Behind the Plugins: Tiffany Chen, UX Designer @ Microsoft

Morgan Kennedy

Editor's Note: This article is part 2 of a 5-part series about the creators behind Figma plugins—coming to a Figma near you on August 1, 2019. 

Today, I’m sitting down with Tiffany Chen, a UX designer on Microsoft’s modern input and accessibility team. Tiffany joined Microsoft after graduating from Brown University in 2018 to be at the intersection of accessibility, inclusivity, education, design, and technology. This is the first time she’s built a design plugin! 

With Microsoft’s focus on accessibility both internally and externally, Tiffany hopes to help create more awareness around making product experiences more inclusive. She believes to do so, “we need to also lower the barrier to entry for people who want to become designers.”

Q: What Figma plugin are you building?A: Accessibility-focused order annotator plugin; it automates a lot of the (very manual) design process for annotating for accessibility purposes.

Q: Why are you building for the Figma community?A: Multiple reasons:

  1. The new plugin system and Figma APIs have been a breeze to use. In building for the Figma community, I spend much more time on making things rather than debugging or trying to get stuff set up.
  2. Design tools just don’t have every single feature a designer would want. Figma plugins make it easy to advocate for myself and others by giving me the ability to create the design tools we need, rather than crossing our fingers and hoping someone else will make them for us.
  3. The Figma community is super supportive and fun!

Q: What do you hope to achieve by contributing to the design community?A: I love helping other people start their own non-traditional design journey! It’s always very exciting to me when someone reaches out asking how they can become a designer when they’re currently in a psychology, anthropology, international relations, or computer science role. I think the design community will always need more of that diversity in perspectives, knowledge, and experience. For example, since my background is in computer science, my evaluation and implementation of designs tend to sit on the cusp of feasibility and novelty. 

Q: What design project are you most proud of?A: I embarked on a project where I asked people odd questions like, “What lies were you told as a child?” The idea was to prompt them to tell me stories about their lives. After getting the responses, I illustrated their stories and turned them into an art-dev website using layering and parallax. This project is what really started getting me excited about combining my technical and creative sides.

Q: What company or designer do you look up to or aspire to?A: The principles behind B Corporation are super interesting to me. Basically, every decision that a B Corp certified company makes has to factor in the impact that the decision will have on its workers, customers, suppliers, and the environment. Some famous B Corps include Ben & Jerry's, Kickstarter, and Patagonia.

Q: What do you think the design industry needs more of?A: I'd love to see increased accessibility in the design space—not just greater awareness of what it means to make products and experiences that are inclusive to all, but also decreased barriers to entry for people who want to become designers. I think we’re making great progress on the latter front now that so many resources are posted online. Tools like Figma that are both simple AND powerful are the things that I think will exponentially accelerate this progress!

On August 1, Tiffany’s plugin will be available to the Figma community.