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Do you or your team want to learn how to build a design system for Figma from scratch?
I receive many requests from team managers and individuals like these:
Hi Matt, are you available for any freelance work? We need help with doing a color theory audit for our Figma design system and software. There are definite problems as different designers did it, and several parts don’t work together. We are trying to find someone great with Figma, Design Systems, and Color Theory.
Hey Matt, Would you find a few hours to share your expertise in Figma with our designers? We have been using Figma in cooperation with our customers, and we have some difficult questions to answer. We also want to improve our workflow. Please let me know.
I’ve noticed that many companies need to learn how to design advanced components, style guides, and documentation in Figma. Improving the workflow and onboarding the new designers to the team is also a challenge.
I do freelance work and run a couple of side projects, and my time is limited, so I can’t help everyone. However, I always dreamed about creating an educational resource to share my knowledge about the design systems and workflow in Figma. I’ve decided to create a project that will help them.
Meet The Figmaster.co!
figmaster.co is a workbook for Figma that contains a large set of exercises on how to build your modern design system from scratch.
By doing exercises in Figma, you learn and design your guide style and component library simultaneously. It is a format that will help you get the most out of each lesson. By learning — you create, and by the way, you get to know keyboard shortcuts, plug-ins, and techniques of working in Figma that will speed up your workflow. Everything happens in Figma — no distractions.
Design Systems are becoming so popular because they make products more consistent, accessible, improve their usability, and reduce design decision-making.
In Figmaster, you will learn how to create a design system from scratch in Figma. The Figmaster is purely and simply about practice, so you can start using acquired knowledge right away.
In this course, you will learn how to set up all the needed design tokens, such as defining proper grids, layouts, spacing, managing icons, choosing and creating color and typographic scales. You will also learn how to make the components like buttons, inputs, modals, text areas, checkboxes, notifications, radio buttons… You will learn how to name components correctly using naming conventions and translate your components into variants. You will also learn how to improve your workflow by using handy keyboard shortcuts, plugins, and tricks. At the end of this course, you will create your own complete Design System and apply it anywhere with confidence.
In the team version, you will learn how to work on a design system in a team and how to onboard new designers with the Figmaster. I will also share resources so you can learn more about design systems theory and get inspiration from the existing systems.
We will use the full potential of Figma, making our Design System with variants, auto layout, and the latest Figma feature: interactive components. 🎉
So if you want to learn how to create a Design System from scratch in Figma, this is for you.
Who’s the author?
My name is Mateusz Wierzbicki, and I am a product designer specializing in creating comprehensive design systems for Figma. Up until now, I’ve built dozens of systems, including client work and side projects. I’m the creator of the Ant Design System for Figma, Product Design Kit for Figma, and the co-founder of SystemFlow.
My products facilitate the work for thousands of designers, developers, and entrepreneurs. As the creator of many design systems and component libraries — I want to share the knowledge I acquired in over four years of using Figma. In Figmaster, you will learn how to create a system similar to those mentioned above.
Why it’s not a video course?
Video courses are ok, and I use them all the time. However, when I watch a lesson, I often forget most of the things the author mentioned in the long video. Another problem is jumping between the video player and the software I’m learning. It distracts me a lot.
That’s why in the Figmaster, everything is done in Figma — without jumping between 3rd party apps/websites, without pausing the video, etc.
Learn more about the project here and join the newsletter to get free lessons in which you’ll learn how to create a neutral color palette and a dropdown component for your project.
The world’s first design systems workbook for Figma was originally published in Prototypr on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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Part I — Styles
Create switchable styles from light to dark mode in Figma
Choosing the right color palette for any designer is the number one step in making their art great. Same concept applies to when creating design systems. In this article we will teach you how to choose the right shade and contrast of colors, how to structure them properly according to their uses. In addition, we will talk about how colors should be properly applied to Light and Dark modes, followed by some tips and tricks, and finally, teach you a quick and easy way to switch from Light to Dark mode with just a few buttons.
For the purpose of this article, we will reference our own latest design system project — Figma Design System and talk about why we chose the colors that we chose.
It is important to notice that when choosing colors for Light and Dark modes, colors differ slightly from one another. However, there are certain colors and neutral styles that are constant and will never change in either modes. In Figma Design System we have chosen the colors White and Black as the constant colors, this color will remain the same no matter in which mode you are working on. In addition, Image Placeholders’ colors are also constant and will never change.
For example, in the picture above, we showed how the button will look in light and dark themes. The icons, text and counter have constant colors. The background of the button has changed, but the content in it has not changed.
Changeable color styles apply for both Light and Dark modes respectively, and they both can be further broken down into two main categories — Color Styles and Effect Styles. For the purpose of this article, we will talk mainly about Light mode and slightly touch upon applying these steps into Dark mode also.
1.1 Color Styles — Grayscale
Grayscale colors are considered to be changeable styles because when applying the same exact color hex in dark mode, you will not get the same effect as you did in Light mode. This is simply because in Dark mode the background color is already set to black (almost, just a tiny lighter) and using grayscale 100 on a black background will make your color almost invisible.
When switching your grayscale colors from Light to Dark mode, we recommend you to use White (#FFFFFF) and apply the 90, 70, 40 and 10 percent transparency effect on your grayscale, this will give a nice smooth transition when applied to your Dark mode.
In the Light version of our Figma Design System, we have specifically chosen these set of grayscale colors:
- 100 (#1C1C1C) — used mainly for titles and bold text.
- 200 (#585757) — used primarily for body text.
- 300 (#969696) — widely used for small text and to fill icons.
- 400 (#E8E8E8) — used for small details such as borders, dividers and line colors.
Just a heads up, we have named all four of our grayscale colors 100, 200, 300 and 400 simply for our own taste, they do not correlate with any set of rules, you can name your grayscale colors anything you want.
1.2 System Colors
System colors, also known as your base primary colors — are the main colors that will set the whole theme for your project. We recommend you choose colors which are warm and welcoming, but in some cases when choosing your color palette, you might need to consider your brands colors, this will be part of your Design System.
As an example, Figma Design Systems’ primary colors are blue, green, orange and red which are applied to both modes. Each primary color consists of two different color contrasts, first one consists of a lighter version of the primary color and the second category consists of a darker version of the primary color.
To create a lighter and darker version of the primary system colors, you will need to add 20, 40 and 60 percent hints of white and black on top of your primary colors.
For example, in the picture above, we showed button states where used lighter and darker versions of blue.
In the main background section, there are two primary colors: Primary and Secondary. They change color depending on the light or dark version. In the dark version these are shades of black and in the light shades of white.
For example, in the picture above, we showed how we used Primary and Secondary background colors.
In addition to these colors, we have added colored versions of the backgrounds. They derive from system colors (blue, green, orange and red).
To create shades of these colors, we applied the transparency of the base color to the background. For example, for the light version, we applied 10% blue transparency to the white color, and to the dark version we applied 25% blue transparency to the black color.
Important note: You can use System Colors as your background, but the color of your content should be used from the Constant Styles palette (White or Black). For example buttons, badges and the counters.
2. Effect Styles
Effect styles are small changes and effects that are applied to certain components in the design system. They outline certain important tabs, buttons, or blocks of information and are used to make the user focus on certain elements on the page.
Drop Shadow effect can be easily seen on Light mode and it gives a 3D-look on your elements making your buttons float on your screen. You can use the same effect on Dark mode, however since the shadow color is already dark, users might have a hard time seeing the effect unless you change the background color.
Inner Shadow effect is very similar to the Drop Shadow effect, however this time the shadow effect is given inside of the element. This again gives a thicker look on your block elements. Please note, in the Dark mode this effect might not be clearly seen since the shadow color is dark.
Lastly, Figma has a very useful and powerful feature called Auto Layout. In order for this feature to work, the Active and Inactive status bars on the Tab bars should be modified slightly.
You will need to use the “Inner Shadow” effect for the Auto Layout feature to work on your Active/Inactive Tab bars.
In summary, the overall structure of your styling system should look similar to the picture above.
Now, you don’t need to redraw the dark version separately. If you did everything right, then to create a dark version of your interface all you will need is a simple plugin and a few clicks of a button.
How to quickly switch from Light to Dark mode
Once we have set up our design system, it is time to easily switch our components and blocks to Dark mode. For this, you will need a plugin called Appearance which can be found in the Figma Community section.
Once installed, you will not need to change each block cards and their components one-by-one again. Once this plugin feature is applied you will be able to apply Dark mode with just a quick shortcut.
The image below shows how to install and use the Appearance plugin in your design system.
We hope with this information you will have a better understanding of choosing the right colors and their semantics for your future design systems. We have tried our best to share the knowledge of colors and their importance with you, and most importantly we hope you will learn how to switch quickly and easily between Light and Dark modes in your future projects. For more references and examples, you can check out our latest Figma Design System, we have used examples from this design system in this article, see for yourself.
Create an easily switchable Light/Dark styles in Figma was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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How Figma defeated other design tools even after entering the market late
It is safe to say that the entire design and product community is excited about Figma. But how did Figma make itself a dominant tool for every designer and, more importantly, the tech giants that employ hundreds of designers for their product features? Let’s dig into this topic and understand how Figma applied the same variables to other tools to make their mark in their respective industries.
- Figma had its first public release on September 27, 2016. On October 22, 2019, Figma launched Figma Community, allowing designers to publish their work for others to view and remix their work.
- On the other hand, Sketch was launched on 7 September 2010 for only macOS.
- Unlike Sketch, Figma is also a vector graphics tool. But it is entirely web-based and works on both Windows and Mac or even a tablet device at a similar level. It means companies or individuals that cannot afford a Mac device can still work on cutting-edge interface design software.
Figma taking over 🚗
Figma’s research and marketing teams would have looked at all the tools that designers at the time were using. Designers were endlessly jumping from one design-tool to another to bridge the gap and ship the final deliverables. For example, a typical flow would be something like,
- Designers/Researchers do their brainstorming in Miro ✅.
- Conduct interviews on Google Meet/Zoom/Microsoft Teams ✅.
- Document their discoveries in Confluence ✅.
- Tracks bugs and tickets in JIRA ✅.
- Wireframes on Whimsical/Balsamiq ❌.
- File management and version control on Abstract ❌.
- Designs in Sketch ❌.
- Designs micro-interactions in Framer❌/Marvel❌/Principle ✅.
- Presents the completed screens as flow to developers and product managers in Overflow ❌.
- Hands over design in Zeplin/InVision ❌.
- Communicate over Slack ✅.
As a designer working in a team, you cannot cut down all these collaboration tools. But let’s add up the cost of all the “design” only tools that Figma replaced —
Sketch (99$/year and license) + Abstract (180$/year per license) + Zeplin (130$/year per license) + Invision (100$/year per license) +Framer (240$/year per license) + Whimsical (144$/year per license) + Overflow (144$/year per license)= 1037$/year per license
Tools that Figma couldn’t disrupt —
Principle (129$/year per license) + Miro (192$/year per license)+ Also adding , Figma (540$/year per license) = 861$/year per license
It creates a significant business cost-saving case, especially for tools like Zeplin that got organizations to pay for view-only users.
It is worth noting that some things are irreplaceable currently, but designers can continue to survive without them. For example —
- Abstract offers a superior version control which Figma doesn’t have yet.
- Principle offers control over micro-interactions and helps create sophisticated prototypes with fancy animations that Figma cannot yet.
- Whimsical offers wireframe, user flow creation support vital for early-stage UX work that Figma comes close to replacing but still far away.
- Miro offers ideation supports and makes workshop facilitation easy. Figma nowhere close to it.
Real Reason for the shift
The real reason small startups and big organizations decided to shift to Figma was that,
- It is free for individuals and small organization that doesn’t require a lot. This way, even bigger organizations gave it a try and tested the waters before going all in.
- It provided real collaboration. It brought stakeholders together and facilitated cross-functional communication.
- It helps big organizations across the globe to make a move. Then these organizations became ambassadors of Figma. I am assuming that Figma set up a technical support team that helped the large organizations make the big move and provided help with training and documentation.
- Figma cut down the need for jumping from one design boat to another. In Figma, designers could see umm🤔… design, prototype, gather feedback, and hand-off to the engineering team.
- Platform independence. No more Abstract and Sketch eating your battery. Work from any OS, any tablet. Plus, everything’s on the cloud.
- The company employed a design-centric leadership, for example, Yuhki Yamashita (VP of Product). They have a competitive edge because of their design focus.
- Figma understood the user’s needs and built a holistic monster of a tool.
Ominipresent Documentation 📔
Figma knew that if it had to take over. Then designers need to start feeling comfortable with the tool. Designers need to adopt it, recommend it, and be willing to contribute to it. And the first step to build a strong familiarity loop is by providing users with in-depth documentation — in every form and manner.
Though, I would have loved to see an in-app help like Miro’s Learn & Inspire. Available anytime, anywhere.
The Community Effect 🌍
But this changed with Figma. The tool integrated plugin as well as an endless array of free Figma-based templates. I am assuming that the community would have imported many of the older templates from Sketch since Figma build Sketch import support from the start.
Design Applause 👏
It is good to have big ideas. But following up your ideas with intuitive execution results in widespread success.
In many ways, Figma bridged the gap. It allowed for designers to adopt the tool more quickly as compared to Sketch. One of the significant moves Figma made was to make the tool-free to use for individuals and paid only for companies that require tons of collaboration and huge project repositories. It brought smiles to many people’s faces, and it drove adoption. But above, it gave people a reason to provide the tool with an honest try.
What followed after this was an endless sea of content where designs, product folks, entrepreneurs all gave the tool positive feedback and drew interesting comparisons. It built an immeasurable stream of support for Figma through free influencers.
If someone likes you, they will do anything for you.
Check out some of the interesting ones below:
Frequent Releases 🚀
If you look at the timestamps of all the past Figma releases, you will realize that the tool gets something fixed or gets an added functionalities every 7–10 days. I can imagine that the once-in-seven-day release cycle keeps designers, developers, and product managers on their toes all day long 😆. It also results in happy customers. The frequency also builds trust and more hands raised 🙌 for Beta signups. And we all know that more testing leads to more bugs squashed and the release of a stable version.
🤫 Some designers even say that Figma’s team has ears everywhere. As soon as a designer thinks there is a gap in the product, Figma fixes the break in their subsequent releases.
Design Tooling Landscape ✏️
The design tools landscape is filled with fair, reasonable, and great options. There is something wrong with every tool, and one tool's mistake is another tool's market opportunity here. For example, everyone knew that version control is a problem in Sketch, and designer-led organizations are obsessed with maintaining versions. I have personally met designers who would back up their previous design copies in Google Drive. In this instance, Abstract was born and was able to form a tight-knit integration with Sketch to provide design-friendly branching, conflict management, and version control.
👆Check out some of the prototyping tools that Vytautas Alech compared. You can add a lot more to the design tool landscape if you reach each part of the design journey like wireframe (like Balsamiq), ideation & brainstorming (like Miro), developer hand-off (like Zeplin), presentation (like Keynote), and more.
Learnings from Figma
If you run a Saas product and would like to take your user-adoption through the roof, then take into account these moves and see success coming your way.
- Listen to your customers. Find out instances where the experience is broken, and you can be the first to bridge them better than anyone else.
- Learn about your competitors and make it easy for your customers to make a move.
- Don’t go for petty cash 💰. Chase the big 🦈 Sharks. If you can, let customers use or try your product for free with all of the advanced features reserved for the paying customers. People tend to convert more often when the cost of entry is low.
- Provide documentation, tutorials, customer support to your consumers. If your users do not happen, then your product won’t exist for long.
- Be outward-facing. If your customers cannot find you on every significant social platform, you will miss building organic social loops and instances where your product can go viral. Outward-facing means you regularly take time to connect with your customers through social media by conducting live webinars and interactive in-person sessions. Increase your surface of contact.
- Supercharge your tool with plugins/integrations, templates, and more freebies. Invite early developers and incentivize them to build functionalities that would take you years to prioritize and ship. You can’t make everything, and you can’t replace every tool out there. But you can open your APIs and build meaningful connections with other apps.
- Build an organic influencer network. It will make your product 10x more viral and go places.
- Provide robust support. Please don’t allow your customers to complain about your product without you ever following up with them and fixing the issues.
Together all these tactics can deliver a solid punch to your target market.
To be relevant as a business, we can learn from Figma and do the following things.
- Have a product focus and strategy. Don’t focus just on minting money. Focus on providing value to the users. You can stay in the game only when your users’ needs are fulfilled.
- Innovate. Spend the time and the effort to supercharge your innovation engines. Don’t focus on merely marketing your products — keep pushing your teams to build something useful for them.
- Iterate. Don’t let negative feedback sit in the corner till it becomes a devouring monster 👹. All feedback is good feedback. Create a system around converting feedback into features and iteration cycles. Your product will thank you for it.
- Increase the speed of execution. The faster your teams can develop, the quicker you will ship, the better your turnaround time will become.
- Focus on the outcome, not features. The only way you can uncover unmet needs and workaround is by connecting with your users on the grass-roots level and brainstorming with them like real stakeholders.
I hope you enjoyed this quick read, and it gave you some knowledge to apply some of the observations as the guiding principles.
Give me a shout!
Thank you for reading this far! 😁 Let me know if you have any questions or comments on my design — or — If you’d like to have a chat about anything design-related, I’d love to hear from you!
Before you go…