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San Francisco, CA Design Director, Figma Joined about 10 years ago via an invitation from Jesse V.
Thanks so much everyone for your time and thoughtful questions! This was a lot of fun. Hopefully it was helpful in some way to get more of an inside glance about me and about Figma.
While I won't be checking here anymore for questions, please don't hesitate to ping me on twitter (@nlevin) if you think of anything else.
And one more thing! We are definitely hiring across a number of roles, both in Product Design, Brand Design, and all sorts of others throughout the company. Learn more at http://figma.com/careers
Do you mean openly within the company, or openly outside of the company?
If inside, I definitely think transparent work processes are the way to go. That said, I’m coming from Google and ClassPass before Figma, which both had transparent internal work processes where you could always easily find out the latest on any given project. So I don’t know what it’s like to work at companies like Apple — where this isn’t necessarily the case — to compare it to. From my experience though:
Pros of Transparent Internal Work Culture
Cons of Transparent Internal Work Culture
If outside, I also think transparency is great to build trust with your audience, but it also comes with more risks to consider, especially if you’re in a competitive market, or not otherwise in an open-source related project. I still just about always lean “pro transparent and open” in most cases, and am super thankful when companies operate that way.
Pros of Transparent External Work
Cons of Transparent External Work
Hmm… clearly I need to spend more time evaluating the “cons” of both forms of open work… but honestly I much prefer working this way. And at Figma, clearly with our efforts in Community and in projects like Team Profiles, we believe companies will benefit from sharing their work more openly.
Oooh that's a good one. Thanks, Jesse.
So for sourcing, I look EVERYWHERE I possibly can. I try and talk to people at meet ups, I look at twitter for interesting conversations and things people are sharing there, I look on LinkedIn, and I look when companies launch amazing products and try to figure out the teams who worked on them. I’ve found when you reach out directly to people who work on things who make stuff you love and have genuine things to say about it, they’re often responsive (even if they aren’t actively looking).
I’d also say that just writing and externalizing our process more tends to get the attention of more designers who might then think to reach out to us/me proactively. Most recently I wrote about Design Critiques at Figma and a while before that I wrote about How We Built the Design Team. Those have driven a lot of inbound candidates our way — next up I’ll probably write more about the relationships between PM/Design based on an interesting twitter conversation from our Product Director.
Regarding our interview process, it usually looks like: 1) Phone screen / portfolio review (often times 2 of these, one with me, and one with another designer). Then 2) On site interview with a 50min presentation sharing 1-2 projects to a room of about 5-6 people (designers, a PM, maybe an engineer), followed by a series of three 1-on-1 (or 2-on-1) interviews focusing on diving deeper into a number of skills we’re looking for. Most recently, we’ve been looking for evidence of skills in 6 key areas:
With every step of the interview process, we always leave a lot of time to answer questions people may have about us. It’s always a 2-way-street. The best fits are entirely mutual for both us and for the person we’re speaking with!
Hope that helps!
p.s. thanks for all your work on Fitbod, I use it every single week!
Hi Will — I try to keep this list of resources up to date to highlight things I recommend people look to for learning and inspiration about design: https://medium.com/@nlevin/ux-design-recommendations-8de563c5fbfa
We also have an #inspiration channel internally at Figma that various team members post to, which is a lot of fun. I try to also just stay up to date via modern and unexpected platforms like TikTok which start to hint at how the next generation of storytellers and creatives are expressing themselves.
Honestly I've felt more empowered than limited while working on the web here. Which I never expected to say, because a lot of my time when I worked at Google was actually working on convincing teams of the advantages of working with native technologies while working on mobile products like Google Now and Voice Search. But here, I’ve been BLOWN AWAY by the quality of our engineering team and what they’ve proven the web is truly capable of. It’s advantages of shipping every single week and not requiring app updates, being available on every platform immediately, easily share links, and easily collaborate together in real time, make the pros far outweighs the cons — and most Figma users have found our performance even faster than many of our native competitors.
That said, there are some random things that come to mind. For example, multiple window management for having a prototype up while you view your design is a bit difficult to do well on the web when you’re relegated to a single tab, working with the clipboard has some specific challenges, and certainly offline support is something that we think a lot about. We’re constantly looking for workarounds for this to handle these shortcomings, but overall we’re quite confident about our direction of investing in the web.
Great question! I actually have a big list here, which I hope is helpful! https://medium.com/@nlevin/ux-design-recommendations-8de563c5fbfa
Thanks for the kind words, Terone!
This is something we've been thinking a bit more about recently, but I'd really love to hear more about what use cases you're thinking about! What are you interested in seeing, specifically and why?
For many touch devices, I personally think the viewing and commenting experience is more crucial than editing, which can be quite difficult and nuanced. The hard part is we're still relatively small, and it's a pretty large chunk of work to do tablet editing right, so doing this would mean saying no to a TON of other features that the large majority of people have been asking for. That said, we do strive to make design accessible everywhere an to everyone, including those on touch devices, so I'm sure it'll be something we think about at some point to stay true to our mission.
I first started designing websites when I was in middle school and high school with fun WYSIWYG tools like Homestead, Geocities, and Dreamweaver. I would also take on graphic design projects like a poster and logo for my brothers band, or for a family friend's business. I didn't realize there would be a career in it, but when I got to school at Carnegie Mellon a lot of doors opened in terms of both understanding how design is more than just how things look, but how things work, and also in understanding the types of challenges companies needed help with. I'm super thankful for my time there as it allowed me to learn from so many people and practice projects in interdisciplinary teams.
The journey has been wild. To be perfectly honest, I really never thought I'd be managing / leading teams! I'd always really enjoyed just making things and particularly the prototyping part of the design process. In fact, I'd even considered an IC role at Figma before considering the management role! I think roles are really contextual to the company, to where you're at, and what resources you'll have available to you to learn the most from. Careers aren't always linear either — you can move between different types of roles depending on those aforementioned variables. Figma just so happened to offer an amazing opportunity for me to grow as a manager from some really seasoned coaches and mentors, and the team has been a blessing to work with.
Thanks for having me!
Ohh that's a tough one. I'm pretty excited about a lot of things. From the editor side, hyperlinks will be super fun and enable a lot more use cases in side of Figma for teams. I've been waiting on that one for a while, and I'm excited for us to release it soon (we're just brushing up some final interaction details first). Outside of the editor, I'm most excited about our work with Community. Today when you want to find valuable resources on the web, you have to sift through a lot of noise, and even then you mostly find static images. We're not too far from a future where you'll have access to design source files of all kinds to help speed up your work, and to learn best practices from each other.
Success for me and for the product design team at Figma includes a number of things, like 1) is the team happy and do they feel they are in a healthy environment to do their best work? this includes things like career development and training, cross-functional relationships, team culture, hiring/resourcing, etc,. 2) are responsibilities for everyone clear? do THEY know what success looks like? 3) are we able to stay on top of all the requests and feature development work that needs to happen? Are their cross-functional partners (eng, PM, marketing, etc,.) satisfied with how collaboration is going? are we able to get ahead of the roadmap and be strategic to help define and shape what it is we're working on, or are we mostly stuck in the weeds? That's just a few parts of it, as most of you know design has a ton of different requirements, especially at a fast-moving startup!
We took some time to write out 6 methods of design critique we use on the design team here at Figma, as well as a few tips for running them effectively. Hope you find it useful! Would love your thoughts — what did you find unique or interesting? is there anything you disagree with? how does your team run critiques?
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