Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Figma AI

Emanuel Maiberg (tweet, Hacker News):

The design tool Figma has disabled a newly launched AI-powered app design tool after a user showed that it was clearly copying Apple’s weather app.

Figma disabled the feature, named Make Design, after CEO and cofounder of Not Boring Software Andy Allen tweeted images showing that asking it to make a “weather app” produced several variations of apps that looked almost identical to Apple’s default weather app.

Gleb Sabirzyanov:

So there is no “training” in the components part at all. It uses pre-defined components that Figma team designed. They made complete apps with designs based on existing apps: weather, fitness, etc. If you ask the AI to create a weather app, it would use the weather app components.

It can’t modify components in any way other than changing texts, images and style. They only made the model fill the contents for existing pre-defined components.

John Gruber:

This is even more disgraceful than a human rip-off. Figma knows what they trained this thing on, and they know what it outputs.

Sebastiaan de With:

It just blows my mind how much companies keep self-owning because they think they risk anything being ‘too slow’ in adopting AI. All the fast AI implementations have been bad. Google answers. MS Recall. This Figma AI thing.

Take your time to do it right the first time.

Mitchell Bernstein:

No company, in their right mind, would ever let their employees unknowingly design proprietary ideas in @figma and send those to a server for others to recreate. […] I’ve heard mixed but I believe it’s by default opt in for free users and by default opt out for enterprises.

Nick Heer:

It is consistent to view this clear duplication of existing works through the same lens of morality as when A.I. tools duplicate articles and specific artists. I have not seen a good explanation for why any of these should be viewed differently from the others. There are compelling reasons for why it is okay to copy the works of others, just as there are similarly great arguments for why it is not.

Federico Viticci:

In other words, we’re concerned that, this time, technology won’t open up new opportunities for creative people on the web. We fear that it’ll destroy them.

We want to do something about this. And we’re starting with an open letter, embedded below, that we’re sending on behalf of MacStories, Inc. to U.S. Senators who have sponsored AI legislation as well as Italian members of the E.U.

Sebastiaan de With (Mastodon):

Some career designers were ambiguous about the impact on careers, but many went as far as to assert that designers had nothing to fear: AI, after all, could never replace your job. Unless you were terrible at it.

The problem with that, however, is that in our creative fields by definition, we are all terrible at our work at some point.

The way anyone has achieved success is through a slog. A long, steady swim upstream in a relentless and never-ending yet plentiful river of unpaid or cheap small jobs. I would wager the vast majority of design done every day are exactly these jobs.


Update (2024-07-03): Jay Peters:

In a Tuesday interview with Figma CTO Kris Rasmussen, I asked him point blank if Make Designs was trained on Apple’s app designs. His response? He couldn’t say for sure. Figma was not responsible for training the AI models it used at all.

“We did no training as part of the generative AI features,” Rasmussen said. The features are “powered by off-the-shelf models and a bespoke design system that we commissioned, which appears to be the underlying issue.”

Out of their control, just like with Perplexity.

Field, in his own thread, said that the Make Designs feature “is not trained on Figma content, community files or app designs” and noted that “the accusations around data training in this tweet are false.” He said a problem with the company’s approach is that “variability is too low.”


The key AI models that power Make Designs are OpenAI’s GPT-4o and Amazon’s Titan Image Generator G1, according to Rasmussen. If it’s true that Figma didn’t train its AI tools but they’re spitting out Apple app lookalikes anyway, that could suggest that OpenAI or Amazon’s models were trained on Apple’s designs.

This seems to contradict what Sabirzyanov wrote (above).

Sarah Perez:

Figma CEO Dylan Field says the company will temporarily disable its “Make Design” AI feature that was said to be ripping off the designs of Apple’s own Weather app.

John Gruber:

Field is right to pull the feature but this explanation is sophistry. The feature is clearly fundamentally flawed. It’s not in need of a tweak. It’s in need of being completely scrapped.

Update (2024-07-09): Adam Engst:

I’m just not that bothered by all this. My overall opinions aren’t usually so divergent from my tech journalism peers, but since no one seems to be acknowledging that there are multiple sides to every issue, I want to explain why I’m largely unperturbed by AI and much of the hand-wringing that seems to permeate coverage of the field.


Many people seem to be worried that AI-generated content will “replace or diminish the source material from which it was created,” as the MacStories letter says. It’s unclear to me what would need to happen for this to be true, at least for genuinely original content. When I write about one of my tech experiences, the only place such a story can come from is my head. I fail to see how my creativity would be diminished by what others do.


Web publishing requires constantly creating new content—that’s what real people want to read, and while generative AI may make it somewhat quicker to do that, it’s not drastically different from how some websites hire low-paid workers in other countries to churn out unoriginal posts.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

I can't read the Gleb Sabirzyanov comment but he seems to be saying that the ai is just combining tagged components when asked for a design.

Is that a guess, or does he know for sure?

Old Unix Geek

Even if Figma is using an LLM, I have some serious doubts that Figma has enough designs for each type of product to prevent it from recognizably interpolating between one or two designs, thereby replicating them. Seems this idea of a "designer AI" was poorly thought through, and I would expect someone on the "AI" team to have raised a red flag and perhaps to have been ignored. "QA" won't make much difference, since it's not the root of the problem. But even if it did work, what's the point? To replace their core customer base by interns? Sounds like investors might have too much sway at Figma.

@Old Unix Geek - Investors have too much sway.

I do wireframes for a living, although a step or two before the amount of polish the weather app had its applied.

Over the past decade there have been two instances where I've been asked to design an app as generic as a weather app. The rest of the time I have to solve rather novel problems (thankfully).

I think this feature might be great for the slide deck crowd when they're out chasing funding for the latest Y for X thing.

But I doubt it's for me.

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