Figma

Good ideas stick

Amber Bravo
Editorial Director at Figma

This year, for our annual April Fun Day, we launched a 24-hour “washi tape” feature—secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) giving Figma and FigJam users the ability to vibe-up their files with bold, colorful strips of decorative “tape.” The idea was inspired by May-Li, one of our community members, who opined into the Twitter-sphere: “I think digital washi tape should be a thing.” Which got us thinking... Digital washi tape should be a thing, but what would that look like, and how should it feel?

IRL washi tape, a sub-genre of Japanese masking tape made from super thin strips of adhesive washi, has become a household staple among crafty aesthetes—perfect for gift wrapping, scrapbooking, drawing, and even furniture-layout planning. Aside from being beautiful, it’s also super functional and easy to tear, manipulate, and reposition without damaging the surfaces you’re applying it to. For people who love shapes, lines, grids, colors, and patterns (ahem, designers), it brings a sense of joy and delight to a relatively mundane object.

To capture this spirit, our team began prototyping a digital analog to washi tape. In just one day, we saw countless Figma and FigJam files awash in washi tape—224,000 “rolls” to be exact—all thanks to a simple tweet. It turns out, the story of how real-life washi tape came to be is actually not that different.

In 2007, the 100-year-old Japanese industrial tape manufacturer Kamoi Kakoshi, received an unusual request from three women in Tokyo who’d been using their specialty industrial masking tapes to make collage and art books. Because the palettes were limited, the women wondered: would the company consider producing a few more colors in their line of tapes? Intrigued, Kamoi Kakoshi invited the women to visit the factory and discuss the idea, and were so impressed by the beauty and novelty of the work, that they decided—allegedly on the spot—to start producing an entirely new category of tape. They named this new product mt, for masking tape, launching with 20 unique colors. Washi tape, as we know it today, was born.

“Never in a million years had it occurred to [Kamoi Kakoshi] that their tapes could be used in such a beautiful way—they were so used to seeing it on an assembly line,” says Nina Allen, the official US distributor of mt tape. “So not only did the company produce prettier colors, but also [they perfected] this very tricky level of what they call ‘just-right adhesion.’ You can put it on the wall and not damage the paint. You can tear it by hand; you can write on it; you can layer it. So it has all of these qualities that I'm sure the women didn't even hope to ask for.” Alongside mt’s goal to perfect “just-right adhesion,” they’ve also continued to push their designs, expanding expressive possibilities every season with new lines, colors, and collaborations. Once [Kamoi Kakoshi] realized how useful the tape was, their goal was to have a roll in every home. “Basically they've totally achieved that,” says Allen. “Everyone owns some mt; everyone's got rolls of it around the house, because you can use it in so many different ways. It's so practical.”

Hands applying a piece of washi tape with transparent pink stripes to a label
The mt team perfected transparency and "just-right adhesion" so the tape is easy to tear and layer, without damaging surfaces. Copyright © 2015-2022 KAMOI KAKOSHI Co.,LTD. All Rights Reserved.

On April 1, we saw that same spirit of fun, utility, and just-right adhesion play out across our screens, with people sharing how they made their stickies more sticky, and sending us super cute pleas to bring back the feature for good. In short, it became obvious that “fun tape” needed to stick around. And really, how could we say no?

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re bringing back washi tape for good, and we’ve made it even more delightful to use. For April Fun Day, we randomly assigned a pattern to washi tape in each FigJam file. Now, there are newly designed swatches to choose from, and you will also be able to upload your own patterns, which we’re particularly excited to see play out in the wild.

Washi tape in FigJam

And of course, true to the origin and spirit of washi tape, we’ll take inspiration from you, and continue to expand our washi tape offering. "It's this value of 'adding a little color to your life'," says Allen, "which is a great way to look at it because nothing is not improved by a little bit of tape." We couldn't agree more.

Check out the other features we've launched to bring more good vibes to your files, including updates to cursor chat and new sticker packs from some of our favorite artists.