Dylan Field told me over the phone that when he started Figma he was only thinking about making design tools. Field and Evan Wallace came up with the idea of making the design process live, interactive, and collaborative in ways it hadn't been in software before.
It was easy to imagine the idea. The hard technical work paid off as Figma was built in stealth mode for three years. Figma made design processes much more efficient by allowing real-time collaboration, which was a hit with designers.
Figma was out-competing Adobe among design teams at Microsoft and other companies by this year. Adobe said this month that it intends to acquire Figma and keep it as an independent unit, with Field remaining as CEO.
The deal has not been well received by investors.
40 times Figma's current annual revenue run rate, and one of the largest startup acquisitions ever, was what was more surprising. Adobe's stock price has plummeted since the acquisition was announced due to investor skepticism and fears that the FTC will block the deal on the theory that it's anticompetitive. She has sued to block larger deals than this one.
Field guided his team into a hybrid in-person and remote workplace as the company introduced its FigJam virtual whiteboard. When news of the acquisition hit, I wondered how Field was going to navigate antitrust issues, keep control of his product road map, and whatever DALL-E and other artificial intelligence tools might mean for the future of design.
This interview has been edited to make it clearer and longer.
Do you want to talk about this acquisition?
Dylan Field said he was just tired.
Users worry that the beginning of the end could be when a beloved tool is purchased. What can Figma do to stay innovative inside a larger company?
The first thing is autonomy. I'm not leaving. The figs are with me.
I think we have the chance to press the gas even more. We are excited about what we can do to speed up productivity use cases in product development.
People are looking for more creative assets. People are asking for things in the context of product design. I am excited about the ability to take those and go into creative use cases as well. I believe that this will be an unlocks for us. It should be so that we can do what we want to do faster but also do more of it.
I think of Figma as a product design tool, but I don't think of it as a productivity tool. What would you like to do there? What do you hope is the end result for Figma inside Adobe?
The original vision statement for Figma stated that they wanted to eliminate the gap between imagination and reality. We have discussed that before. You were saying that you were a little corny.
I can't deny that it sounds like something I'd say, but I don't remember saying it.
I think it is back to the idea of taking stuff inside of your brain and getting it on the screen and doing that across a variety of media.
Productivity and creativity are merging more. I believe this is a trend.
There are a lot of things that could be done there. Productivity and creativity are merging. A lot of tools are easy to use, and more people have access to them. That's a positive thing. It is natural for people to want their documents to look better. Also, have a lot of creative assets. How do we get them to do that? They should be allowed to make stuff and do things that take 12 hours to complete.
I don't think I would have called your statement "corny" if I'd used DALL-E before then. I live in a world where I type what I want the illustration for my newsletter to be and then I have it in seconds.
This is something I have been thinking about because you can now speak design into existence in a way that you weren't able to before. Are you thinking about artificial intelligence in your work?
We will have to figure it out and what that means for our platform.
It feels like the early 90s of the internet, in a way that I think is very exciting. I felt a deep sense of responsibility to figure out the best way to use this. For it to be a collaboration between humans and machines...
This can increase creativity. People can express themselves with it. It is going to be a lot of different things. It will be everywhere, not just in creative tools, not just in design tools, not just in productivity tools. There is all of software. This is going to be an interesting and exciting five years.
The FTC recently expressed skepticism about big acquisitions, arguing that they could lead to price increases or harms for consumers. This is good for the market.
I think it will be good for our customers because we are going to give our users a lot of moreFunctionality. We are doing everything we can to keep prices the same in an inflationary environment.
We are giving it away for education. It has been a critical thing that we have talked about with Adobe.
I think this is great for the system. Over time, we'll show that. It is a challenge that we have to make sure that we show our customers and the community that we are going to continue to innovate and do more than we have done before.
Have you heard any stories about the acquisition that made you angry?
I think there's a lot of misinformation over any event. I was aware that you shouldn't believe everything you read. Being in an event like this reinforced that for me. It has been fascinating to see that correction.