In many ways, being a Designer Advocate for Education is a dream role for me. While I’ve pivoted back and forth from product design and education throughout my career, I was most recently an Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where I taught interaction design classes. As an educator, I saw firsthand how students can learn valuable design skills in Figma and wanted to help others adopt the platform that was so inspiring to me. In fact, last year when Figma expanded Figma for Education, I was still teaching at RIT. I partnered with the team here to publish teaching materials, based on class activities and lessons I would give to students.
This year marks my first “back to school” season since joining Figma, and I wanted to share some reflections, including ways that Figma can support educators and students alike. Figma’s Education plan gives students and educators the ability to create teams with all the Professional perks completely free, with unlimited collaboration. Starting today, we’re also are making it easier for classrooms to collaborate with new, simplified onboarding processes.
Introducing Figma to my User Experience classes back in 2018 marked a paradigm shift in my pedagogy. It was not only a tool that facilitated learning and development, but also a space where we gathered, ran activities, and shared feedback on each other’s work. Here is how other educators and I have seen Figma change the way we teach:
Support for different styles of teaching. When everyone had to shift to remote learning last year, I was so grateful that my class was already using Figma—the only thing that changed was the location. As educators adapt to accommodate the combination of in person and remote work, real-time and asynchronous collaboration, Figma makes it so anyone can participate.
A single source of truth for class materials. By aggregating all work in Figma, it’s easy to track conversations and assignments. For example, instructors Steph Kotula and Rian Long of Portland State University used one Figma file with multiple pages as a space for all lectures, design activities, and critiques. It serves as an artifact, allowing students to reference class materials or catch up on missed lessons.
More engaged, inclusive classrooms. The magic of Figma happens when there’s more than one person in a file and the ideas start to flow, allowing teams to riff, iterate, and build on each other’s work. In my own classroom, new dynamics emerged and social norms changed—I noticed that some of my quiet students begin to participate more actively. Deaf and hard of hearing students told me that the visual format enabled a more level playing field. Creating channels for active participation in varying formats opens doors for more collaboration.
A space for community. Particularly in this time of hybrid remote and in-person learning, fostering a sense of togetherness is important. Julianne Burke, who teaches a course on the foundations of UX/UI, has her students create a yearbook in Figma. Students in each cohort post headshots, leave encouraging comments, and add stickers to each other’s pages. She exports them as PDFs for the students to keep after the course is over.
If you'd like to learn more about using Figma as an educator, sign up for a group demo. I will be hosting a conversation for us to share classroom templates, answer questions, and just get to know each other.
Students studying design today need to close the gap between what they learn in class and the skills they will need day one on the job. Here is how I’ve seen Figma help students do just that:
Exposure to relevant tools and practical skills. The design process has shifted from a linear model to one that’s much more collaborative and cross-functional. Modeling this way of working in Figma in the classroom allows students to get comfortable opening up their own processes, introducing them to social dynamics and workflows that will serve them well in the workplace.
Opportunities to develop portfolios. Every design interview contains the portfolio review, a chance for candidates to show not just the final result, but also the process of how they got there. With Figma, students can keep track of their many iterations, research, and process along the way.
Connections to the community. Every designer I know credits a lot of their progress to learning from other designers. Joining Friends of Figma student groups, getting involved in programs like Figma’s Hackathon Program, or learning from others by duplicating and remixing files in the Figma Community are all meaningful ways to come together.
When you sign up for Figma, you can opt in to get emails from us. We send a quarterly newsletter highlighting seasonally relevant opportunities like ramping up for hiring season, portfolio reviews, and getting the most out of your internship.
If you’re a student or educator, learn more about Figma for Education. And remember, I’m here for you—if you have questions or need help, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to me on Twitter @miggi. I wish you all a safe and successful semester, quarter, or term. Happy designing ✌️.