Google for Education has revealed a new partnership with Figma. The companies will get Figma’s design and prototyping platform and its collaborative whiteboarding app FIGJAM to education Chromebooks.
Schools can involve now in the beta program, which will begin over the summer. Figma is “Google Docs for design.” Like Google’s software, Figma is predominantly web-based and has a lighter limit for running a computer than many industry-standard creative schedules.
Figma also allows team members to collaborate similarly to how they might appear in Google Docs — but on prototypes and innovation projects rather than text.
Google and Figma are fetching Figma to education Chromebooks. Users can count annotations and notes to projects, mark things with stickers, and even share through audio chat. Think of it like a less powerful Adobe Illustrator, but collaborative, online, and sometimes better for app and web design.
The two companies hope the program, free of charge for schools, will support making software engineering and design more available to younger pupils. “Computer science has not been the most accessible field over the years,” states Andy Russell, who leads products for Chrome OS Education.
Russell expects Figma’s software will flatten the learning curve for learners curious to try the disciplines out while also providing them advanced tools to perform with down the line. “Figma enables students to get in at the ground level with a low floor, but then gives them this extraordinarily high ceiling,” Russell says. He expects the program will allow him to “graduate them into the next generation of software designers and software engineers.”
Russell hopes scholars can use the software for projects across disciplines, even outside those niches. “We all grew up with the five-paragraph essay,” Russell says. But, “students today have so many other options: they can create timelines, they can create infographics, they can create storyboards for documentary film, they can create 3D models of architecture, an application to solve a problem, they can create a website.” Moreover, he added, “Figma is an amazing tool that’s open-ended for students to create any of those assets.”
Unsurprisingly, the past few years have seen demand for collaborative, cloud-based software and whiteboarding features grow. However, schools have reopened after the widespread closures of the early pandemic.
As a result, many are continuing to invest in online services. It’s also become more common for districts to issue students laptops over the years, increasing expectations that students might collaborate on and submit assignments online.
These types of software aren’t new; many other companies make prototyping tools and whiteboarding platforms. But part of what’s made Figma so competitive in that space is its simplicity: it’s easy to run and intuitive to use.
Incidentally, that’s a big part of the Chromebook’s appeal, especially in the education space: it’s cheap; it takes a second to boot up; it’s simple to use, and it’s cloud-based mainly. So such a partnership seems like a no-brainer somehow, and Figma CEO Dylan Field certainly agrees. “We built Figma with Chromebooks in mind from the start. In 2015– 2016 we were testing our tools with Chromebooks,” he says.
Chromebooks have come a long way in the past few years, with fancier features and excellent hardware. But the power of the software you can get as a Chrome OS fan still doesn’t stack up to the offerings of the Windows ecosystem in every case. Creative work is one of these areas. The Adobe Creative Cloud, for example, is only available for Chrome OS in limited mobile forms (and even these lightweight apps often run slow, speaking from quite a bit of experience).
Likewise, the version Adobe XD, Adobe’s closest competitor to Figma that you can get on Chrome OS, is limited corresponded to the desktop version. Student Chromebooks running state of the art design software optimized for them on a broad scale would be a good indication of the platform and a good sign for scholars.
Figma is a vector graphics editor and primarily web-based prototyping tool, with additional offline features enabled by desktop applications for macOS and Windows. In addition, the Figma mobile app for Android and iOS allows viewing and interaction with Figma prototypes on real-time mobile devices. The feature set of Figma concentrates on use in user interface and user experience strategy, emphasizing real-time collaboration.
Dylan Field and Evan Wallace began operating on Figma in 2012 while computer science students at Brown University. Wallace reviewed graphics and was a Teacher Assistant for the Computer Science Department, while Field chaired the CS Departmental Undergraduate Group.
The original goal behind Figma was to enable “anyone [to] be creative by creating free, simple, creative tools in a browser.” Field and Wallace experimented with diverse ideas, including software for drones and a meme generator, before deciding on web-based graphics editor software. The company’s early content was described in a 2012 report by The Brown Daily Herald as “a technology startup that will authorize users to express themselves online creatively.” The company’s first ideas circled 3D content generation, and the following statements focused on photo editing and object segmentation.
The Field was anointed a Thiel Fellow in 2012, gaining him $100,000 in exchange for bringing a leave of absence from college; Wallace joined Field in California after concluding his degree in computer science. The two began working for the company full time.
Figma started showing a free invite-only preview program on December 3, 2015. Then, it saw its preferably public release on September 27, 2016. Finally, on October 22, 2019, the Figma-based Figma Community entitled designers to publish their work for others to view and adapt.
On April 21, 2021, Figma undertook a digital whiteboarding capability called FIGJAM, allowing users to collaborate with sticky notes, emojis, and drawing tools.