Retro of Figma Leaders Meetup in Seoul, 2024

Sanghyo Yee
6 min readMar 16, 2024

한국어KR Link

Intro

Hello, I’m designer Sanghyo. I’m involved in managing the Friends of Figma Seoul, the official Figma community in Korea, and sharing related news. Today I would like to share my experience attending the Figma Design / Dev Leaders Meetup held on March 15, 2024.

Event Scale & Response

This event was the second meetup officially hosted by Figma and Tangunsoft in Korea. It was planned to accommodate 500 people, and within about 30 minutes of opening, the event was fully booked. Over 1000 people applied, which shows the event was well-received. The first Leaders Meetup in October last year was conducted with 200 participants, and based on the positive response at that time, it was prepared on more than double the scale this time.

Event Content

The event started with a welcome session by Scott, the VP of Figma APAC, and included a total of six sessions, including networking. Speakers like Figma CEO Dylan, Designer Advocate Cory, and Gmarket Product designer Goo Kyung-ha led the main sessions. Most sessions shared Figma’s perspective on the process of creating digital software, emphasizing that Figma is not just limited to designing processes but aims to design and deliver the overall experience of digital software. This time, there was a lot of discussion about the actual product-making process between designers and developers. It wasn’t a session revealing entirely new information, but it was great to hear interesting stories and examples about design to development from various perspectives. Especially, interpreting devices were provided for each seat considering many Korean participants who are not familiar with English, making it an event understandable and beneficial for everyone.

Interesting Points

The process of creating digital software can be more arduous than expected. To materialize an idea and deliver it to customers, one must address various unforeseen or necessary situations during the process. Dylan divided this process into six stages (ideation — wireframing — design — coding — final product). Designers, developers, and PMs often spend a lot of time on the ‘ping-pong’ (a process of developing with minimal errors while considering scalability, error cases, and policies after the first design draft) of detailed matters, which often results in a significant discrepancy from the initially designed concept. Figma introduced DevMode, a solution to alleviate these difficulties, at last year’s Config, and I felt that they are working hard to settle DevMode in various organizations. This was reflected in the theme of this Leaders Meetup, focusing on design*development handoffs.

AI was also a major topic, from the introduction of AI deployed in FigJam to Figma’s vision that designers will become more critical in a world where we design with AI. While no new information was revealed at the meetup, the atmosphere somewhat gave me the impression that several AI-related projects are actively ongoing across Figma’s products, and some are nearing public release.

Figma’s Designer Advocate, Corey, conducted a session called DevMode in Practice. He presented it as if it was a real design ping-pong just performed by a designer and a developer, allowing us to see the challenges and inefficiencies we face in detail and get hints for process improvement. Following this, an introduction to the recently introduced DevMode was presented, emphasizing its advantages even for those unfamiliar with DevMode by showcasing its annotation feature and functionalities optimized for detailed spec guides. The session effectively made it easy to understand the advantages of DevMode, enabling designers and developers to quickly ping-pong product improvements and changes in their most comfortable environments, based on pain points.

Another interesting point was the use of the term “design handshake” instead of the commonly used term “design handoff” to signify passing design drafts to development. The term handoff implies that once the design drafts are shared, the designer’s job is done, but in reality, designers need to address various additional inquiries and issues after sharing the drafts, making the term “handshake” more immersive and appropriate.

However, I have some personal doubts. While DevMode has many advantages, it requires additional charges per developer (which were not previously paid), raising questions about its cost-effectiveness. Moreover, while DevMode’s annotation feature can be extensively used for communication between developers and designers, as well as for documenting various flow discussions and policies, it’s disappointing that other stakeholders like PMs, who are not charged, cannot access this information. Nevertheless, as DevMode is still a new tool, it’s worth watching how it evolves. Since the Figma conference, Config, is coming up in June, it might be worth looking forward to more updates.

In the next session, Gmarket’s Kyungha Koo shared an internal case study about introducing a design system between designers and developers. She elucidated the process and results of setting up and continuously working on a process between designers and developers to establish Gmarket’s icon design system within the company. Amidst various changes, such as the emergence of better environments or work tools, it was a good opportunity to reconsider the importance of discussions, continuous consultations and communications, and the mutual effort to adhere to agreed terms among the people who ultimately use the system.

AMA Session

After the main sessions, there was an AMA(Ask Me Anything) session with Dylan on-site. Through a platform called Slido, participants could see a variety of questions in real-time and hear answers to the most voted questions. Three notable questions and answers included:

  1. In response to a question asking what capabilities are needed for a designer to become a leader → The answer that every designer is already a leader (as they lead projects by presenting outcomes to various stakeholders) was impressive.
  2. Regarding thoughts on AI → The answer that AI is essential but it’s crucial to make completely new decisions, rejecting AI’s suggestions, highlighted the importance of continuously trying and striving to develop the capability to make independent judgments and decisions.
  3. On how user feedback is incorporated → The response was to show the product directly to users and ask for their opinions starting with “what do you think?”, considering both qualitative and quantitative feedback. The discussion also covered the variety of product development cycles at Figma, from multi-year projects that work silently to repay technical debt to projects conceived and deployed in less than a week. Interestingly, Dylan shared an anecdote about a toy project he ambitiously pursued, which everyone praised when presented to actual users, but ultimately, no one used it, leading to its discontinuation. This story, resonating with typical scenarios in digital product development, underscored that user response is the definitive measure of a product’s success, irrespective of whose idea it was.

Outro

After the session, there was an opportunity for networking with various IT industry professionals. It was particularly enjoyable to engage in conversations with the operators of the Figma Korea community, Dylan, and other professionals actively creating products. Receiving various cute goodies like hats and die-cast badges post-event was also delightful. I hope such events become more prevalent, concluding my review with gratitude for reading this lengthy piece.

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