Anyone remember this tweet from Dylan Field?
Our goal is to be Figma not Adobe— Dylan Field (@zoink) January 29, 2021
Now, picture this—it’s the morning of September 15th, 2022. You’re bleary-eyed, barely awake and about to fire up Figma (on that sweet, sweet forever free membership tier).
But you stop. You’re now open-eyed, fully awake and looking at that email from Adobe announcing an expiry date to your sordid codependent love affair.
No, I kid. It’s only Adobe announcing their acquisition of Figma, one of the greatest (and free) design tools of all time.
Ba dum tshhh! Or should I say cha-chinggggg!
The Figma community expressed their grief in the only way that made sense—they made memes. Meanwhile, long suffering XD refugees cried tears of joy at their imminent liberation from purgatory.
As for me, I wondered why Adobe named their shining beacon of hope for the future of UX after an emoji commonly used by 8-year-olds on Minecraft.
What a time we live in.
So, for those of us still designing by QuarkXPress, Figma was the underdog to Adobe’s XD—that is if David brought an automatic rifle to his fight with a pool noodle-wielding Goliath.
In just five years, Figma took on XD’s bloated carcass and blew them out of the water.
In a 2021 survey, it was reported that 77% of UI designers used Figma as their primary tool. This was a community that had ironically spent the better half of their formative years using Adobe products, but were progressively getting sick of its profit-driven antics #infamoussubscriptionmodel
We embraced Figma like ducks to water. Too bad, we’re now sitting ducks in Adobe’s sights.
Figma, with its Doraemon bag of features and championing of collaborative flexibility, resulted in disgruntled XD users and broken hearts—famously being the homewrecking mistress in one of the tech industry’s most intimate relationships.
But jokes aside, I’m going to be honest. I had trouble sleeping after reading the acquisition email and that’s not due to my snoring husband.
I resented the notion of a scrappy underdog being bought out by an evil conglomerate. Isn’t that cheating? Like everyone else, I’m worried. Worried that Figma would fall victim to that #infamoussubscriptionmodel. Or am I just being cheap? Probably the latter.
We all knew this day would come—we’ve seen it before with Frame.io and Behance.
“Adobe will come for Figma eventually.”
Cynical designers everywhere
This would probably be as obvious a statement as:
“French fries are incredibly delicious.”
This designer right here
Adobe has the money. They’d be silly not to come for us (oops) Figma.
Look, I get it. You’re scared, I’m scared, we’re all scared of the new corporate overlords. No one wants to be stuck using a crappy, slow cloud service or waiting indefinitely for platform features that should already exist. We already have a glimpse into our future from listening to the whispers of doom from our frame.io brethren-in-suffering. Will this be our fate too? You were the chosen one, Figma! It was said you would destroy XD, not join them!
But hey, before I get accused of being an unrestrained Figma fangirl, let me lay down some truths. No, not you. As wonderful as Figma is, it isn’t 100% perfect. I’ve encountered nerve-wrecking moments where the file simply refuses to load. Why? I’ve run out of browser space. What does that mean anyway? Isn’t that space all on the interwebz? Where did my space go? Where Dylan Field? Where?
And oh man, what about those clients who can’t wrap their heads around the wonderful world of new and better tech? You haven’t known true pain until you’ve converted over a 100 Figma pages into individual XD files because… well, the client doesn’t like it. That’s not all, you’re never going to get a 1-1 perfect conversion from one format to another.
Another thing, Figma’s support of vector graphics is great, but, and this is a big but (and I cannot lie) it’s not as good as Illustrator. Open Figma and try rotating a circle in a spiral for a fancy icon, and I’m not saying that you should, but if you absolutely must… well that’s where Figma’s vector support falls short. What happens if your icon has a complicated clipping mask, or a gradient applied? You take that walk of shame back to Illustrator, do whatever you need to, then copy and paste it into Figma and hope for the best.
The jury’s still way out on the future of Figma. Both companies are expected to continue operations independently until/if the transaction closes in 2023, so sue me* if there’s a little hope in me that with this acquisition, there’ll be improvements in making Figma just a little more seamless, less painful and, dare I hope, not too expen$ive.
Despite the frame.io community’s griping, Adobe announced plans this April to integrate Premiere Pro and After Effects with frame.io’s cloud-based co-working, commenting and collaboration tools. Baby steps, but could this be precedence for more Adobe x Figma cross platform integrations in the future? If both parties play their cards right—Adobe finally listens to their existing users and newly acquired four million strong community, and Figma sticks to their roots to be Figma and not their new bosses, we might see the beginnings of a most bodacious partnership. We can only hope they be excellent to each other.
And should things go south, say hello to my little friend Penpot. Since the acquisition announcement, these guys have made it crystal clear that they’re the good guys. Never mind that just 13 days after the announcement, these guys raised US$8 million and saw a 5,600% jump in sign-ups. And is it also any coincidence that one of their backers is Figma’s former COO (and current VSCO president) Eric Wittman? Sometimes the good guys win.
But what does this mean for us Figma exiles? Plenty. Believe it or not, Penpot are more progressive than both Adobe and Figma. Yeah right…how so, you say? By taking the first step towards ending the eternal war between the community’s most natural enemies—designers and developers. Oh, you know what I’m talking about—the ton of tears and clenched fists when designers hand over their overly-ambitious work to the developers who react accordingly.
Penpot gets this. And they’ve created an open-source platform that can be tailored to both warring groups’ specific needs. Perhaps a first step towards lasting peace between designer and developer?
You’d think that Figma would have led the charge on this, but I can think of several reasons why they didn’t.
In fact, they’ve got 20 billion reasons not to.
(*Please don’t, I won’t be able to afford my Adobe CC subscription. I’m only a designer i.e. I have no money)
Vanessa Lim Yanling is a UI designer at Media.Monks Singapore.
This story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.