A look back at Config 2022

Ted Brown
Managing Editor at Figma

This year at Config 2022, we enjoyed 24 hours of presentations and discussions from around the world. More than 100 speakers took to the stage to explore everything from decentralizing design with Web3 to how Figma is helping turn research into actionable strategy and design development. Attendees were asked to think about how their work can be more urgent and ambitious, regardless of their discipline or geographic location. Figma co-founder and CEO Dylan Field put it best in his keynote: “If you want to change something locally or globally, there’s nothing stopping you.” We’ve rounded up highlights that might inspire you to do just that.

From digital natives to newcomers

Several speakers shared unique perspectives on how designers can start thinking about users with differing needs, and what it means to design with more people in mind. At one end of the spectrum was Yuan Qing Lim, Staff Product Designer at Shopify in Singapore, who talked about the intricacies of designing for Chinese users who “bypassed the PC era” and moved straight into the ubiquity of the mobile internet. Lim drilled down into three themes—“More is More,” “Super Apps,” and “Community”—all of which underlined the need to appeal to the 1 billion Chinese internet users by creating experiences that reflect the country’s maximalist tastes when it comes to digital design.

Rahul Goradia, a product designer based in India, explored how to approach designing for digital newcomers. Modern UX practices have a habit of ignoring this considerable population, and in places like India, where internet access is set to explode in coming years, that oversight could have massive implications. Rahul stressed the importance of usability testing to ensure that e-commerce is approachable for this nascent demographic, particularly as behaviors continue to evolve in a most-pandemic world.

Design for all

Community, accessibility, and equity were big themes at Config 2022, with several sessions dedicated to the interplay of design and shared experience. Fritz Riha, Staff Product Designer at Lattice, and Anu Murthy, Design Manager at Code for America, discussed their respective paths as BIPOC designers navigating an industry that has struggled to attract and cultivate non-white talent. They detailed how that journey inspired them to volunteer with Inneract Project, whose mission is to provide better pathways for underrepresented groups to become professional designers, and to create a stronger BIPOC community in the industry.

Treyce Meredith, Product Designer at Dropbox, focused on another underrepresented community: neurodivergent users. All too often, design is focused on making end products useful for a generalized population, often at the expense of those with non-typical cognition and learning styles. Meredith flipped that paradigm to show how designing for more user groups often makes for more inclusive, "forgiving," and engaging product experiences. For example, Asana allows users to view projects in different formats—boards, lists, timelines, calendars—so they can choose a style that works best for them. Similarly, Gmail’s “Undo send” feature lets users cancel an email if they make a mistake, and “Forgot attachment” reminds them to include a file if Gmail detects that there should be an accompanying attachment.

Small decisions, big changes

Even seemingly simple design decisions can make a big impact on teams, organizations, and industries. Those ripple effects were on the minds of several Config speakers, including Lindsay Norman, VP of Design at Hinge, and Diego González, Product Designer at Globant, who provided two very different perspectives on the power of small choices.

Norman’s design choices build on Hinge’s incredibly effective tagline: “The dating app designed to be deleted.” It’s a punchy philosophy that not only drives marketing campaigns, but design decisions as well. Norman talked to the Config audience about how her team creates an experience that’s immersive without being addictive, and seeks to give users a product that they use, love, and leave. She also went deep on one of the most unexpected and delightful product successes for Hinge: voice prompts that let prospective daters do everything from bust out their best celebrity impression to invite people to guess what song they’re singing.

When González and his team found themselves constantly having to design tables at a client’s request, the repetition felt like a grind. Tables can be tedious to design, and while there are tools and plugins to streamline the work, maintaining consistency with the client’s design system remained a challenge. But, González learned to embrace the frustration. Part of that evolution was finally understanding that his fast and loose way of incorporating design elements often resulted in a mountain of mismatched parts, something he likened to his son’s cluttered bedroom. Instead of rushing to the end result, he focused on making gradual, foundational improvements that would allow his team to more easily manage these requests moving forward.

In learning to love designing tables, González learned a lot about how to turn a tough problem into a fun challenge. Shifting his focus to the process, not just the goal, allowed him to break the problem into parts, make steady progress, and develop small design habits that make a big difference. For González, it wasn’t just about the outcome—designing a table for his client—but about the type of designer he wanted to be along the way.

That’s a wrap on Config 2022, but there’s still a lot to dive into. Check out the Config 2022 YouTube playlist for more great content from the community.