Episode 29: Dylan Field, Figma Co-founder, Talks Design, Digital Economy, and Remote Culture with Host Connie Yang


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Nearly ten years ago, Dylan Field and Evan Wallace turned a Thiel Fellowship into a solution to the ‘single source of truth’ problem for design systems.

Their interest in design collaboration and WebGL laid the foundation for the origin story of Figma, today’s ubiquitous browser-based design tool — and rapidly-growing company.

“The more (we) pulled this thread, the more we learned there’s so much to do in terms of making design better, and in making it so more people can access design within the organization,” says Dylan of their early pursuis. (Spoiler: drone technology was a runner up in their technology explorations).

The latest episode of the Distributed podcast pairs Dylan, Figma’s CEO and Co-founder, and guest host Connie Yang, Head of Payments Design at Stripe, with past design leadership posts at Coinbase and Facebook.

Connie’s passion — uncovering the bits of magic surrounding us in everyday life — guides their friendly dialogue from design to remote culture and much more. Early in the show, Dylan shares what he’s learned about instilling culture in a rapidly-growing company, especially amid the changes brought on by the pandemic. “The main thing that changes once you go from in-person to remote is you can no longer rely on physical context to instill culture,” says Dylan. “It matters even more to elevate the role of design, and elevate anything you think is really important in that digital context.”

Dylan also builds on a recurring Distributed podcast theme over the past year, adding “It’s really important to be intentional about creating serendipitous moments.” Figma’s playful approach to collaboration influenced its recently-launched FigJam, a digital whiteboard that can help fill the need for serendipity.

Dylan speaks with the unique authority of a tech leader who has not only prioritized design but, with his team and products, greatly influenced it in a way that seems to have happened just in time for distributed collaboration.

“We’ve gone from a physical economy to a digital economy. I don’t think these are new trends or new things that happen but now, all of a sudden it happened all at once, and accelerated massively,” he says, echoing Matt’s May 2020 post Gradually, Then Suddenly.

“I think that we’re seeing every part of the economy shape around design,” says Dylan, noting how Figma has even observed collaboration in the product, beyond design, on days when other workplace chat tools were down.

Why does it matter? Because now, Dylan says, “Design leads to winning.”

Thank you to both of our guests for this latest episode of Distributed. We hope you enjoy it.

The full episode transcript is coming soon.


37 episodes