Convincing your team to switch to Figma, the collaborative online design platform, isn’t always easy. Open design represents a cultural shift, from design siloes to collaboration.
So, here to offer some pro tips on the transition is James Morris, senior designer at the popular social media management app Buffer. James took a step-by-step approach to moving Buffer to Figma, making sure he had company-wide support for the change. Buffer’s team is entirely remote, so they needed a design tool that simplified communication.
But for James, introducing Figma was about more than just a new tool. It was about shifting design’s role in the engineering-driven organization. “How can you help the design team have a place at the table by default?” he said. “How can you make design part of the discussion?”
It’s not surprising Buffer was drawn to Figma, because a core tenet of its culture is transparency — to the point that the company publishes all its employees’ salaries online. Despite that, its design team struggled to work with other departments, according to James. The tools they used trapped them in a separate world.
How can you help the design team have a place at the table by default?
Members of other teams had trouble finding the designs they were looking for, since files were often buried deep in Dropbox subfolders. Once they located them, they couldn’t see designs without buying the software that powered them, or upgrading to new versions. Even with the right license, developers and product managers were often afraid to open designs in case they accidentally saved over someone’s work.
“You realize the tool of choice really has a massive effect on the communication. It puts a wall up around the design team as though it has these special files no one can touch,” James said. “Figma promotes the opposite feeling. We’re there just a tap away.”
So, to convince designers to give Figma a shot, tempt them with the candy: The vector network, team library + constraints functionalities, desktop app, and sketch import tool. James took the time to jump into Figma files with other Buffer designers and demonstrate the power of these features.
“Our junior designer, Tom, didn’t realise the true power of components and how they can make it easier to work with complex designs,” James said. “After I showed him he was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’”
Often, once a designer is excited by the Figma candy, they’ll wind up staying for the Figma carrot — the collaboration functions that make it far easier for them to handoff designs to engineers, or communicate what they’re working on to the leadership team.
After giving Buffer staff ample time to try different design tools, and helping them discover the best of Figma, James didn’t have much more work to do to convince people to make the switch. The benefits were obvious, and everyone was on board. To finalize the decision, he sent out one final memo, summarizing why the company was moving to Figma.
In the email James concluded: “The design tool Figma will help us be more open, collaborative and consistent with our designs and help us bridge the gap with design handover for engineers.”