Last month, I attended Figma’s annual user conference, Config, in San Francisco. With over 10,000 members of the design community attending in person, the energy and excitement around the announcements and the future of product creation was palpable. As an analyst, I had the opportunity to chat with members of the Figma leadership team as well as many speakers and users. Figma’s user community is enthusiastic, and not just about all the cool Figma schwag available at the event. It’s clear that this community shares a common drive and purpose to use design as a force for good. I say this because topics like accessibility and ethics showed up in most conversations I had. Designers feel a responsibility to put products out into the world that have a positive impact on individuals and on society. At the same time, key challenges in their workflows remain, such as figuring out how to drive deeper adoption of design systems and how to tell a compelling story and facilitate gathering feedback from stakeholders. With these goals and challenges in mind, here are my key takeaways from the event.

New Features Enable Design System Work And Storytelling

Figma’s new AI features got a lot of attention at the event and in the coverage that followed (check out my colleague David Truog’s blog for more on those). So I’m going to share my take on two other announcements that caught my attention:

  • New features aimed at enabling adoption of design systems. While many of the key ingredients for getting teams to adopt a design system are disconnected from technology — like having a business case and creating a strong community of design system users — Figma has a key role to play in making it easier for teams to adopt a system. At Config, the company launched Code Connect, which surfaces component code from a company’s design system in Figma’s Dev Mode instead of autogenerated code snippets. Since most companies have an existing design system, this is promising in helping drive adoption across design and development, particularly given the number of developers using Figma — one-third of Figma users, according to the company. Figma also announced that it’s worked with Apple and Google to make iOS 18 and Material 3 design kits (including components and example screen mockups) easily available in Figma. The latter was one of many features that CEO Dylan Field demoed aimed at making it easier for users to get started building experiences in Figma, in this case by leaning on highly adopted open-source design systems. My take? While technology can help enable design system adoption, it must be accompanied by other key ingredients like creating a strong user community and governance practices. When trying out these new features, companies should consider how they’ll enable a more holistic approach to driving adoption.
  • New product: Figma Slides. Every designer I spoke with at the event was excited to try Figma’s new product for creating and delivering interactive presentations. While many of the features demoed, like the template picker and grid mode, feel like simply a nicer-looking Microsoft PowerPoint feature, others make it clear that this product was purpose-built for designers. Examples include the ability to embed a playable prototype in a slide and features like the “alignment scale” to get quick reactions from presentation attendees on designs. Figma’s also incorporated an AI feature to help users adjust the tone of text in a presentation to be more professional, for example. My take? Storytelling is a critical skill for today’s designers, and Figma Slides will accelerate designers’ ability to do so while encouraging collaboration in the way Figma has always done best.

Figma Increasingly Focuses On Accessibility But Has An Opportunity To Do More

As an analyst that covers digital accessibility, I’ve always been curious about how Figma will deliver on its vision of “make design accessible to everyone” in the more literal sense of 1) making the craft of design accessible to designers with disabilities and 2) enabling Figma customers to create accessible designs. I was excited to also get a pulse on how Figma’s user community is approaching this work. Here’s my observations after attending Config:

  • Designers care about accessibility — a lot. Accessibility showed up in most talks I attended at the event. That’s not unusual for a design conference; it’s been clear for years that designers feel a responsibility and drive to help the organizations they work for do better in this area. Our data shows this, too. The problem is that they often aren’t making an effective business case, so I was particularly excited to attend a talk by designer and cofounder of Divinate, Tregg Frank, on this topic. In his talk “Pitching accessible design like a pro,” he advised fellow designers that it’s critical to speak the language of the stakeholders to whom you’re selling accessibility. He reminded the audience to assume good intentions and avoid shaming people into agreeing with you. Connect accessibility with elevating craft, customer loyalty, brand risk, and other concepts that your leaders care about and to which they’re held accountable. And you learn what those things are through empathy for the people you work with. At Forrester, we’ve written a lot about how to make the business case for inclusive design, and I loved how effectively Frank communicated to the Figma user community on why that matters.
  • Figma focuses on design systems as the way to help companies design accessible experiences. After Config, it’s clear to me that the company sees enabling teams to apply and drive adoption of design systems as the way that it helps other companies create accessible products. And yes, features like those discussed earlier in this post will help there. In a way, this is smart, because most companies recognize the power of a design system in scaling accessibility best practices and worked hard to ensure that their design system elements, like components, are accessible. But despite increased adoption of design systems, the state of accessibility is still not great if we look at studies such as the WebAIM Million. My take? As the most widely adopted design tool, Figma has an opportunity to do more to move the needle on improving the state of accessibility. For example, I’d love to see Figma proactively nudge its users to address accessibility concerns — things like scanning for and flagging violations when a designer marks a file as “ready for dev.”
  • Figma’s AI feature announcements have positive implications for accessibility. Figma users were most excited about new AI features like “search for similar” — a visual search feature that locates designs in a team’s Figma files similar to a frame, image, or screenshot that they provide, which can even be a hand-drawn sketch. “Rename layers” was another crowd favorite, and it does exactly what it says. These features are appealing because they directly address long-standing pain points for designers. As one Figma leader told me, “It’s the things people know they should do but hate to do.” But these and other AI features the company announced, like the ability to create a design by entering a prompt, also help users who inherently struggle to use design software — like users with upper mobility challenges — create experiences. The “white canvas problem” that Figma CEO Dylan Field spoke about in the day one keynote is real, even more so for users who struggle to use design software in the first place. My take? While I’m sure accessibility wasn’t the primary use case that Figma had in mind when creating its AI-powered features, I’m excited about the potential to open access to design technologies and the design process for more people.

Get In Touch

If you want to hear other Forrester analysts’ takes on what happened at Config, check out recent blog posts from my colleagues AJ Joplin and David Truog.

If you’re a Forrester client and would like to dive deeper into any of the topics discussed above, set up a conversation with me. You can also follow or connect with me on LinkedIn.