Design education should be more accessible

Why I’m joining Figma

Zach Grosser
3 min readFeb 6, 2018

Over my five years at Square, I’ve seen first-hand how important design is. Tech companies succeed at disrupting age-old industries because they offer a better experience for solving the same problems. An easy example: Uber and Lyft versus taxi cabs.

Companies now compete on the power of their customer experience, and as a result product designers have more influence.

But there are not enough experienced designers to meet the demand. People don’t become product designers for a host of reasons, from cost — it’s expensive to buy design software and the computers that run them — to knowledge — digital design is a recent field, and many universities don’t yet offer UX/UI classes.

This is a solvable problem, and it’s one I care about a lot. The more people who can design and build the things they imagine, the better the world will be. So, I’m excited to share that after five years at Square, I’m joining the design company Figma to work on this. This is a dream job for me, and not just because I’ve been a huge Figma fan since its alpha release in 2015.

Access to design is an issue Figma invests in. It’s the only design tool that offers a free tier for anyone to use, and its premium features are free for students. Because it runs in the cloud, it can be used on any type of computer, including low-cost ones like Chromebooks. In fact, I used a $249 Chromebook as my primary computer for a few months and was able to keep designing, thanks to Figma.

Now, the company wants to invest in design education to help people master the skill, and I’m excited to announce that I’ll be running the project. 🤗

We’ll have more details for you soon on what, exactly, this initiative will entail. For now, I’ll just say that it combines my two biggest passions: Design and education.

Why design education, instead of design?

I found my passion for education while I was in college. I took a class on how to use Adobe software, and started teaching other students what I was learning as a way to reinforce my own knowledge. Helping others solve their problems brought me just as much satisfaction as fixing my own.

After graduation, I worked at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco and was immediately drawn to the training program they offered at the time. I taught individual and group classes on how to use Apple software and hardware, which gave me insight into how everyone sees and uses their computer differently.

Next, I went to Square where I had worked as a presentation designer and communications designer. It was a wild ride and I learned a lot, but one of my favorite parts of the job was teaching and resource creation. We wanted to introduce design thinking into more facets of the company, so I led small workshops on how to design presentations, sharing videos of the lessons with the company for anyone to learn.

Now, I’m transitioning from being a full-time designer to a design educator because I believe everyone can learn how to design, and access to design education should be free and readily available. As demand for designers increases, the list of potential candidates for those roles should be as inclusive as possible. Voices from all backgrounds should be heard and encouraged.

I’m drawn to the passionate community that surrounds Figma, and I’m honored to be able to work with all of you more as an educator and resource creator. I’ve just moved to Amsterdam (one of the sites of Figma’s new design systems events!), so I’ll be working remote and coordinating efforts for community meetups and events in Europe.

Until then, please reach out with your thoughts on what accessible resources we should create for design education.