours regardless of which layer is selected, having macros for almost all the actions and having plugins are just a few examples of how Figma fundamentally rethought workflows and processes in the product space.

Is Figma in good hands?

While this acquisition could be beneficial for designers, it’s the hope that kills you. Like many other giants, Adobe is not known for keeping its new toys sterile. Back in 2005, Adobe acquired Macromedia with a beloved tool called Fireworks. Fireworks was described as “a bitmap and vector graphics editor made for web designers for rapidly creating website prototypes and application interfaces.” Sound familiar? After continuing the product for a while, Adobe decided that many of the tools and features overlapped with Photoshop and Illustrator and promptly discontinued it.

This pattern of behaviour is alerting and the cause of discontentment between Adobe and designers (something Figma had already solved). That said, Adobe seems to be atoning for their problematic behaviour or at least learning to play well with the community. In the past couple of years, Adobe has focused on the community through platforms like Behance and other channels like Discord. Whether it is out of genuine care or a great pretend, we can’t say for sure.

Adobe has grown Behance through all-day live sessions, discord communities and much more. Source: Behance

What does the future hold?

While there are a lot of possibilities that this deal presents for Adobe, Figma and the design community, putting trust in big cooperates has always led to a bitter aftertaste. At the end of the day, Figma is nothing more than a tool, and they will always come and go (PenPot is already gaining popularity). The fact that this is big news for the design community shows how passionate a community Figma was able to create. This surely feels like an end of an era, and while the next phase might be exciting, there definitely will be more than a few roadblocks along the way.

Canvs Editorial regularly brings you insightful reads on design and anything related. Check out the work we do at Canvs Club.

The Canvs Editorial team comprises of Editorial Writer and Researcher — Sidhant Tibrewal, the Editor’s Desk- Aalhad Joshi and Debprotim Roy, and Content Operations- Abin Rajan

Figma, the story thus far and thoughts on the future was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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