Very early in my career, I made the mistake of applying for a job that put more emphasis on the tool used for the work than the person needed. “Mac Operator required” read the headline.
It wasn’t false advertising. I got the job, and true enough the work was operating a Mac in a sweatshop environment, producing terrible ad artwork and even more terrible brochure artwork. My design career barely survived.
Some years later, I became particularly adept at Adobe Flash (then Macromedia Flash) . The software allowed designers to indulge in creating websites and web applications that broke out of the constraints of a standard web browser.
The more I saw myself as an advanced user, the more each new feature became a chance to showboat my skills. The software’s capabilities began to lead my design work. I had a hammer, and all I could see were nails. Thankfully, by the time Steve Jobs kick-started Flash’s death spiral, I had moved on to embrace process and my toolkit was well beyond whatever Adobe were selling at that particular time.
The lesson I learned from these situations was not to allow your contributions as a designer to be defined by the tools you use.
This came to mind watching the Adobe/Figma story send shockwaves through the design industry last week. I remain unmoved.
If interaction design practice has deteriorated to the point where it relies so heavily on a single design tool, something is badly wrong.
I get just how good a tool Figma is. I get that a whole generation of designers in their early careers have known nothing other than Figma as the de facto tool of their trade. And it has earned that place. That should not make it a prerequisite for design.
Anyone unsettled about Figma’s future might use this as a reminder to stay sharp.
Don’t over-invest in a single design tool. Don’t conflate your value as a designer with technical ability in a software package.
Software will come and go. Your true value will endure.