Behind the Plugins: Yitong Zhang, Product Designer @ Coinbase

Morgan Kennedy

Editor's Note: This article is part 3 of a 5-part series about the creators behind Figma plugins—coming to a Figma near you on August 1, 2019. Tune in to watch our live announcement.

In today’s segment of “Behind the Plugins,” I’m sitting down with Yitong Zhang, Product Designer at Coinbase. Yitong joined Coinbase’s design team of 16 to help the digital currency platform create an open financial system for the world. Embarking on this big mission meant that Coinbase’s teams also had to open up their design process to be more inclusive of their partners.

“If we want better, more ethical, high impact outcomes, we (designers) need to get involved in the early stages of product development.” Yitong says.

Q: Why did you become a designer/developer?A: I first came into tech as a founder who did a bit of everything. Then my startup died, so I needed a job to pay rent. Being a designer is in some ways a bit like doing my favorite part of being a founder — imagining useful things into existence. It also helped that I already knew design tools from my days of doing fan art of my favorite animes.

Q: What Figma plugin are you building?A: I’m working on an auto flow plugin. It's a plugin that connects any two objects with a line and makes drawing flows really quick and easy. 

Q: Why are you building for the Figma community?A: It's fun and the API is really good. Also, I think Figma is the future, so building for anything else seems like a waste of time.

Q: What’s something work-related you’re most proud of?A: It sounds cheesy, but I'm proud of the process we've built here at Coinbase, moving design from a place of executing on PRDs to an equal partner in creating our strategy.

Q: What do you think the design industry needs more of?A: We need more designers to be involved in the definition of the problems we are asked to solve. No matter how hard you try, no good product has come out of a bad problem statement.
If we want better, more ethical, more impact outcomes, we (designers) need to get involved in the early stages of product development.

Q: How do you see the design community evolving over the next 5 years?A: For product designers, we'll have less pixel pushing, and more system building and strategy definition. Brand design will become more important and separate from product design as tech companies realize that brand is a very powerful competitive moat.

Q: How do you stay inspired?A: I try to get inspired from fields that are as far away from my own as possible. Lately, I've been working on a lot of systems-level design work, so looking into architecture has been fun.

On August 1, Yitong’s plugin will be available to the Figma community. Tune in to watch our announcement live.