Figma
HomeProductEngineeringEditorialArchive
Figma

Reflections on Figma’s inaugural Student Fellowship

Brie Wolfson

Earlier this year, as we were putting together our plans to bring Figma to more classrooms, we were excited to make on-campus meetups a core part of the way we worked with students. (Figma’s community of professional designers was doing this already in cities around the world and we were looking forward to bringing our learnings to the student community). When it started looking like many students wouldn’t be heading back to campus in the fall, we went back to the drawing board. Instead of focusing on local, campus-specific programs, what could we create that would ripple out beyond classroom walls?

We started by talking to students to learn what would be most impactful to help them navigate this new world:

  • How are schools planning for the fall?
  • What will the classroom look like?
  • How can students and educators recreate a collaborative classroom or on-campus feeling when not everyone is in the room together?
  • How do students come together to work on extracurricular projects?

This got us to a few key areas we wanted to make progress on this summer: classroom resources, student stories, our Virtual Campus Slack Community, and hackathons. To decide what that progress should look like, we brought in a few students in close to build things they, themselves, would find useful and joyful.

It was an experiment; we didn’t know what we would learn but we were excited to see. Spoiler alert: it was a major success. Here’s a picture of the group from our kickoff!

A Zoom call with the Figma Fellows
From top left, clockwise: Molly Mielke, Film Degree at UCLA; Brie Wolfson, Figma for Education; Andrew Hulin, Technology and Business at USC; Abigail Africa, Technology and Business at USC; Sarah Adebabay, Computer Science at UC Berkeley; Stacy Lin, HCI Design, minor in Business at UC San Diego

Setting our vision for the program

Beyond shipping new content and resources, we wanted to build an approach that would make the most impact holistically. Top of mind was laying the foundation for potential fellowship programs down the line, and how that might complement on-campus ambassadorships and (our new) Friends of Figma program in the future. We put our heads together to define longer-term goals and map out how we’d work together over the summer...in the middle of a global pandemic.

As we started these conversations, it immediately became clear that we wanted our reach to go beyond the student community, extending to the team at Figma and the broader design ecosystem. We oriented around the overarching goal of creating spaces and resources that were both accessible and aspirational for students. We also talked about how we wanted to work together, and it was clear that even though we were working on separate “workstreams,” the group felt like one cohesive unit.

What we shipped, together

Here’s what the team shipped in 10 short weeks:

Classroom resources

We created 6 new templates for classrooms around the world to use, whether they’re online or IRL. Some of our favorites include this toolbox for running research projects, this playground file for ramping up on Figma’s editor, and this template for issuing classroom assignments.

We also curated this set of classroom resources from across the community to help teachers and students learn, create, and make the most of Figma.

Student stories

As we talked to more students about what they would find most useful, we learned there was one question that so many students in our community were trying to answer: should I take a gap year?

So, we published a Back To School? Series on the topic. Dylan Field, Figma CEO and college dropout, interviewed great thinkers Marc Andreessen, May-Li Khoe, Karlie Kloss, John Maeda, and Laura Deming on the topic. They shared their perspectives and experiences about how to think about taking a gap year and the value of education more broadly.

We also published this guide on pitching and presenting especially for students.

Virtual Campus Community

Throughout the summer, over 1,000 new students joined us in our Slack Community, Virtual Campus, to connect, teach, and learn from each other… and have some fun. If you’re a student and all that sounds up your alley, join us!

We also hosted a two-day make-a-thon, Camp Figma, where hundreds of students across dozens of time zones came together to make together. Shout-out to our winning projects, FigmAdventure and Slice.

Hackathons

Figma has always made an effort to show up at hackathons, and this summer we dialed up our investment. We know that this is how so many students in our community come together to make together and how meaningful these virtual spaces have become while many of us are quarantined. So, we put together this resource for organizers and attendees to make sure they are taking advantage of relevant community files.

We hope to help support a whole lot more in the future. If you’re hosting an event or Hackathon and are interested in ways Figma can help out, email us at education@figma.com.

What’s next for the fellowship?

Molly, Abigail, Andrew, Sarah, and Staci blew us away with not only their talent and hard work, but also their warmth and energy. Their work had an enormous impact on our student community, and on Figma. Above all else, we were reminded just how bright the future of design is!

We’re excited to announce that we’re doing it again next summer. We’ll share more details about the program and how to apply closer to the summer—join us in Virtual Campus to stay updated.

And, as always, if you have more ideas on how Figma can be even better for classrooms, I’d love to hear from you at education@figma.com.

Related Content

Brie Wolfson |
Bringing Figma to even more classrooms
We’re expanding the Figma for Education program to include online courses, bootcamps, and school-sponsored hackathons. Read on for more about our announcement.
Abigail Africa |
An open letter about my gap year
Student Fellow Abigail Africa explores what it means to go “back to school” this fall. In her letter, she shares advice from mentors, reflects on the value of education, and invites other students to join the conversation.