Reinventing collaboration is inherent to Figma’s vision.
The company’s eponymous design software, which is the only one of its kind to operate on any and every web browser, is a vanguard in its field, enabling barrier-free design collaboration across teams no matter where members are located. At the time of its beta launch, co-founder and CEO Dylan Field described his platform as “where design meets the internet.”
Now, Figma is leveraging its innovative nature to change the nature of work itself — at least inside its brand-new New York City office. In early June 2021, Figma opened a new hub in NYC in the heart of Union Square: it’s an office space, yes, but one designed in Figma’s traditionally forward-thinking style.
A new hybrid future of work
Currently occupied by roughly 40 employees (with plans to double by the end of 2021), the office will accommodate the company’s hybrid work model, which allows employees to choose whether they wish to work fully remotely or be assigned to a specific Figma hub—there are also hubs in London and San Francisco. Even then, employees are only expected to work out of the office a minimum of two specific days a week — which is to say, all in-person employees will be at the office at the same time.
“Every employee has a choice. They can decide to be fully remote, or associated with a hub,” Katie Szeto, a product manager at Figma and a senior leader of the NYC hub told BrainStation Magazine. “The office here is expanding aggressively, and really the aspiration is that we’ll be growing in all forms and functions here, with a focus on sales and product development.”
It’s a simple work model that was born at Figma from the widespread shift to remote work due to COVID-19, which has fundamentally redefined office culture on the whole. One unique aspect of this new work model is that Figma unveiled it in August 2020, months before other tech leaders made the permanent switch.
“During one of our first conversations, we debated if we needed to decide now versus later,” Field wrote in a blog post when Figma first announced its hybrid approach. “Why not pause to see what our peers would do, then follow their lead? Ultimately we decided that we shouldn’t wait to work through this — lack of clarity was a source of employee anxiety and we needed to pick a direction so we could start optimizing our culture.”
For Figma, the hybrid work model being launched in New York City is not just a reflection of the company’s core values, but also in many ways mirrors its core product offering. Field and co-founder Evan Wallace developed Figma as a tool that could leverage browser power to allow designers cloud-based collaboration capabilities no matter which team they were working with, regardless of location; Figma, the software, in other words, is practically purpose-built for remote work. In the early development stages, Field and Wallace envisioned a tool — not unlike Google Docs — that would enable designers to work like engineers, accessing, editing, and collaborating within a single cloud-based file.
Success through collaboration
Since its launch, Figma has introduced a number of new tools, including plug-ins that allow developers to build their own tools within the app. In April 2020, Figma secured $50 million in Series D financing, bringing the company’s total funding to $132.9 million and leading to a valuation of $2 billion at that time. Figma is now the design program of choice for a number of the world’s top companies, including Spotify and Airbnb.
The company’s remote work-friendly thinking extends beyond its office culture and core product, too. In April of this year, Figma launched FigJam, a digital whiteboard tool whose need arose after what Yuhki Yamashita, Figma’s Product VP, described as a year of remote work. Yamashita watched Figma employees — referred to as Figmates — use the product in “all kinds of creative and unexpected ways—from multiplayer pong to ice breakers to meal planning and brainstorming.”
“FigJam is also designed to be a one-stop-shop for easy collaboration,” Yamashita wrote. “We also wanted to bring the same warmth and serendipity that people love about Figma to FigJam, whether you’re ideating, ice-breaking, or just ‘hanging out.’ Cursor chats, emojis, stamps, and other carefully designed features allow you to express yourself fully.
“Put another way, in FigJam fun meets functionality.”
In terms of the decision to move to NYC, Szeto notes it was a natural move.
“There were two bets we’re making with the NYC hub: it opens up this diverse talent pool that was previously out of reach for Figma, and then the second thing driving it is our customers: we have a huge cluster here in the city, with a few of them headquartered here,” she says, noting that, for example, Figma client the New York Times is just a few subway stops away.
Szeto’s other thoughts on the move to New York City also line up with Figma’s greater vision: be an amazing companion to creativity, whether it’s designers, writers, engineers, or anyone else.
“Maybe I’m biased, but I think New York is just this incredible city,” she says. “It’s this paragon of arts and culture with this really rich history of design influence, and we think it will be a place people really want to be, even post-pandemic.”
It’s little wonder Fast Company has called Figma “the essential design tool of COVID-19.” With the company’s commitment to reshaping how employees work and collaborate together both in the office and through software, Figma is paving the way for more than just the design community.