How Our Global Design Team Switched from Sketch to Figma
It’s increasingly clear that the tools we use shape the work we do in all sorts of ways, so picking the right tool for your task is absolutely critical. And even more so when you’re trying to pick a tool to be used by a diverse team spread around the world. Our product design team consists of 19 designers who work across our offices in Dublin, London, and San Francisco. All designers are embedded in product teams, which means they have specific needs regarding communication and collaboration. Multiple time zones add to this complexity. “As time passed and the company grew, our ecosystem of tools became prohibitively messy and limiting” Our distributed setup caused us to make highly opinionated choices about our tools: various file storages and repositories, prototyping instruments, tools for collaboration and engineering handover. As time passed and the company grew, this ecosystem of tools became prohibitively messy and limiting. Every local team optimized for their immediate needs and didn’t support collaboration between teams and offices. The company had to pay for redundant software. Even onboarding new people to all that complexity was a pain. Something had to change. After examining our situation and considering a few alternatives, we’ve found a solution to our problems in Figma. Here’s the story of why and how we moved to that tool. Start with why We were always curious about Figma as it developed a vocal, growing user base of designers, and yet slightly skeptical too. On the one hand, it was a modern, rapidly evolving tool with features that seemed to suit the needs of our design org. On the other hand, it looked immature, and its web-based nature struck us as a potential drawback for the work we do. Because of that skepticism, we started by deeply evaluating the value it could bring to us. Some benefits were clear early on, while others became evident only after the switch. The absence of files Things can get really messy in a traditional file system. You need to be perfectly aligned within a team on where and how things should be stored. Otherwise, you would never find anything. In my previous company, we even had to create and maintain a formalized system for our working directory. It certainly doesn’t sound like the way we should be working in 2019. Figma, on the other hand, gives you a transparent and almost flat document system. You can easily browse all the projects and sort them by the time of the last edit. No more “final-final-ver.99…” files, hidden inside 20 folders; no more questions about the ownership. That provides really good visibility into the team activities. And in my role as member of the design systems team, which means I need a much broader context and oversight of a greater variety of work than the rest of the design team, it was invaluable. Collaboration When Figma initially marketed themselves as the first collaborative design tool, I asked myself: “Why would I need that? Why would I want some manager to poke around my designs? Why would I need to work on a file simultaneously with another designer?” It was only after the switch that I came to understand the value. At Intercom, we do regular design critique sessions where designers get feedback on their work. The fact that multiple designers can jump into and inspect one file at the same time in Figma turned out to be a dramatic improvement for these sessions. But it is when you start looping in engineers that the collaborative aspect of Figma truly shines. The very fact that…
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