🎤How does Figma help this designer communicate with developers?

How does Figma help this designer communicate with developers? podcast with ux designer kalpitha jagadeesh

This episode of Down & Dirty with Dr. T features Kalpitha Jagadeesh, a young UX designer who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Human-Centered Design & Engineering at University of Washington. 

Kalpitha previously studied architecture and worked in digital inclusion spaces like financial inclusion and educational technology. She decided to pursue a masters degree abroad because she wanted a program that combined research, design, and engineering components.

Kalpitha started using Figma in 2018 and has sworn by the tool since then. 

Highlights from the episode include:

  • All things Figma: Despite the numerous design options available today, Kalpitha favors Figma above all others. She highlights her favourite parts about the tool, particularly emphasizing its web-based interface.
  • Components on Figma: Kalpitha talks about the component feature in Figma and how it can keep designs consistent across hundreds of screens. She elaborates via an example where she shows how she easily updates all buttons across screens through linked components.
  • Cross-team collaborations: Through a screenshare, Kalpitha takes us through Figma's development mode and how it makes it easier for designers to communicate with developers. The mode helps in providing precise design specifications, avoiding assumptions and misalignment.

Tune into the episode now!

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Read the transcript:

Taapsi 0:03

Hello and welcome everyone to another episode of Down and Dirty! And today we have with us Kalpitha Jagadeesh. Kalpitha is a UX designer, she's currently studying her master’s in human-centered design and engineering from the University of Washington. We're actually having this interview at 8:30/8:45 at night because of the time difference, and I'm really excited to have Kalpitha on. Kalpitha, It's such a pleasure to have you on, because as someone who is starting on her career, you already have four or five years of experience as a designer and I'm assuming that's when you went to get your master’s to kind of get stronger, get better, and more technical at it. So excited to hear about the design tool of your choice and why that's a design tool of your choice. Also love the fact on your LinkedIn profile that you talked about systems thinking because I think it's so important you know, in any profession, but especially in design, to think about the relationship between development, design, and research, right? Because that whole thing has to come together. So I love the call out and I'm hoping that we can kind of talk a little bit more about that on this podcast. So welcome. And maybe as a way to get us started, in addition to introducing yourself, you could tell us a little bit more about, you know, how the decision to do a master's happened?

Kalpitha 1:25

Yeah, absolutely. So, firstly, thank you so much for inviting me to be on your podcast. 

And yeah, to give you an overview of how I came about you know, pursuing a master's in Human-Centered Design. So, my undergraduate degree was in architecture and I think through the course of the program, I kind of realized that I'm more drawn towards the problem-solving capabilities of design rather than limiting, the artifact that it would end up in, right? So I didn't want to kind of limit it to the built environment. And I realized some of those principles could be applied across spaces like you know, be it in educational technology or even in the health sector, it's mostly about understanding what your users need and kind of proposing solutions based on that, and just a spatial design might not be the only solution in that case. So I think that's what led me to broaden my practice beyond the built environment, like as soon as I kind of graduated, you know, from architecture. 

And so, ever since, I've spent like the past five years or so, working in the digital inclusion space, where I've looked into spaces such as most recently financial inclusion. Before that, in the educational technology space, the IOT space as well, where I mostly looked into how we could design technology for the next wave of internet users. And I think that that's a very interesting cohort and a lot of those experiences were very eye-opening in terms of how, you know, we take like a lot of interfaces for granted, like the supposedly tech-savvy audience, right? Where we kind of understand how certain icons operate and we don't even realize how much thought has actually gone into it. But, for a lot of them who are coming on board to digital devices very newly, a lot of these things don't make sense to them, like certain icons, say, you know, the magnifying glass for search. And I don't think that aligns with somebody who's in rural India, for example, because they don't relate searching or finding something with that magnifying glass, right? So I think all of these professional experiences definitely helped me realize how important it is to take on that human-centered approach. And… I did dabble in a bit of research, design, and development throughout my work professionally. So I decided to pursue a master's that kind of had all these three components to, you know, kind of expand on those professional learnings that I had. So, yeah, mostly that.

Taapsi 4:27

So, okay. And why abroad? Was it the lack of courses in India or was it the lure of studying abroad, or rather, the opportunity to study abroad and pursue your UX design training from there? So why abroad versus India?

Kalpitha 4:54

Yeah. So the main reason was when I was going about picking courses, right? Like I told you, I was somebody who dabbled in almost all stages of the design process initially because I was lucky enough to work with organizations that were very flexible that way because they were start-ups, I could kind of play around with all of these interests that I had. 

And that's why even from a master's program that I picked, I did not want to focus specifically only on interaction design per se or look into something that's only focused on the engineering component. Which is why based on that filter, that I was looking at some program that has like a research, design, and an engineering component. I felt I did not find any program like that, at least at the time that I was looking at, back in India or a few other countries that I was considering as well. So that's how I went about, even shortlisting schools that I'd applied to, in terms of, I mostly looked at schools that had, like a design component to, the engineering department that they had. Because, I think a lot of times, just understanding how things work, technically kind of helps you keep your design, you know, grounded and think about the feasibility of it. So, yeah, that was the main reason why I kind of decided to go ahead with this program.

Taapsi 6:31

I think it's really fascinating that you have a background in engineering and you've gone into design because I think there's such a strong skill set for exactly the reason that you mentioned. You're able to think from the feasibility aspect of it, and also think about the interaction and human-centered, human-focused output of that feasibility study, right? So that's great. So today we're gonna talk about a tool that you have used or I'm assuming continue to use, you know, as you're doing your master's as well. But before we get into that, can you tell me right now in your training, in this master's program that you're doing, what are the litany of tools? Like, is it just one tool that I'm assuming it's not just one tool you're being exposed to a lot of different tools and platforms and solutions. What are some things that you are engaging with on a regular basis? Another way of putting this is, if I had to see Kalpitha’s computer screen open, are there some apps that are constantly on? Are there some tabs that are always open? And if so, what are they?

Kalpitha 7:39

Okay. So firstly, you know, in terms of this master's program that I'm pursuing, and I think this is kind of a common theme across most academic programs, where they do not focus on teaching you specific tools because tools are some things you know, that are ever-changing, right? Like, something that's extensively used today might completely be replaced, I think say in about two years or even a year later and even new tools are constantly coming up. So, a lot of these programs do not focus on any specific tools per se, but it's mostly about broadening your skill sets in terms of a designer, where you learn to think like a designer rather than being focused on, “okay, this is how you know, you use Figma or like the Adobe set of tools and all of that”. But yeah, so I think that way it's been really helpful to take a step back and think about what goes into becoming a designer in terms of, how do you get comfortable with externalizing your ideas? How do you ideate and you know, get comfortable working with ambiguity? And I think these are some of the more important things that the program has definitely helped me develop. And I think of course, people working in the industry as well, this is something that you automatically get exposed to because I think the context of every project is so starkly different sometimes that you just have to get comfortable. For example, if it's an application that you're building in the Fintech space, you already go in with these preconceived notions of “Okay, I think, you know, this is fairly straightforward”, but you realize that that doesn't work in all cases. Like you just can't white label a particular app that you've developed previously in the Fintech space because the use case is very different, the audience that you might be designing for is very different. 

But yeah, if I were to tell you about some tools that I use on a frequent basis and the tabs that I usually have open, it would definitely be Figma for sure. Because I think especially when you're working on digital interfaces, I think it's definitely had a very positive impact because of the web-based interface that it has. And that doesn't limit you to, you know, whether you're working on a Windows system or whether you're working on a Macbook, there's like no platform-specific hindrances that come in. And apart from that, also, I think initially it used to be Miro but now there is… Figma has come up with Fig Jam where you can also have your ideating and brainstorming sessions with like virtual sticky notes and all of that. And I think apart from that, there's also… a lot of times just reading up other designers’ experiences who, you know, worked in the space. So a lot of these blog posts, like Medium articles that you come across help summarize a lot of things for you. And I think some people put out like, great summaries of the work that they're doing in the design space, new developments that are coming, and there are a lot of organizations that have newsletters that I've subscribed to. So these are things that kind of help me stay up to date with how the industry is changing and what's going on. So, yeah.

Taapsi 11:40

I'm gonna put you on the spot here, but do you remember any of these resources, the people whose newsletters you follow or company updates that you receive? Anything that you could recommend to someone if they were on Medium and were looking for inspiration?

Kalpitha 11:59

So, I think for me initially, when I was getting into the whole process of human-centered design and all of that, IDO definitely had this toolkit that they've put together. It's like a design thinking toolkit for anybody looking to get into human-centered design. And I remember like a few years ago, going ahead and reading the entire toolkit that they put across because IDO.org works in… so, they have like multiple verticals, so IDO.org specifically works in the digital inclusion Space and across geographies. So, they had spoken about how… I remember they initially had this when they were setting context and, you know, getting readers into that mindset about how they were talking about, the water supply issue that they were looking at, I think somewhere in Andhra Pradesh, back in India and they were talking about how when they actually went on field, the assumptions they had made about why people weren't using like a specific water pump that was installed, you know, was a problem. And they realized their assumptions were completely off. And when they looked into that, it was a very simple thing that didn't align with their everyday practices. So I think just going over that toolkit because they go over each of the processes that are involved. Like, you know, the ideation phase, externalizing your ideas and then when you go into brainstorming, how long you might have to spend, the number of people involved, stakeholder interviews that you conduct. So, right from the research phase to the ideation to design, they give you like a good overview. And I think that's something that definitely helped me. From time to time, I do kind of, you know, go over some of the work that they're doing in the space. 

And I remember the Mixed Methods Podcast as well, which exposed me to a lot. They interview a lot of designers who are working in the tech industry and all of that. And I think because of the broad perspective that you get from the kind of content that they put out, I think that definitely kind of helped me draw parallels between the things I was experiencing without formal training in the field versus how it works in the industry. And I think, yeah, that was really helpful.

Taapsi 14:44

That's fantastic. Okay, all right. So we have a few things open on your computer and you mentioned one of them was Figma, and I know that that's something that we're gonna kinda dive into as well. So let's start with your introduction to Figma as a tool. Is this something that… I mean, you were a designer for a couple of years before you actually did your master’s. Is that the time you were introduced to Figma? Or was it a little more recent than that?

Kalpitha 15:17

Yeah, I think Figma I've been using since about 2018.

Taapsi 

So from the beginning almost?

Kalpitha 15:23

Yeah, so like the first job that I started off on as a UX designer. I remember at the time, my manager back then, we were looking into finding a more collaborative tool where multiple people on the team could you know, collaborate on certain apps and other web applications that we were working on. And so I think a lot of times you know, as designers, you work in terms of sketches when you're ideating and then just get very scrappy in terms of, you know, externalizing your ideas. And the thing with that sometimes is when you show it to clients, I think sketching is devalued sometimes where it just looks like not much thought has gone into it because…

Taapsi

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kalpitha 16:21

So I think that's why a tool like Figma where you can actually package your ideas, make it look more professional, and even without people knowing the tool, you can share a web page link to people. So that helped collaboration across geographies. I think. So, even if somebody, if somebody from the client’s side who was sitting in another country wanted to give you feedback on a product or they wanted somebody else's perspective, you know, certain mentors that they had for their organization that became very helpful. And so we were comparing tools that allowed this kind of collaboration. And at the same time, all of us had different machines we were working on, like some of us were on Windows, some people were, you know, within the Apple ecosystem or even Linux. And I think out of all the tools that existed back then, this was the most platform-agnostic tool because apart from the app that you could download, they had the web-based interface. And I think as long as you have an internet connection, you could use it. And so I think that's mostly what made us go ahead with that tool. And yeah, ever since, I've gotten comfortable with it and yeah, I've been using it for like ideating and things like that.

Taapsi 17:44

So were there other contenders on the table? Would you remember some of the other contenders, even whether it's with this company or over the years, what are some other competitors to Figma that you have tried and tested, if at all?

Kalpitha 18:01

Yeah. So I remember at the same time, actually the first prototyping tool that I used was Adobe XD. And it was a great tool. I remember initially when I started off a lot of times, people used to even use shapes on PowerPoint sometimes to replicate designs to show developers, okay, this is how it's going to look, you know, when you build it out. But with the introduction of tools like Adobe XD and Figma, and I think even Sketch, all these tools kind of help you simulate an application without having to invest time thinking about the logic in terms of, you know, frontend development and all of that. And I think out of all these tools, all of them are very powerful. But I think the whole reason why you know, I decided to just go ahead with this specific tool is only because it had like this web-based interface back then, which all of those platforms I think have switched to now. But at least back then, this was the only one that had a web-based interface, and I didn't have to think about space issues on my laptop or even having things saved locally. So I think yeah, that is mostly the reason why, but there are a lot of tools that help you prototype. 

Apart from the Adobe tools, you also have like InVision and then there's multiple platforms that have come about that help you do this. Miro helps you create mockups now, initially, it used to be for brainstorming and you know, just having your ideation sessions with sticky notes and creating like flow diagrams and all of that, but you can create mockups there as well. So, yeah, there are quite a few of them that enable you to do that.

Taapsi 20:07

So the trigger was, you're working in this company, the team was trying out different team solutions, you know, design platforms. And fair enough because of the web-based benefit and the fact that it was platform agnostic led to you adopting Figma. So understood that, but over the years, your continued loyalty towards Figma, is that because everywhere you went, people were using Figma or was this a personal preference that you kind of carried through the years?

Kalpitha 20:46

So, I mean, it was not a personal preference per se because I just think a lot of the organizations I worked with were also using the tool, which is why, you know, I continued using it. In fact, initially, a lot of my work was on Adobe XD, and when I have to revisit and, you know, kind of tweak my portfolio I still do use Adobe XD. A lot of my initial work was on that, that was the first tool where I actually dabbled in terms of any sort of prototyping that I used in product design. So it was mostly because I think a lot of organizations that I was working with were using Figma at that time, so I just continued using it. And I think now a lot more people have gotten into using it extensively, which is why you just end up collaborating and you want to use the same platform as everyone else so that, you know, you don't face issues when you're sharing a particular file with someone and all of that. So that's mostly why. But yeah, definitely, no bias towards only using it.

Taapsi 22:03

Got it, got it. So, okay, you're kind of going back to Adobe XD, would you say it's because some of your earliest designs are there or is there some other benefit that Adobe XD gives you outside of what organizations are using?

Kalpitha 22:19

So I think most platforms work in a specific place, in a specific space. And you know, they kind of start adding similar features. So both of them are as powerful I'd say. And for me, I think now, a lot of times you can save XD files on the cloud as well. So that's definitely not a problem anymore. And with Figma at least to share your designs and stuff, you could share multiple links without having to pay for it. In fact, now, because Adobe has taken over Figma as well, there might be a lot of overlap, and I kind of haven't done that comparison between the tools yet. But yeah, I think there are just a lot of these very similar things and because I learned XD, a lot of the kind of options you have were the same. The learning curve was fairly straightforward I'd say. And I think I'm sure a lot of designers can relate as well, once you know one tool, picking up others does not become that hard. When I started off learning Photoshop, you know, a few years ago when I was an architecture student, I remember, because I hadn't worked with any of the Adobe tools before, it was a bit of a challenge to wrap my head around how achieving specific effects work and all of that. But because I spent like a fair share of time watching tutorials and learning that, most other tools afterwards that were kind of built on the same you know, premise kind of became easier to pick up. So, yeah.

Taapsi 24:22

Okay. So right now are you still using Adobe XD to a certain extent along with Figma?

Kalpitha 24:28

Not at the moment, because I think I just didn't want to keep doing back and forth between platforms. So because most of my work just exists here and I think, be it in school or any other organizations that I'm currently involved with, most of them are on Figma. So by default, I just end up using it. But yeah, for no other specific reason.

Taapsi 24:53

Got it, got it. Okay. So let's jump right into the tool. Let me give you permission to, yes, you may share your screen now. And what I would like us to do is, I would like you to take us through what you would normally use, you know, when you log into Figma, where are you mostly spending your time on the platform?

Kalpitha 25:17

Yeah. I’ll just go ahead and share my screen. Are you able to see my screen?

Taapsi 25:32

Yes.

Kalpitha 25:33

Okay, great. So, yeah, this is the Figma workspace that you can see and you mostly have this blank canvas here. You can go ahead and name the file whatever you want. And the first step you know, when you're working on Figma would be to add what's called a frame and that basically serves as your blank canvas on which you add each of your placeholder components that you start building on. And as you can see on the left panel, the minute I click on frame, you can look into designing for phone screens, tablets, desktops, or even create presentations. If you want to create like an interface for the Apple watch, or even create flyers and posters or create social media posts for like Instagram banners, Twitter posts and all of that it enables you to select preset dimensions so that you don't have to get into the nitty gritties of like, “Okay, what is a phone screen dimension that I have to look into?” Figma also has what's called Figma Community where a lot of designers and product developers can put out certain assets that they create for people to reuse and build on, which is also very, very helpful to draw inspiration and look at how you can do things. But yeah, the first step would be like, say today I decide to create an app for the iPhone. I just select the iPhone 14 screen and it shows up here.

Taapsi 27:25

Is it normally how you start Kalpitha? Like, when you're starting with your design work, you start with an existing device, right? And then you start designing in that or do you actually start with the community where you're looking for inspiration and building on something that's already happening? What's your normal process?

Kalpitha 27:48

Yeah. I think in terms of the design process that I'd follow, firstly, it would be I mean… sometimes you do have the research team that would have conducted preliminary user research, you have actual insights from your users and you kind of know what design opportunities that you're trying to expand on. But, there are also times in the industry where you do not have time to conduct research. So you are building a preliminary product based on assumptions and then you decide to test it out and iterate from there. In those cases, I think I spend time doing some sort of desk research firstly to just wrap my head around the space that we're looking to work in, just to understand some nuances of the domain and all of that. And then I'd go into like… usually as designers working with mood boards is something that really helps. So, you decide based on, you know, if it is an application for say, older adults. The kind of theme, the colors that you choose, would be very different compared to if you were designing for Gen Z, right? Like, I think you wouldn't use something that's very jarring when you're designing something for older adults, and then they're not a tech-savvy audience. So you use something that's more calming, that's more welcoming, and all of that. But you'd be more ready to explore and experiment when you're designing for Gen Z, I guess because the bandwidth that they have to kind of process things that are out of the ordinary is higher. So I think, I'd start off creating mood boards. And then we only get on to Figma a while after all of this preliminary work is done, in terms of deciding on a direction, what's the overarching theme you wanna stick to and then move into…

Taapsi 29:58

And where are you doing the mood boards? Where would you be designing mood boards, on Miro or on FigJam?

Kalpitha 30:03

So, yeah, I have started using Figma for that, but I use platforms like Pinterest, Behance, or Designspiration, a lot of these spaces to kind of, decide on the images and color palettes and all of that for inspiration. There's Dribbble as well and all of that. And once I'm satisfied with the direction that I've chosen and of course, that can change over time, but just as a starting point.

Taapsi 

Yeah.

Kalpitha 30:42

And then after that, I think I'd sit with identifying design opportunities. A lot of work as designers is not only individual, but there is a lot of collaborative work that happens based on the phase you are in. So I think ideation and brainstorming a lot of times is collaborative with all team members. Sometimes it can be across verticals as well, to try and understand what is it we're trying to achieve with this product that we're trying to put out. So a lot of that happens. If it's in person, of course, you know, it's a workshop with like actual sticky notes and all that. But now you can do this virtually as well with remote work through platforms such as Fig Jam and Miro.

Taapsi 31:28

So what is it that you use? That's what I'm more interested in.

Kalpitha 31:35

Yeah, I mostly use Fig Jam for the brainstorming.

Taapsi 31:39

Is that because it's integrated with Figma, or is there another reason why Fig jam works better than, let's say, Miro?

Kalpitha 31:46

No, it's mostly because it's integrated with Figma because otherwise, before that, for the longest time, I used to use Miro.

Taapsi 31:52

Miro yeah, which gets the job done, you know, if it's moving post its around and creating boards that you can zoom in and out of, you know, I can see how that works. Okay, so Figma got it right in terms of deciding to integrate a Miro-like experience into Figma itself. So you are putting your ideas down there in Fig Jam, you know, collaborating, thinking through stuff and then you come to Figma to actually execute on the design. Is that correct?

Kalpitha 32:19

Yeah.

Taapsi 32:20

Okay. And when you come here, you're starting with sometimes as you said, community, sometimes, depending on the kind of brief that you have, start with an existing template or sometimes you're starting from scratch, but again, starting with, you know, the kind of screen that you're designing for.

Kalpitha 32:35

Yeah.

Taapsi 32:36

Okay, got it. All right. Fine and… yeah, go ahead.

Kalpitha 32:43

No, sorry. Continue what you were saying.

Taapsi 32:45

No, no, I was just saying that. So without taking us through the design steps, just broadly speaking, you start with the screen and then what are some of your… what types of tools are you most likely to use outside of just the actual design tools? Of course, you need that, that's what you're doing. But what are some other feature sets that are used for the kind of work you're doing?

Kalpitha 33:10

Okay. So, I think one thing that's very powerful in terms of what Figma can do is creating what's called components. So the thing is, when you think of any application, right? Sometimes there can be hundreds of screens that you have, based on, you know, the number of years it's been around for and the versions that it's been through. And you have multiple buttons, and like the theming that you have to stick to throughout. And you know, as an organization, sometimes you might decide to go through like a complete rebranding and you decide that… for example, say if YouTube were to decide instead of the red, we want to have blue as the color that, you know, we're going to go ahead for our branding and our applications and stuff, then imagine having to sit and change every button or every spot in your design that has this color. That's just a lot of manual work of which, you know, you don't really want to invest that much time in. So being able to create components on Figma [is helpful]. 

I can give you an example. So if you imagine this is one of these applications where you decide you want a button that maybe you want to be black and you want it to be a curved button instead of it having sharp edges. So you add in your curved edges by defining a border radius for it. And then you decide to add text and maybe say you were to say it's a submit button. And yeah, so you just… And you have the button here, once you've created it, this is the design of most of your buttons on your screens, and you can go ahead and make that what's called a component. And I decide that, okay for today, I'm gonna work on the first flow here. So I create copies of, you know, say three screens and each of them have like some call to action in the form of a button. So I will add, you know, these buttons at the end of the page. You can assume that you probably have the header here, you know, that maybe has like ‘home’ written on top and then, you know, that's the home page. So, now assuming all of this has a lot of content, like assuming this was Spotify's app. And initially, as per your theme, you have green buttons. And suddenly a few months later, your team decides that they want to make it blue. So if you noticed, because I made this a component and I used copies of it on my screen, when I changed the button from black to green, it reflected everywhere automatically without me having to create individual buttons and change it. 

So you can imagine when you have hundreds of screens, this can be extremely powerful where overnight if you were to decide that my brand colors are moving from a green to say a blue, it's just an easy change like this compared to, you know, having to go and do it everywhere else. So I think that's great. 

Another thing that is very helpful and powerful I think is in terms of the industry, there is always this rift, you know, sometimes in terms of design and development because like implementing things and because I worked as a frontend developer, I can just to how hard it might be sometimes because when you know, you have all of these designs that you want to create, have all these nice gradients and have some sort of curved forms on your screen and all of that. But when you actually have to get to executing that using CSS, that's a whole different thing sometimes because to achieve that design and replicate it exactly can be very frustrating sometimes where, you know, things start breaking, the behavior is not the same, because there are a lot of other things that come into play. And due to that, there's always that rift that comes up where developers are like, “I mean, as long as it works, it's fine”. But, you know, designers have put in these hours of effort, but that might not even get translated into designs. But the reason why that's being done is all informed through a lot of ideation and decision-making that is gone. And I think, because Figma has what's called the Dev Mode as well. So for example, if I were to decide on this home screen, I'll have like one big image here. And you know, I also have certain elements in the form of a list over here below it. And yeah, you can assume this is like the screen. And if I just think of this as an interface that is like YouTube's home screen or something, the YouTube Music app. And if I were to give this to a developer and they look at it like this, you know, they're going to have to make assumptions in terms of what might the spacing be? Is it in pixels? What unit? But using the development mode as you can see here. So once you enable that, what happens is, if you share this with the development team, they can immediately click on any specific item and you get these cues as you can see in terms of, what's the distance between the header and the image that you have to include. And as you can see on the right-hand side, it also gives you the code for, you know, the CSS attributes that you can use. And I think this is very, very powerful because you know, this avoids a lot of assumptions. And so a designer’s work and effort that's gone in can automatically be translated. So both the designers and the developers are happy because you can just copy-paste these attributes into your CSS file. And you're automatically able to achieve those styles and you even get like what's called the hex code for the colors. And so even the colors that you want people to replicate for gradients or anything else automatically reflects and that's something that's very, very powerful.

Taapsi 40:57

Makes sense. So, okay, I can see the value for you in what you're doing. And I'm imagining that even as a student when you are delivering on your design projects, right? The ease with which you can do things, for example, the component library or the collaboration that you have to do possibly, you know, in teamwork when you're working with more than one person. The fact that you can share links, you know, web links… again, I know competitors are offering a lot of these things so far. But it seems like this is the market leader advantage at this point is, you know, people are already familiar with it. So you're gonna use the tool, that's the dominant tool in the marketplace. Where does Figma, or does Figma fail to deliver in certain aspects and does another tool kinda do the job better?

Kalpitha 41:50

I mean, I don't know about a tool that might be doing something better, but I think of course, in terms of all platforms, it's usually when you create a feature, there are always unintended consequences that you might not have accounted for, right? And that's why you probably are doing things a specific way. So a few things that I probably… when I'm working and, you know, wished I had an option to do something differently could probably be, for example, when I'm working on Figma, sometimes say I have this file that has like 50 screens. 

And one thing that you can do is like I said, you can create a simulation of your application without any development. So it has [different modes]; this is the mode in which you design, this is the mode in which you can create a prototype, which is the replica of your app. So when you're in prototype mode, you can basically link things. So when I click submit button, I'd say it leads me to this page and I can link it. So when I have 50 screens, I think you can see this light blue arrow and all of that, right? So there are multiple elements on the screen and they're linked everywhere. And, I remember once I wanted to create a separate version of a particular app that I had designed, but I wanted to change the way you know, certain pages are linked. And when I created a copy of it in the same file, of course, it retained all of the links. But I realized when I created a new file and copied my screens, I did not have an option to choose not to import all of the linkages I had created. And I think that's when I was like, “oh my God, do I have to manually go and unlink all of this?”

Taapsi 

Wow, right, right.

Kalpitha 43:48

So I think, yeah, that was one case. I'm not sure if that feature has been implemented now, but back then, I remember extensively looking for this because I was like, I want the design to remain, but the way I link it is something that I want to be different. And I think, yeah, that's one thing that I definitely wish. And I think also in terms of reordering screens, sometimes when you have multiple screens, I'd want to… say I have like 30 screens in a row and I create like a new design here and I want this screen to appear somewhere in between. Then that's when sometimes the whole reordering thing might have to be done manually. Which is why just moving around it, I think can be time-consuming sometimes. There are definitely plugins and stuff that you can use, but I think just something that comes inbuilt within the platform is something that you end up trusting more. So I think, yeah, these are a few things where I was like, “okay, I think I would have liked to have this”. But yeah, apart from that, no complaints as such because like I mentioned as you click on this and you know, go toshare the link. Yeah, it looks great, you get like a phone screen and you know, people automatically take you more seriously. The minute your designs are packaged like this. So yeah.

Taapsi 42:53

I think it's fascinating. Let's stop the share screen for now. And thank you for taking us through that. I think it's so important, especially when you are making a name for yourself and you're starting to build your reputation as a professional designer, right? And someone who should be taken seriously for the work that you're creating, having the tools that can give you the sheen of professionalism is to be taken seriously, right? I mean, this is serious stuff. This is how we put ourselves out there in the world, right? This is the image we want to portray and it seems like here is a tool that's allowing you to do that. It has all of these other bells and whistles you know, that help you design better. But, but you know, you mentioned this a few times and I see the importance of that; when you're putting something out there, it looks polished, you know, and it looks polished just because of the platform you're using, right? I mean, you could have done the same design somewhere else, but it seems like right now this is the leader in giving your designs a more polished look and it's no wonder then that it will be something as long as it doesn't break and continues to do what it's already doing for you that it's something you will keep relying on. So yeah, and you know, for the challenges I'm hoping that eventually, you know, Figma is gonna see this or we’ll compile a list of challenges and desired gains that designers wish Figma offered and that eventually it would happen. Any last comments Kalpitha? I mean my gosh, it's almost 9:30 but we’ve talked a good amount about your experience using Figma. Is there anything else that you wanna add about what the tool does for you as a designer and any thoughts on what a designer who's watching this might want to keep in mind when they're considering a tool like this?

Kalpitha 47:28

So I think like I mentioned before, more than anything, knowing Figma or any other specific tool doesn't automatically make anybody a good designer because I think just knowing any of these tools and then, you know, when it's replaced by another tool, it shouldn't be like, “okay, I automatically don't know what else to do”. So I think tools are just a means to an end in terms of you know, executing your ideas and all of that. But I think, and I'm speaking about ‘designer’ as a broad, encompassing term now, where a lot of other things that can help somebody who's trying to break into design, I think would be… because it is definitely very intimidating in terms of like, “oh my God, I don't have visual design skills”, or anything like that, a lot of these aspects that come up. I think design in itself has so many niches that exist, like there's graphic design, UI design, user experience design, and all of that. 

So I think what helps is getting comfortable externalizing your ideas, because I think for the longest time that's something even I hesitated with, where I'd have all of these ideas in my head. But sometimes when it's just left floating around in your head, you don't make anything tangible until you think you've thought through it fully, but I think actually externalizing it, though it's not a fully developed idea in your head, can help because getting feedback early on, even if it's a simple sketch and you're telling, you know, somebody on your team “this is what I'm thinking”, “this is how we wanna lay things out on the screen”. Getting feedback is really helpful. So I think firstly getting comfortable externalizing ideas, then another important aspect that can help is storytelling, I think, in terms of how sometimes you put in so much effort into your designs. But if you cannot build a narrative around it and convey your ideas, having that power to, you know, put across your designs in a more engaging manner is something that can be super helpful.

 And I think apart from that, I mean, this is not a compulsion but if you're interested in dabbling in some extent of how the web works and looking into some bits of like HTML or CSS, that can just help you. Blue sky thinking is great in the initial phases of design, but when it actually comes to execution, it, you know, can kind of help you think about how to keep your designs more grounded. I think, yeah, these are some things and like just learning how to embrace ambiguity and being okay with, you know, working with the unknowns in the beginning, these are some things that can definitely help that break into design.

Taapsi 50:43

That's pretty cool. So even before you get into Figma, there may be other avenues, other ways in which you can warm yourself up and then, you know, lead up to Figma, is what you're saying. So that’s sound advice. And thanks for that. And thank you for your time. I mean, I know it's probably morning, afternoon, early afternoon for you, I'm assuming. End of the day for me. And I just wanna, you know, thank you again for sharing your insights and I wish you luck as you complete your master's degree and maybe we will see you on this side of the planet again. You know, who knows what happens after your master's. But yeah, I appreciate the time today.

Kalpitha 51:27

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me and it was lovely speaking to you.

Taapsi 51:33

Fantastic. All right, bye. Thank you. See you.