Inside Maker Week: more than a hackathon

Starting today, it’s Maker Week at Figma, a time for Figmates across teams to explore projects outside of their day-to-day work. To document the projects (and festivities!), a different Figmate will take over our Twitter and Instagram accounts each day this week. Below, we’re sharing more on the origins of this Figma tradition, reflecting on some of our favorite moments, and giving you a peek at what to expect this week.

We have a strong “maker” culture here at Figma. In our weekly All Hands meetings—affectionately called FigNation—we invite new Figmates to share how they’re a maker. When I first started, I was intimidated by this idea. I never considered myself a maker—I’m really more of a curator than a creator. But I quickly learned that being a maker is less about identifying as an artist or craftsperson, and more about expressing our creativity in whatever way feels authentic to each of us.

Enter: Maker Week

Twice a year, Figmates are invited to pause day-to-day work and come together for a week of innovation and connection. Our take on a cross-functional hackathon, Maker Week is an opportunity to take a step back and live our values—thinking big and bold ideas, connecting with one another, and putting our individual stamps on the business, community, and culture we're collectively building.

Hackathons are a pretty common way for engineering, product, and design teams to come together and jam on ideas or projects that haven’t been prioritized. The problem is that they can sometimes feel exclusive to non-technical teams. For me, the magic of Maker Week is that Figmates across teams, product areas, and time zones are invited to participate in what feels more like a maker festival. Technical expertise isn’t a prerequisite, and the result is more cross-pollination of ideas, shared ownership in what we’re creating, and a better understanding of the role we each play in building Figma. In the past, recruiters have made employee baseball cards to share with candidates looking to learn more about their prospective teams, interns built a Name That Figmate game to help us all get to know one another, and data scientists taught chemistry fundamentals with a baking lesson.

Since 2018, we’ve hosted five Maker Weeks, resulting in hundreds of projects. And, we’ve shipped many of these externally, from core product features like auto layout, interactive components, and plugins to others that provide a peek into our culture, like Figma in Quarantine: The Musical. You might argue that, at its core, FigJam is basically the culmination of a number of Maker Week projects over the years.

To prepare for this year’s first Maker Week, we invited Figmates to take a look back at previous projects for inspiration. Here are a few that we think are pretty neat:

Empathy building cards

Project by Christa Simon (Research), Radhika Parashar (Sales Enablement), Remilla Ty (Brand Design)

Understanding our users and building for their evolving needs is always top of mind. To help Figmates put themselves in our users’ shoes, Christa, Radhika, and Remilla created these beautifully designed Empathy building cards. The cards combine personas with different characteristics and situations, allowing the team to better contextualize the various challenges users face.

Figma in 3D

Project by Alice Ching (Software Engineer), Hanna Kim (Product Support), and John Doherty (Software Engineer)

Inspired by a previous project by Jamie and Susan, Alice, Hanna, and John were curious about what it would be like if navigating Figma was a bit more like navigating 3D Google Maps. They built an extension that projects layers off the canvas and allows you to orbit using your mouse. Figma in 3D gives a whole new meaning to spatial software 😉.

User collaboration data visualization

Project by Wendy Lu (Data Science) and Marissa Fuhrer (Enterprise Sales)

Using Mode, Wendy and Marissa created a map tool that visualizes collaboration between users in different countries—all within a specific domain. This map allows us to better understand how teams at one company work together across regions and time zones.

Mechanical keyboards in Figma

Project by Toni Gemayel (Growth Marketing)

Many of us are big fans of mechanical keyboards. Some might even call it an obsession. Toni leaned into that to make this sweet custom Figma keyboard—in Figma, of course. He even published this community file so others could design their own.

Maker Week, this week

Some of our favorite product features and initiatives started out as a Maker Week idea. As a company, we rely on these projects every day in how we operate, engage with our community, and plan for the future. There are even a handful of projects from our most recent Maker Week that are currently in production. By the end of this week, we’ll have an even longer list of exciting things to build.

Today marks the beginning of Maker Week #6 and we’re approaching this one a bit differently. Rather than anchoring around one theme, as we have in the past, we’ll be working (and celebrating, of course) within four “Frames”: Exploring, Refining, Learning, and Connecting. Where a theme is designed to spark inspiration beyond how we typically operate, Frames aim to expand accessibility and loosely anchor the work to our values. The hope is that they give Figmates—no matter their tenure or technical ability—the opening to make something great, together. And while one of the main pillars of Maker Week is to work across teams, we realize that many Figmates will continue supporting our users, ensuring high performance, and keeping our infrastructure sound. Thank you to the true heroes of Maker Week.

Thank you to our Frame facilitators: Willy, Lizhi, Tahirih, Sho, Liam, Radhika, Greg, and Christa

To give you an idea of how this all comes to life, here are a few events and goings-on within each Frame:

  • Exploring: Willy and Lizhi have organized a few tech talks to spark inspiration and give a nod to the iconic “blank slate” projects from the past: Cowboy YOLO your dev cluster by Lizhi herself and Plug into Plugins by Jackie.
  • Refining: Throughout the week, Tahirih and Sho will host a series of brainstorming jams focused on small improvements that make a big difference for other Figmates, users, and our products.
  • Learning: Figmates are intrinsically curious and creative, which is exactly what this Frame—facilitated by Liam and Radhika—is about. Think: a public speaking class hosted by Luis, storytelling sessions with Chris, The Science of Pizza Baking with Clancy and Arnau, Data Trivia hosted by the Data Science and Research teams, Daily Insights, and more.
  • Connecting: Greg and Christa are pulling out all the stops, from homeroom-style morning announcements to hangouts with soon-to-join Figmates and meetings with our users. For a moment, we might just forget that we’re still at home.

These Frames create structure and permission to use this week as a time to reflect on and live by our values. Build community. Love your craft. Run with it. Grow as you go.

This isn’t the last you’ll hear from us about Maker Week. We hope you’ll follow along on Twitter and Instagram, where a different Figmate takes the wheel each day this week! Hear from folks across the company—and around the world—as we share progress and stories.

Maker Week is one of many traditions and opportunities to make an impact at Figma. We’re just getting started and could use some help! Check out our careers page to learn more about our culture, values, and open roles.