10 reasons brands you love changed the way they design

10 reasons brands you love changed the way they design

Designers need a place to come together, whether it’s to work through problems, riff off ideas or simply connect and have fun.

But the way they brainstorm, design and build has changed. It needed to in this new world of remote collaboration, globalisation and flexi-time. That’s why some of the most well-known brands on the planet have evolved the way their design teams work, finding ways to consolidate tools, simplify workflows and enable collaboration across time zones.

Here, ten brands explain how they used Figma to make the design process faster, more efficient and fun, while keeping everyone on the same page.

1. Dropbox: Real-time collaboration

How can design teams maintain that feeling of togetherness when they’re apart? That was the challenge facing Dropbox when the company adopted a virtual-first policy at the start of the pandemic.

Designers found that in the new world, getting into a flow required more effort… they needed a new way to collaborate. The company had already migrated its design organisation to Figma, and established best practices for virtually every stage of the creation process: brainstorming, wireframing, prototyping, and commenting.

But once Dropbox went fully remote in the pandemic, designers needed to remove any potential for communication breakdown to maintain the creative chemistry that once happened in real life. For example, instead of in-person design review meetings, the team uses Figma’s “observation mode” to follow along with presenters as they showcase work.

Rather than walking over to someone’s desk to brainstorm live, designers simply share a link and jump into a file to work on ideas together. As Stan Yeung, Dropbox product designer, put it: “Figma has become the centre of our universe since the pandemic, with more communication and collaboration happening within the design files themselves…Figma has become our new virtual whiteboard.”

2. Design Within Reach: Co-creation & transparency

Finding the perfect ergonomic chair once required an in-person showroom experience. For Herman Miller’s furniture brand Design Within Reach, competition from price sensitive direct-to-consumer websites and the impacts of COVID-19 prompted it to redesign its e-commerce website to not just showcase beautiful products, but tailor the shopping experience to each consumer in a frictionless e-commerce UX.

To tackle this redesign, the DWR team partnered with BASIC®, a branding and digital agency that works with companies like Google, Airbnb, Patagonia, Apple, and Beats by Dre, to work together in real time. “We were already struggling with design file collaboration among our internal product design team,” says DWR’s UI design lead Ryan Ganss.

Because a platform like Figma is built on the web, the DWR and BASIC® teams could access design files at all times “without worrying about copying over each other” leading to huge efficiency. “With two teams based in different time zones, we essentially achieved 14-hour workdays,” BASIC® senior designer Garret Schauteet says. “We didn’t have to worry about handing off the latest version or updating links.”

Plus, the transparent process - including the ability to share quick links to Figma prototypes with DWR’s CEO and others - generated an unprecedented level of positive feedback across the organisation.

3. Netflix: online whiteboarding

Mapping user journeys can be a time consuming, exactingly detailed process.

For Emily Loper, a growth product designer working across platforms at Netflix, a design process could have taken months. She needed to painstakingly map out how a project would impact both Netflix members and internal Netflix teams, creating a web of connections that could quickly become chaotic.

Loper wanted to keep the complex design process all within the same environment. So Netflix used Figma’s online whiteboard tool FigJam to work through the early, often messy stages of a new, complicated project. The whiteboard’s built-in shapes and connectors easily snapped together in Loper’s design grid and made it easy to work through the little details of moving boxes around the canvas without losing track of dependencies.

The user flows for this project had implications across the entire Netflix organisation. Articulating the process to stakeholders from engineering to legal to data science can be a challenge, so at the top of the file, Loper built a schematic of the design process giving stakeholders a high-level look at how the project was advancing.

The user journey map explored more than 20-plus user flows, all within one file. Loper also created an easy-to-understand key, using colours and shapes, for her flow diagrams which helped cross-functional teams decipher the dense intricacy of what they were looking at.

4. News UK: A single design system

The shift to digital-first experiences in the media industry has posed unique challenges. Not only do publishing companies need to design and adapt for digital, their ability to create new content and evolve quickly determines their fate.

News UK, an arm of News Corp, grew their product offerings across print, online, radio, and TV to make sure that they were evolving with their customer base. This expansion meant scaling design and development across multiple brands and products. They needed a new design system to organize and manage the process.

Some brands were starting from scratch, others – like The Times and The Sun – had huge heritage (and legacy).

“They (all) have tight requirements on how things should look and feel,” says Nick Dorman, head of design systems at News UK. “As designers, it’s our job to understand what product, editorial, commercial and marketing teams want from the design system; their perspectives influence how we approach building the system.”

Companies often overlook the cultural elements - team norms, processes, values and goals - required to make a design system successful. So, in News UK’s case, its design system team individually set up every designer’s workspace and onboarded them in Figma, with tailored workshops and documentation. They also created documentation around how to comment, inspect, and integrate crucial third-party tools.

“It’s not enough to say, ‘here’s a new design system, please use it,’” says James Davis, lead designer.

“People really want to understand it and feel they are involved, so we came up with creative ideas to educate and encourage adoption.”

5. Elsewhen: Greater productivity

Elsewhen is a digital product consultancy based in the UK that focuses on building B2B and enterprise tools for companies around the world. Because building tools requires close partnership with clients such as Spotify and Inmarset, Elsewhen uses Figma as a collaborative home base to work and design together.

“With Figma, we've been able to remove loads of routine steps, such as exporting, uploading, and distributing assets,” says Tadhg McCarthy, Founder and Design Director at Elsewhen. “Figma is not just a tool for designing final product screens; we use it across the entire process from exploration and workshopping, to prototyping with our clients.”

One of the outcomes was a project to help Spotify better measure and evaluate design productivity. Together, they created a framework that would help design teams understand current workflow challenges and locate key opportunities – Figma’s Design Productivity Blueprint: an open-sourced file that contains a collection of workshops and interview templates that any team can use.

“Measuring productivity for a creative role,” the Spotify design team wrote in a blog post, “is a treacherous undertaking. It would be a mistake to just count the number of screens, components or even solutions a designer creates, or the time it takes them to produce each one, so we need to identify the metrics that it does make sense to measure.”

With the tool, Spotify and Elsewhen hope that they’ll help design teams spend more of their time designing and less time on the tasks that slow them down.

6. Repsol: Plug-ins

Repsol, Spain’s largest multi-energy company, was the first company of its kind to commit to being carbon zero by 2050.

Design was central to this shift. “The impact is not in making things more beautiful, but in enabling Repsol to stay relevant and to fulfill the needs and expectations of our clients." says Valero Marin, CIO/CDO.

Repsol needed to define the role design can play and build the teams, tools, and processes necessary to make design scale. The company partnered with digital product agency Mendesaltaren to implement a new design platform system, resulting in not only a more collaborative and consistent approach to design but also a measurable one. Designers at Repsol have begun to make energy more approachable for consumers.

To help understand ROI, Mendesaltaren helped develop two plugins: Figmetrics and MSVM by Mendesaltaren. Figmetrics offers insight into how components are used in each Figma file, while the MSVM plugin allows teams to stay connected and aligned with a single source of truth for different teams. The new design system and processes have enabled the team to iterate faster and reduce work required for product implementation by 30%. “Repsol can now easily track how much money, time, and effort they’re saving, ” says Jorge Lana, Mendesaltare’s partner & CSO.

7. Zoom: Speed

Zoom encountered a persistent problem as it grew - its design workflow consisted of disparate tools, adding friction for designers to manage the iterative design process. Like many teams, Zoom’s designers used a broad toolset - using Sketch as the basic design tool, Invision or Framer for prototyping, and Zeplin for engineering handoff. Every new design iteration required syncing files between all the separate tools within the workflow.

“For a single project, we would push out revisions to the various tools 10 to 20 times and then had to manage reviews across multiple tools, versions, and stakeholders,” says Shawn Lan, Zoom’s head of design. “It was a lot of manual work and wasted time, which could have been better spent on creative output.”

Image from zoom.us

Steven Crosby, a visual designer and illustrator at Zoom, did some research and began looking into Figma as a potential solution to Zoom’s workflow inefficiencies. “What initially attracted me to Figma was the speed,” he says. “I was blown away by the frame rate when moving an object in Figma compared to other design tools I’ve used. Then I discovered how fantastic Figma’s integrated collaboration and commenting functionality is... and that’s when I knew I’d found the answer to our problems.”

“We now have one central point of design collaboration without having to download and install new software each time we add an engineer to a project, or grant new access rights for each new file so that individual engineers can see it,” says Lan. “Working with our old tools simply wasn’t scalable as we continue to grow.”

8. Stitch Fix: Design sprints

Personal style service Stitch Fix made waves in November as the first tech IPO led by a woman in 2017. The company won the hearts of consumers with an elegant app and website experience that makes receiving (and in some cases returning) a monthly box of clothing fun instead of daunting.

To adapt to their growing user base and the ever-changing nature of the web, Stitch Fix uses design sprints — like hackathons for design — to troubleshoot challenges. These start with ideation, whiteboarding, and a ton of crumpled up Post-it notes. Stitch Fix designers, engineers, marketers and project managers test out solutions until the perfect one emerges. Then they design a prototype using Figma’s browser-based integrated design platform, which means they don’t waste any time during this transition and don’t have to buy, download and install a mish-mash of applications.

Stitch Fix’s head of product design Ellen Beldner explains: “The reason I think Figma makes this terrifically easy is because: one - you’re not dealing with the back and forth files; two - other people don’t need to install any crazy software in order to see what you’re doing and three - there is one source of truth. It replaces Sketch, InVision and Zeplin.”

And, what’s more, detailed, real-time feedback erases the need to schedule meetings for walk-throughs.

9. Kimberly-Clark: “A single source of truth”

Amid layoffs and cost reduction in 2018, Kimberly-Clark embarked on a new initiative to accelerate growth by the company’s 150th anniversary in 2022. At the core was a refocus on the digital presence of its personal care products.

But, with over 400 global consumer-based websites and a large portfolio of digital products, how could it build a cohesive digital experience across 175 country markets?

From managing pricing, manufacturing, distribution, merchandising, shelving, sales, to people operations, every step of the process from start to store has a digital component. Plus, there was the familiar problem of designers working with Mac-based proprietary software uploading to the cloud and then waiting for sign-off from stakeholders using non-Mac software.

The answer, says Kimberly-Clark’s UX manager Andy Ford, was “to change the way we work” and adopt Figma as one integrated design platform. “With Figma, everything is just there,” Ford said. “It becomes the single source of truth. Nothing is saved locally and anyone you invite can easily join to view and edit a file.” Design changes to the website were solved by a single, joined-up team – leading to a 71% increase in consumer sign-ups.

10. Uber: A consolidated home

Many independent products operate under Uber’s umbrella, like Uber Freight and Uber Eats in addition to Uber’s ride-sharing business.

Previously, the company had issues with fragmentation. Files didn’t have a consolidated home and lived in a lot of places: hard-drives, cloud storage, third-party plugins. So, how could everything be structured to make the most sense for the entire organization?

“We were looking for a way to get people in the right place at the right time — in the right team with the right assets,” said Jeff Jura, Staff Product Designer who focuses on Uber’s design systems.

After partnering with Figma on a Beta, Uber decided to migrate the whole company over. They now do 90% of their product design work — including the Rider and Driver apps — in Figma.

“We embraced the organic nature of allowing teams to operate on their own, but still come out and see the global aspect,” said Jeff. “It spread like wildfire."

Companies like yours are redesigning how they design. Find out more.

The Total Economic Impact of Figma

This Forrester report shows how teams are using Figma to speed up their workflows, consolidate their design stack, and build better products.

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