What you need to know about Figma and our shared future with Adobe.
On September 15, 2022, we announced that Figma entered an agreement to be acquired by Adobe, our biggest collaboration yet. A little over a year later, Figma’s Vice President of Legal, Brendan Mulligan, shares his thoughts on the deal, why it’s a win for consumers, and the road ahead.
Read our announcement about the acquisition from Figma Co-founder & CEO Dylan Field.
Brendan, it’s been more than a year since the deal with Adobe was announced. How have you been spending your time?
I’d say most of my time, especially as it pertains to the deal, has been spent explaining to regulators what Figma is and who we serve. Which makes sense—for as much impact as we’ve had over the years, what we build (and the space we operate in) is not super well understood. We’ve spent literally thousands of hours working to help competition regulators understand what we do, and where we fit in the software landscape.
At a very basic level, Figma is a web-based design tool for teams who build digital products together. To be a little less formal about it, by digital products, we mean apps and websites, mostly. We build tools that empower every member of the product team—designers, developers, product managers, and others—across all phases of the product development process. That ranges all the way from brainstorming and concepting in FigJam, to designing user interfaces and prototyping in Figma, to building and translating mockups and prototypes into coded products in Dev Mode, a product we launched at Config, our annual conference, in June 2023.
Learn more about why we built Dev Mode from Figma CTO Kris Rasmussen.
Our customers are using Figma to build digital products. They’re not focused on creating a compelling picture or illustration like an advertisement or poster; the job they’re trying to do is build an interactive digital product, like an app or website. That takes a lot of people, a lot of complementary skill sets and, increasingly, a lot of different tools. As a result, the space for product development has grown tremendously over the years.
If you zoom out, a well built app or website is no longer a novelty or a nice to have—users simply expect it. So the market for product development tools has grown significantly, too: from “all-in-one” software products like Sketch, Figma, and Penpot, to specialized “point tools'' like Miro, Flinto, Anima, Protopie, and Zeplin. Companies like Salesforce have also created low-code environments that make it easier for anyone to build an app. And, of course, the pace of innovation has only quickened with AI.
View of the dynamic competitive market for product development.
There’s a slide we’ve been sharing in our conversations with regulators that shows how competitive this space actually is. It isn’t the most well-designed slide you’ll ever see, but it does a good job of showing how dynamic the space is. Funnily enough, this slide became outdated only three weeks after we created it! But even that’s really common in our space–more startups and companies are entering the market for product development seemingly every week.
Adobe used to have a product that tried to compete in our market called Adobe XD, but it was never a viable competitor. Adobe recognized that and moved XD into “maintenance mode,” meaning they stopped developing new features for XD a long time ago.
As for tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, which most people are familiar with, they focus on more creative use cases like photo editing and advanced illustration. These are very, very powerful tools, but they’re not at all suitable for helping teams build websites and apps, which is what Figma is focused on.
A lot of reasons. Figma’s focus is collaborative product design and development. Adobe builds world-class creative tools that reach hundreds of millions of people around the globe. By bringing our complementary strengths together, we have the potential to unlock new benefits for consumers that neither company could deliver on its own.
Ben Thompson wrote about “Figma’s Disruption” in his “Stratechery” newsletter shortly after we announced the deal.
For starters, product design and development will become faster and more efficient by folding Adobe’s 345+ million Font and Stock Image assets into Figma.
Together, we see an opportunity to transform how teams collaborate visually, and FigJam has a big role to play in that future. By combining Adobe’s reach with award-winning productivity tools like FigJam, we believe we can design new and better ways of working together that can usher in a new era of what some have called “collaborative creativity.”
It’s a question we’ve gotten a lot from our community. We recently realized we’ve been talking a lot about what a shared future could look like, but we hadn’t done a great job of actually showing it. And while we technically (or legally) can’t plan together, we certainly can jam. So the product teams at Figma and Adobe recently sat down to share some preliminary ideas for what a shared future could look like. It’s pretty exciting, and it got the community pumped.
We’ll keep doing what we’re doing— which is building and shipping, while continuing to engage with regulators in a constructive way that helps them understand who we are, who we serve, and why we believe this deal is a win for everyone who uses our products.