Key takeaways from Figma Config 2024 and the rise of AI-powered processes

ArcTouch digital product designers explain the most important updates and news from the Figma Config 2024 conference.

4 min. read - July 9, 2024

By Pedro Pazitto

By Pedro Pazitto

a collection of new Figma screenshots from the 2024 Config conference
a collection of new Figma screenshots from the 2024 Config conference
a collection of new Figma screenshots from the 2024 Config conference

Last week, Figma hosted its annual Config 2024 conference and unveiled a series of exciting new features and updates. According to this recent design tools survey, Figma is the leader in digital product design software — and is used by our UX/UI designers every single day.

Unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence took center stage at Config 2024, echoing the industry's growing focus on AI-powered tools. Figma announced a comprehensive suite of AI capabilities, a completely revamped user interface, an enhanced Dev Mode experience with Code Connect, improvements on existing features, and a new product called Figma Slides.

At ArcTouch, we have been using AI in our design process to enhance our workflow for over a year. However, we believe human creativity and empathy are irreplaceable elements in user experience design — and a key ingredient of our secret sauce for creating lovable digital products

With this perspective, here are some insights about the announcements at Config 2024 from members of the ArcTouch design team.

Figma AI-powered design workflow assistance

Figma's introduction of native AI capabilities marks a significant shift in how UX and UI designers approach their work. The AI-generated components, smart rearranging, and automatic auto-layout features promise to streamline repetitive tasks, potentially freeing up designers to focus on more strategic aspects of their projects. 

We must consider how to best leverage these tools without becoming overly reliant on them. The Make Design and Replace Content features, for example, could serve as excellent starting points for brainstorming and ideation. Yet, we must maintain our critical design eye and ensure that AI suggestions align with brand guidelines and user needs. ArcTouch designer Fabiana Biazotto said, “How can we avoid having all of our designs look the same if AI feeds on the current serial patterns? With creative thinking and innovation.”

Our team is especially interested in new AI features like Make Prototype, as this will help us kickstart the prototyping process and speed up user testing preparation.

Figma AI features will be accessible through an action panel or a new keyboard shortcut: ⌘+K (source: Figma blog)

[Editor’s note: After some backlash regarding the AI-powered Make Design feature and its training data, Figma has removed it and has not offered any timetable for reinstating it. Our design team is looking forward to using it again when it’s back!]

UI3: Figma’s new interface and revamped features

Figma's UI overhaul, named UI3, demonstrates a deep understanding of designers' needs. The customizable toolbar and improved dark mode are more than just cosmetic changes; they reflect a commitment to user experience within the tool itself, diminishing information overload and pushing designers to focus on their creations.

A comparison of the old (left) and new (right) Figma interface (source: Figma blog)

The updated Suggest Auto Layout helps designers create fully responsive components. ArcTouch designer Pedro Coelho says this feature will help speed up component creation. This will be especially helpful with the new fully responsive prototype preview.

Suggest Auto Layout helps designers create responsive components (source: Figma Learn)

Figma as a Cross-Functional Team Collaboration Platform

With the enhancements to Dev Mode, FigJam (a whiteboarding tool), and the introduction of Figma Slides, it's clear that Figma continues to move beyond a tool exclusively for designers. These features underscore something we’ve known since the early days of ArcTouch — the importance of cross-functional team collaboration in creating successful digital products. The Dev Mode updates help bridge the gap between design deliverables and developers, while Figma Slides extends the platform's utility to product managers and other project stakeholders — even external ones. 

This evolution reflects the design industry's growing recognition that siloed workflows are inefficient — and often lead to miscommunication. Tools designed for entire project teams offer a more holistic approach to product development. Also, decentralizing design decisions challenges designers to think beyond pure aesthetics and consider the broader context of product development, from technical feasibility to business goals. As ArcTouch designer Alexandre Campos said, Nothing great is made alone.” 

The Dev Mode update — which alerts developers if a component or screen has been changed since marked as “Ready for Dev” — is particularly useful. “The designer can also add notes explaining what exactly changed, streamlining communication,” said ArcTouch Designer Deiver Brito. “Now it’s easier to see a before-and-after view.”

The Dev Mode new yellow alert notifies developers if design edits are made after an item is marked as “Ready for Dev” (source: Figma blog)

The verdict: Smarter Figma broadens its utility

Figma Config 2024 demonstrated a commitment to meeting the evolving needs of designers and developers. The introduction of native AI-powered features — which existed previously as third-party plugins — coupled with improvements to core functionalities, positions Figma to maintain its leadership in the design tool space.

At ArcTouch, we're excited to explore these new capabilities and integrate them into our design processes. The opportunity lies in using AI as a complement to human creativity, not a replacement. As we’ve written in our blog series about using AI for software development, AI is “a technology we can use to augment our work – saving us some time in certain areas so we can focus on others.”

Letícia Regert, ArcTouch designer, said, “Using AI is an opportunity to improve our workflows and focus on user experience — which is the core job of any designer anyway.”

While we embrace the efficiency and possibilities that AI brings to the table, we remain committed to the human-centric approach, ensuring that creativity, empathy, and user-focused thinking remain at the heart of our design philosophy. Meanwhile, the smarter, more useful Figma will have an even more important role in our broader design and development process.

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