We were runner-ups at a global design jam!

Here’s how we did it

Camp Figma cover art.
Camp Figma cover art.

If you are connected with me or any of the members of 🌐 Mrs. Worldwide 🌐(Mira Dhingra / mira, Michelle Lam / Michelle Lam, Monica Gee, or Keira Wong) on LinkedIn, you’ve probably been notified by each of our celebratory posts more than once. We were runner-ups at our first design jam ever, and we couldn’t be more proud.

Here’s how we went from total strangers to a focused, international five-man team that churned out a stellar proposal in just over 24 hours.

01 — How we met
02 — Pre-design jam meet + greet
03 — Pre-design jam housekeeping
04 — Jammin it out
05 — I ❤️ my team

01 — How we met

Nearly 300 students and new grads from around the world signed up to be a part of Camp Figma, a Figma sponsored design jam from August 22nd-23rd. In the weeks before its launch, we all met up on a Figma file where we introduced ourselves and got into groups of at least 2 and at most 5. 🌐 Mrs. Worldwide 🌐 was one of those bigger teams.

02 — Pre-design jam meet + greet

After we grouped up, the five of us set up a time via when2meet to introduce ourselves. We wanted to say hi and see each other’s faces, but also build a solid foundation for teamwork in the days to come. Our objectives for this meeting included understanding

  • everyone’s goals,
  • everyone’s commitment level, and
  • everyone’s capabilities.

🌐 Understanding everyone’s goals

It’s important to note that not everyone goes into hackathons, design jams, or any other sort of competition with the same end goal. Prior experience has taught me that riding on assumptions is never a good idea — especially in situations where you’re crunched for time. So it was important for me, as well as the rest of the team, to build a healthy line of communication as soon as possible.

One of the first things we discussed was what each of us wanted to gain from this experience. Is winning a top priority for us, or just having fun? Do we care what happens in the end as long as we make friends along the way?

We all agreed to try our best and come out of this with a great portfolio piece, regardless of whether we won or not.

In our minds, winning would be great, but working towards a portfolio piece is a longterm investment.

In retrospect, I’d say that this is a safe goal to have in contests like these. Design jams are stressful as is — the ultimate goal should be focusing on giving it your all.

🌐 Understanding everyone’s commitment level

Most of our team said they were willing to work all day as long as they got some sleep, too (see intro cards). But as we were a large team spread out across three significantly different timezones — PST, EST, and AEST — we figured that we’d work in shifts, anyway.

🌐 Understanding everyone’s capabilities

That noted, we had to figure out what each of us could do during the times that we were awake.

The five of us had varying levels of experience with Figma and UX design, as well as with other skills like storyboarding and animation. It wouldn’t make sense to have all of us focus our efforts on the same thing, so we divided the work based off of each other’s strengths:

However! It was important to us that we all felt ownership over the project. That meant that if someone wanted more experience in another role, we’d be willing to trade with each other.

03 — Pre-design jam housekeeping

This is when key design processes began. If you’re new to the UX process, take notes! 📝

🌐 Understanding the brief

Our design brief was to Make Design More Accessible, not make accessible design. What does that mean, exactly? We reread the brief:

It seemed like we needed to create some kind of tool that encouraged (new) designers to gain experience. But, as Camp Figma is a Figma sponsored event, did that mean that we had to create a tool for Figma specifically? 🤔

We decided, why not? Figma is a powerful, industry-grade tool that more designers are switching to every day.

The brief also mentions that final projects should be “either a collaborative Figma file, plugin, or prototype”. We knew that building an actual plugin could be a nightmare, so we decided to aim to create a snazzy prototype instead. We would then consider publishing a plugin only if we had the bandwidth to do so.

🌐 What problem are we going to solve?

So we wanted to prototype a Figma tool for new designers. But, what does that mean, exactly?

Enter the How Might We exercise. How Might We’s are a popular ideation method used amongst UX and Product teams to narrow down the greater problem into bite-sized chunks. In other words, it helps teams identify which specific problem they’re going to tackle at a given time, also known as the Minimum Viable Product.

In this scenario, our greater problem was our brief: Make Design More Accessible. We already narrowed that down a little by choosing to focus on Figma. But, despite being a powerful tool, there are specific areas where Figma could improve.

The first thing we did was finish the sentence “How Might We…” with our understanding of the brief: “How Might We…easily guide new designers on Figma?”

Then we each posted digital sticky notes in an attempt to answer the question. After about 10 minutes, we voted on our favorite ideas based on their feasibility.

Finally, we answered our question based on the ideas we liked: “By creating a plugin that suggests resources to better understand [Figma’s] features.”

And there we have it! Our mission, written big at the top so we don’t derail from it later.

Learn more about How Might We’s and other ideation exercises here:

🌐 Narrowing down our idea and gathering research

I mentioned the Minimum Viable Product earlier. In this design jam scenario, our MVP was our final output, which had to be specific and simple enough to be completed in just over 24 hours.

The team and I shared a lot of ideas on ways we could improve Figma via a plugin. We realized that Figma has everything you could ever need — a hotkey library, flexible export functions, code references, and more — they’re just really hard to find.

We hypothesized that this is a big reason why designers work inefficiently on Figma, but to be sure (remember: assumptions = bad), we sent out a quick survey to different design Slack groups. There were still a couple more days left before the jam, which we hoped was enough time to gather responses.

Based on the answers we received by the Friday before the jam, we decided that our idea was to: prototype an ai plugin that suggests further actions based on the user’s activity.

Quick break:

I’ve said a lot. What are some takeaways so far?

  • Meet before the design jam. Get to know each other!
  • Lay down a strong foundation for teamwork. Respect and communicate!
  • Thoroughly understand the problem and how you’re going to solve it. Write out your mission in BIG letters at the top of your file.

Now back to the article:

04 — Jammin it out

Pro tip: Always get your design jam housekeeping out of the way before the event. Our team owes much of its success to the hours we spent understanding each other and the task at hand. So by the time Camp Figma kicked off, we were ready to rumble.

We briefly met post-kickoff to get those good vibes rolling. The team decided to check-in every 4ish hours (minus teammates who would be sleeping) to see where everyone’s at. This check-in period was also an opportunity for anyone to switch roles if they wished.

We kept in contact with each other throughout the jam via Figma Chat and Slack, and always made sure to post updates as soon as we got them.

In a comfy 22 hours, the five of us managed to:

  • Collect a substantial amount of survey responses
  • Build out our user flows
  • Build out UI components (which, for the sake of time, were updated as we went. Fortunately we had our Figma brand library on hand from our housekeeping phase!)
  • Brand and name our plugin
  • Mockup our plugin on Figma’s plugin page
  • Prototype our plugin
  • Outline our presentation deck
  • Animate our deck
  • Triple check our final project
  • And ship!

Phew! It felt good to get everything done with a few hours to spare. We leaned back in our seats and talked about high school, being exhausted, and Taco Bell 🌮.

Even though we had time left over, we didn’t consider hashing out a plugin. We realized that while some teams may be awarded for their extra effort, building a plugin this late in the game wasn’t the best use of our time.

Getting out a stellar proposal was more important (and feasible) to us than making an okay-quality plugin. The best thing we could do now was sit back and relax.

05 — I ❤️ my team

It would be arrogant to say that Camp Figma wasn’t stressful. Even though 🌐 Mrs. Worldwide 🌐 had spectacular teamwork, we were still at our first design jam. And while winning wasn’t our benchmark, the anxious side of me worried that we would fail.

The greatest piece of advice I can offer from this experience is to truly build a solid foundation with your team, whether at a design jam, school, or work. Understand each other’s strengths and fears and adopt a unified mission.

I owe much of my success at Camp Figma to my team members for being supportive, talented, witty, and professional. They were able to adapt quickly and work autonomously if needed, while always communicating their progress without ego. They were the reason this jam was so fun 😊.

Sukanya Ray is attempting to blog about her design experiences with the hope that they bring comfort and joy to designers working in this big scary world. Feel free to reach out to her via LinkedIn or follow her doodle gram @raysuk__ .

Written by

Product Designer @ Protobrand

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