Shifting team culture at Config 2021

Last month, over 40,000 of you attended Config 2021, Figma’s two-day virtual design conference. Yesterday, we released 20 of the 40 breakout sessions on YouTube so you can catch the talks you missed (or re-watch your favorite speakers). Below, we’re sharing some of the highlights from the sessions on shifting team culture—the power of vulnerability, creating shared spaces, and why we can't do it alone.

As Figma CEO Dylan Field shared in the keynote, design is inherently collaborative, built on varied experiences and diverse perspectives. An inclusive culture is key to opening up the design process to these experiences and perspectives, making more team members and collaborators feel welcome, and ultimately moving work forward. At Config 2021, we heard personal anecdotes and tactical tips from teams working to create a more collaborative reality. Here is a look at how they created cultures that foster transparency and trust.

Embracing vulnerability

For many of us over the past year, the gap between work lives and personal lives narrowed. In her talk, Figma researcher Nannearl Brown shares how she and the research team navigated a year full of hardship. For Nannearl, being open about how you’re feeling and what you need is the key to creating a supportive team culture. “Even when it’s hard,” she says, “I've found that being honest is more worthwhile than not.”

In addition to checking in on each other in 1:1s and throughout the day, the team created a routine around daily stand-ups. In their shared Slack channel, each researcher shares a list of focus areas for the day. As part of their update, they’re prompted to talk about what they’re doing that day to give them energy beyond work—whether that’s exercise, a hobby or spending time with family. Nannearl says that it keeps the team accountable to do things outside of work, while allowing them to get to know each other better.

And, it all comes down to being a supportive teammate to one another: “It’s not enough to be present enough to listen to them–I also need to make space for their emotions, their experiences, and their thoughts.” Sometimes that means acknowledging the difficult moments. “We don't have to be okay all the time.”

Creating inclusive spaces

For Johns Beharry, Bitcoin Designer at Peak Shift, and Christoph Ono, Bitcoin Designer at GBKS, shared tools and resources are central to building community. After hearing feedback from designers looking to enter the Bitcoin world, Johns and Christoph realized that Bitcoin design might be alienating to those without technical expertise. To Johns, this seemed contradictory to the ethos of Bitcoin, which he says is all about opening up access: “As Bitcoin's popularity continues to grow, it's essential that everyone's able to participate in this new economy, regardless of their technical expertise or geography, because people have a real need for it.”

To Johns and Christoph, the solution was all about creating shared spaces—starting with a Slack group—that allow designers new to the Bitcoin world to learn from more experienced designers. From there, it evolved across channels, from GitHub, to a resource hub, to weekly community calls in which designers can share early work and discuss challenges. They also created the Bitcoin Design Guide, an open source repository with learnings and best practices. Building an inclusive resource was top of mind—making it applicable across cultures, regions, geographies, and languages.

More than anything, says Johns, the goal was to create a “friendly space” that opens up the conversation and invites more diverse perspectives and backgrounds. “When we join with other people and add more people to the design process, we can get those other perspectives that can help us design more inclusive experiences and more accessible experiences,” says Johns. “We can’t do it alone.”

Watch (or re-watch!) all of the talks from day one here. We will be publishing the sessions from day two of Config 2021 on Figma’s YouTube channel—subscribe to get notified when they’re live.