The news this morning that Adobe is acquiring Figma is a development that makes a lot of sense: Design and collaboration are increasingly essential to customer experience (CX) and business success, and the two companies’ respective strengths will form a powerful combination.

Adobe And Figma Are Close But Complementary Competitors

Figma’s main product is its design platform, which competes directly with Adobe XD, but the two companies’ offerings largely complement each other.

  • Figma has exploded in popularity for collaborative product design. Figma has been rocketing up in market penetration among design teams at marquee companies like Airbnb, BP, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft, and Salesforce, especially because it’s so strong at enabling real-time, full-featured, browser-based collaboration — an area where Adobe has been late to the game in comparison.
  • Adobe has AI depth, product breadth, and partner strength. Adobe’s expertise in machine learning (branded as Sensei) and automation embedded in various features across its products will help supercharge much of Figma’s rich and widely praised toolset. And its Creative Cloud suite offers products for other key aspects of what design teams do that Figma does not do, such as Illustrator and Photoshop, as well as rich digital asset libraries to build on. Additionally, its ecosystem of large customers and partners will help Figma scale even more.

Adobe Committed To Enable Collaboration, Too, But Figma Won

A year ago, Adobe launched Cloud Spaces and Cloud Canvas, recognizing the importance of browser-based collaboration, but Figma was already way ahead, and for good reason.

  • Enabling collaboration matters more than ever. Figma’s most distinctive strength has always been how well it lets teams collaborate in real time. It’s been browser based from its inception and offers lots of “multiplayer” features specifically targeted at teams working together. Although Adobe entered that fray last year, with this acquisition it’s recognizing that Figma was far ahead and that joining forces was the best way to catch up.
  • The pandemic drove even nondesigners to Figma, too. Early on in the pandemic, as companies flocked to browser-based whiteboarding tools like Miro and Mural so employees could collaborate remotely, many also turned in droves to Figma, even though it was marketed primarily to design teams. Figma responded by creating a new product, FigJam, offering features specifically suited to this broader range of users. (Even professionals like electricians have started using FigJam for wiring diagrams.) Here, too, Adobe spotted the trend and jumped in with its own efforts but, with this acquisition, is recognizing Figma’s strong lead.

Design’s Impact Will Drive Better CX And More Investment

The $20 billion price tag is yet another signal of the exploding growth of the design industry and will add fuel to the fire. Wall Street disagrees today (Adobe’s stock price had its largest drop in 12 years on the news) because few financial analysts understand how deeply good design affects the quality of experiences. But Forrester believes the acquisition will drive even more venture capital to flow to startups that are design-centric (like Airbnb and Instagram) or that themselves create tools and platforms that enable strong design work — a key pillar for great experiences for users (customers, employees, and others) that drive growth and loyalty.