Notes around design, its future and design<>dev collaboration from Config 2023 — Figma’s Annual Conference (2/2)

Vikram Goyal
5 min readJul 8, 2023

Config is Figma’s flagship annual conference.

The entire playlist is accessible on YouTube and I watched a lot of the videos from the series.

I have been blow away by the quality of these talks. There is just so much insight packed into these talks.

So, I decided to share my notes from some of these talks.

In part 2 of the series, I focus on talks around design. (Summary of talks around product development can be viewed here).

These are the talks summarized in this post:

Design without Business is just decoration

In this talk, Steve Johnson (VP Design, Netflix) emphasizes the importance of integrating design with business outcomes.

He beings by quoting examples from 70s and 80s across cars, gadgets and fashion — to demonstrate how there was an era when things often looked fantastic but failed to function properly or provide sufficient value.

He mentions how this changed with the arrival of iMac, which managed to finally bring design, business and technology together.

Design framework followed by Steve (6th point is the latest edition)

Steve lists the five principles to follow while designing:

  • Design for business opportunities, not engineering constraints.
  • Understand your earnings report and financial goals — This helps you prioritize your work.
  • Know who’s on your board and what they value.
  • Know your competitor’s business goals — This helps understand what they value. And helps you decide how do you overtake them or whether you ignore them.
  • Be accountable for design goals which enable business outcomes.

Steve concludes by giving an example of a company that is putting the above principles into practice — Esper bionics, a robotic prosthetic company that is marrying business, technology and design to achieve stellar outcomes.

AI and the future of Design

In this talk, Noah Levin (VP, Figma) talks about how AI is going to affect the future of design.

He mentions that change will happen across three levers:

Product (What we design)

  • There will be shift from Application based computing to task based computing. Instead of clicking on icons to express intent, our interactions might change. For eg. chat based interfaces, tailored UI generated in the moment to capture to our intent
Adapting product to an AI first world

Process (how we design)

  • AI will help designers move up the stack.
How AI will help us move up the stack by freeing up energy for higher order thinking
How to adapt design processes to an AI first world

People (who design)

  • AI will raise the ceiling (enabling us to create output that was not possible before) and lower the floor (by democratizing visual creation to non-designers)
Current design tools impose both a ceiling and floor on who and what can be designed
How people can adapt to the AI first design world

The above talk has a lot of amazing demos on the intelligence is being built into Figma!

Transparency Always Wins: how ethical design led to 23% growth

In this talk, Jaycee talks about a common problem users face while using subscription apps — They sign up for a free trial. Then, they forget to cancel. And money is automatically deducted.

Lot of users feel cheated as they had forgotten to cancel their subscription.

Jaycee walks through the solution they came up with at Blinkist to solve this user problem while keeping the business objective in mind — proposed solution should not lead to an unecessary rise in cancellation.

To conclude, the talk focuses on how businesses can include ethical considerations in the solutioning process by asking the right questions.

Ethical design considerations — 1/2
Ethical Design considerations — 2/2

From monologues to dialogues — unlocking designer-developer collaboration

One of speakers in this talk, Som Liengtirapha, talks about how to develop better collaboration with tech stakeholders.

She focusses on five ways to ensure better collaboration:

(1) Beginner’s Mindset (2) Having a design kickoff (3) Using visual artifacts (4) Using terminology sheet and (5) having an open questions sheet

She talks about developing a clear communication through the following questions — i) can you help me understand ii) 5 Why’s technique iii) Ask them to explain using analogy iv) What if questions

Five Tools for better Developer <> Designer collaboration
Benefits of a beginner’s mindset

She stresses how visual artifacts can help designers understand systems better rather than just verbal communication with engineers.

Design Ops: Driving change with design systems and processes

In this talk, Matt Gottschalk (VP of Design, Alcumus) talks about how small design teams can benefit from systems and processes.

He highlights the key challenges faced by design teams — Decreased influence and decision making, time constraints leading to potential burnout and poor productivity (haveily relying on key individuals to work on the critical projects)

He suggests two key areas of improvement:

  1. Building a design ops team
Benefits of a design ops team — 1/2
Benefits of a design ops team — 2/2

2. Setting up design systems

How design systems can help

In the second half of the talk, Aletheia Délivré (Manager, Design Ops, Zapier) discusses show how design ops can help design teams grow and thrive.

A key highlight of her talk was the concept of Trojan Mice — small, well-focused changes for improvement.

Since large changes can be daunting, it is useful to start with small changes.


These were a great set of talks and I learnt a lot of useful things about the future of design, collaborating with design and how can design play a more pivotal role in organizations.

Part 1 of this talk — which focuses on the lessons on product development can be found here.



Vikram Goyal

Currently PM@Airmeet — building a kick-ass product for conducting remote events and conferences.