Advanced Project Permissions for design systems

Thomas Wright
Engineering Manager at Figma

With increasing intensity, design and product teams are mulling over the what’s and the how’s of design systems. At Figma, we’re passionate about empowering the builders and maintainers of those systems. We’ve logged countless hours studying how design systems affect a company’s workflow while listening to users’ war stories. Next, we knuckled down.

Launching Team Library was our first major hurdle; we needed to ensure components could be easily shared between files and teams. Then, yesterday, we launched, a learning resource for the design community to discuss design systems.

But you know us, we’re nowhere near finished. We realized teams building and maintaining design systems must control their projects’ privacy and accessibility. Those designers tasked with building the design system often want to privately test them before deploying to the entire team. After the design system is created, the maintainers may need to protect their work from accidental edits by those following the design system’s guidelines.

To address those points, we’re very excited to announce Advanced Project Permissions. This crucial functionality enables two new permission options for paying teams: view-only and invite-only. We believe this is an essential step to more easily architecting robust design systems.

So, what will this new functionality look like in practice? First, you’ll need to subscribe as an editor within a Professional Team at Figma. Then, when creating a new project, you’ll see a drop down menu granting you three options: “Everyone at [team name] can edit,” “Everyone at [team name] can view” and “Invite-only — let me choose who has access.”

If you’d like to switch your team’s default access from an existing project, simply click on the Share button and toggle between permissions.

Before today, editors on Figma teams could view and edit all projects. Now Private Project Permissions will act as a buffer between the design system “maintainers” and “viewers,” preventing well-intentioned team members with “viewing” access from accidentally making changes to the “maintainer’s” meticulous work.

When we tried this out at Figma, we found it helped our workflow tremendously. However, depending on the ratio of “maintainers” to “viewers,” this could mean individuals on larger teams might have fewer opportunities to make changes. We’re constantly looking to improve workflows around design systems. As part of that, we’re also exploring concepts like pull requests. Similar to how an engineer can ask a code owner to make a change, we’re trying to figure out ways to facilitate dialogue between design system maintainers and individual designers who have suggestions around ways to improve the overall system.

If you have ideas for how we can continue to improve design system workflows in Figma, please reach out to us via Twitter / Spectrum or leave a comment! We believe design systems represent the future of our industry, and we would love your help on making Figma the best tool for the job.