Adobe and Figma - a case of whack a mole or inspired thinking?
Yesterday, it was announced that Adobe is to acquire Figma for $20bn – not bad for the start-up design platform that came on the scene in 2012. But is this a very expensive game of whack a mole or has Adobe realised that this community-led, open and collaborative approach might just be the way forward?
Back in 2012 when Figma introduced its free to access, cloud-based design platform, many designers were sceptical. Actually, many were downright appalled that the top-down, siloed model of expert to non was even happening. Quite frankly it was heresy! Designers feared meddling, micromanagement, tighter deadlines and, possibly most importantly, the lifting of the lid into their closed world. Who were these outsiders coming in and telling the industry how it had to change?
Instead of ignoring the feedback and potentially generating further animosity, however, Figma knew that if they were to succeed they needed to bring the industry with them. From the very beginning they fostered deep and authentic relationships with these specialists who have, in turn, come on the journey with them and helped to develop and shape the offering. Put simply, their every move was through the lens of a community-led strategy. Of course, not all feedback was favourable but being open to both positive and negative sentiment built a level of trust and enthusiasm which has made it now one of the most popular design platforms in the world, going far beyond the design industry to include average ”punters” like you and me, as well as huge numbers of students.
What is clear is that their community has never been an add on to what they do – it is totally
integral – the seam that runs through every element from product development, user experience to content creation. Just take a look at their website and offering – as a user you immediately join the community. Don’t know where to start? Use one of the templates which, you guessed it, has been developed by the community. Their annual conference – Config? –run “by” and “for” the community. Need to get individual feedback and support – become a “Friend of Figma” where you will find a Chapter in every corner of the globe or a group that covers the specific topic that you are interested in. If you are more of a Reddit, Slack or Discord user, never fear, they have their community offerings on those too. They are where you are, or want to be.
In all of this they recognised that products and functionality can be copied (just look at Adobe’s own XD offering) but what cannot be copied is the community that interacts, engages and collaborates together. That is where the magic is and that, we would argue, is why Adobe was so keen to do this deal. Let’s hope Adobe’s press statement is not just PR positioning but they are true to their word and will allow the Figma team to keep doing what they are great at – empowering their users and making design accessible to all. We look forward to watching how the next chapter unfolds.