Figma launches in SA – Gadget

Figma has embarked on a roadshow to launch its Global Design Community from South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, and plans to roll it out to other countries to establish a supportive global community across continents for amateur and professional designers and web designers. 

The hashtag #FigmaCommunitySA trended on Twitter on Saturday afternoon as the Figma Africa Cape Town launch event got underway at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) incubator at the Woodstock Exchange in Cape Town. The event was hosted by Figma and its African partners Ingressive, MEST Africa, and Cape Town tech firm IO Digital. 

“Our Africa launch was a tremendous success. It made sense to launch Figma’s global design community in Africa first, from three of its top tech hubs Accra, Lagos and Cape Town, and then to the rest of the world,” said Figma Africa lead advocate Namnso Ukpanah. 

“Up to 80% of Figma’s users are located outside of the US and a large number of those users are based in Africa. That’s because Figma is uniquely positioned to suit the African design enthusiasts’ software needs – it is browser-based and therefore can be used from any device with an internet connection. It is also free for individuals and small teams, so they no longer need to install and run expensive design software to be able to do their jobs. It also allows you to design for any screen size or file format, and it’s made for team collaboration. As a result, Figma is one of the few US software companies paying attention to the untapped potential of the growing web design industry in Africa.”

Figma’s groundbreaking browser-based interface design tool with real-time collaboration is used by the design teams from top companies such Airbnb, Uber, Slack and Microsoft. And now the company has launched Figma Africa, the first Africa-wide and global online design community to connect designers across Africa on messaging app Slack, the Figma Africa social media channels and at various design events on the continent. So far, close to 800 designers from across Africa have joined the Figma Africa Slack channel.

The Cape Town roadshow was MC’d by local tech startup expert Vuyolwethu Dubese of Thomson Reuters, and included a lively panel discussion on the meaning of world class design by local startup, tech and design experts including Ukpanah, Passmarked.com CEO Mark McChlery, creative strategist Marwaan Sasman, user experience (UX) experts Dane Perring of ad agency 99c and Nicole Bergstedt of Thomson Reuters, and designer and creative communications specialist Najma Toefy of PwC. The discussion was led by moderator Evans Manyonga, Reignmakers founder and editor of Fast Company SA. 

“The key takeaway is that everyone can be a designer,” said Dubese. “Figma makes it easy for anyone with an internet connection to be a designer. Web developers and designers have traditionally worked separately, but now they can work together more collaboratively, and web developers can even try their hand at design. And with the new Figma Africa community that is growing, design enthusiasts across the continent can support each other and innovate together.”

Sasman said: “I see design as not a visual pursuit but a problem solving pursuit. Designers need to start thinking in a much broader sense as problem solvers, because it’s about more than just making visual things. The most valuable designers are the ones that understand people, political or social issues and how to make a social impact. UX matters.”

Software engineer Thabang Tsoboho, who was in the audience, quipped in Twitter that, “We’ve had the “Should Designers code” (chant), but what about “Should Developers Design?”, referencing that users often looked at badly executed tech products like unwieldy apps or software, as design failures rather than coding failures.

Figma will be returning to Cape Town in August, joined by a delegation from the world’s leading software development platform Github, to host a design-focussed hackathon for teams of developers and designers. 

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