Config is the annual conference held by Figma. This year’s conference was incredibly special. While the first ever Config was held in 2020 with the goal of being an annual conference, Config 2023 was the second-ever Config conference.
Config was held in San Francisco from June 21-22. It had both in-person and virtual offerings, making it a truly globally accessible conference. Members of our team here at Chop Dawg attended in person.
Let’s take a look at all things Config 2023!
Reimagining Where Teams Design and Build Together
At Config 2023, over 8000 designers and developers gathered in San Francisco, as well as thousands virtually.
According to Figma co-founder and CEO Dylan Field, this year’s conference had several major goals. He said in a blog post about the event:
Our vision is to build a new kind of design tool—one that is designed for the entire product development team. Today’s launches reimagine how design and development come together in Figma.
It’s notable that since the first conference in 2020, Figma has undergone significant changes. It was bought by Adobe in 2022 for $20 billion. This was a controversial move which many of Figma’s dedicated professional users were skeptical of.
However, at the conference, there was a large focus on developers. Field wrote in the same blog post that many of the ways Figma aims to evolve its platform revolve around making developers feel more at home using the tool.
All of this was unveiled at the conference.
So, what exactly does Figma plan to do for developers?
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that Figma aims to become more developer friendly.
Improving Collaboration Between Design and Development
As an app development company, we know how closely designers and developers must work together on a range of projects.
For example, an app can have a design that looks beautiful, however, if it is poorly developed, it will be impossible to maintain, fix bugs, and improve upon as time goes on.
By the same token, users should never actually interact with the code an app is comprised of directly. They should not be aware of it at all. All they should be aware of is the smooth user experience that effective design helps to create.
Effective user experience comes down to both the coding of an application and the design choices of its makers.
So, balance is critical to make something that works on multiple levels.
Figma’s answer to this is the creation of Dev Mode.
At Config 2023, Figma launched Dev Mode. It is currently in beta and available for free for the rest of the year. It’s meant to facilitate the work of developers in Figma in some key ways. These include:
- Understanding and translating designs to code faster
- Connecting to their tools and codebase with plugins including Jira, GitHub, and Storybook
- Tracking what needs to go to production
- Inspecting files alongside where they code with Figma in VS Code
And this barely scratches the surface of all the things that Dev Mode can do!
As well as unveiling new tools, Figma announced more incorporation of AI. They also expressed their commintment to empower students in a digital-first world. A lot of exciting things are on the horozon!
Config also boasted a diverse range of fascinating speakers from around the world.
Inspiring Speakers at Config 2023
This year at Config over 75 speakers from companies around the globe shared their insights.
This included Figma co-founder and CEO Dylan Field, GitHub Head of Design Diana Mounter, Google Director of UX Machine Learning Ovetta Patrice Sampson, and Airbnb Founder Brian Chesky.
Several members of the Chop Dawg team attended the conference, including UI/UX designer Lyra Wilde.
Wilde found the talk ‘Content Design at Figma’ delivered by Figma UX Writers Ryan Reid and Andrew Schmidt particularly inspiring and illuminating. She says:
The talk carried a powerful message, That design should be considerate, tactile, empowering, comfy, and inspiring. But, above all, design lets humanity shine through.
It’s important to be thinking about the whole eco system when designing, but without empathetic design products tend to be forgotten.
Wilde says that their approach will inspire her approach to design going forward at Chop Dawg.
Leading Through Uncertainty
Wilde says that one of the most inspiring and moving talks she saw at Config was given by Haraldur Thorleifsson. He is the founder and CEO of design agency Ueno, which was acquired by Twitter in 2021.
Thorleifsson, who also goes by Halli, hit the international news cycle this year after he was one of hundreds of ex-Twitter employees fired without warning after Musk’s takeover.
After spending days locked out of his accounts and unable to get answers, Thorleifsson tweeted at Elon Musk for answers.
Musk responded in this way, despite the fact that Thorliefsson has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.
Thorleifsson is a founder with a long history in the world of tech. He is also a philanthropist and accessibility advocate. Wilde said his talk took her ‘for an unexpected ride’ and she was quite moved by it. According to her:
His accomplishments and drive to create left me tearing up during the whole talk. His message was that no matter your circumstance your ability to change the world around you depends on you.
Halli didn’t let his disease stop him from creating a world class design agency, building over 600 accessibility ramps in Iceland, starting a restaurant or writing an album.
He didn’t let his inner hurt shy child stop him and neither should you. Definitely worth a watch.
We have linked his talk here if you want to check it out! This playlist also contains a number of other talks from speakers at the conference.
Embracing Art To Enhance Your Product
Chop Dawg UI/UX designer Lauren Lee found the talk ‘Embracing Art to Enhance Your Product’ given by Duolingo Illustrator Megan Barker, Senior Product Designer, Robert Managad, and Product Designer Anna Gusman incredibly inspiring.
They talked about bringing artists in during the design and development phase. This approach is really showcased in the characters and branding duolingo has today.
Duolingo is known for its fun characters within the game itself and its digital branding. So getting a look into their philosophy was valuable and interesting.
“They mentioned how Personality & Charm = Memorable Moments. In this way, they really knocked it out of the park with gamifying the user’s experience in their app.
A big focus of Config 2023 was further integrating development and design through culture and technology, and from Lee’s perspective, they achieved this successfully. She says:
I think for me personally, since I have a background in illustration, it was nice to hear that there is room for art/illustration in design.
The Overall Config 2023 Experience
Our team had an amazing time at Config 2023 and left feeling inspired and excited for next year’s event!
According to Wilde:
“I was really impressed by the conference as a whole, the new features Figma is realizing, and the community they are creating, I hope to return next year!”
Lee, on the other hand, though coming from an art background, was incredibly impressed by the rollout of Dev Mode. She was also suprised to learn about how many developers actually use the product on a wide scale.
“They rolled out a ton of new features at Config 2023 that I’m really excited about. I think the biggest thing that they announced (and is already implemented) is dev mode.”
She noted how Figma thoughtfully took the concerns of developers seriously. Lee also looks forward to the future of improved collaboration.
“I’m not a developer at all, but I thought it was really nice to incorporate the frustrations developers have had while using Figma and make this whole feature dedicated to them.”
“We learned at the conference that the ratio of designers to devs using Figma was about 50/50. But, figma has always been more of a designer tool, so I think adding this feature is a great stepping stone to getting both designers and devs on the right track.”
Lee also loved the experience of connecting with other designers and finally meeting her co-workers in person ‘fully-rendered.’
Overall, our team was very impressed!
Final Thoughts on Config 2023
Exciting things are happening at Figma and their 2023 conference was definitely a success.
If you are a developer, have you tried out Figma’s Dev Mode yet? What do you think?
Or if you attended Config 2023, what did you think? Which speakers did you find the most enlightening and inspirational?
Of course, there were over 75 speakers, so it would be impossible to see everyone or include them all in a single blog post. There were simply so many talented and fascinating speakers in attendance from the global community.
So, we are already excited for Config 2024!
What do you think? Comment below.
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