From Mac Paint to Figma: Inside Font Awesome’s Icon Design Software Evolution
Give it up, old man. You can’t fight evolution. I was built for speed!
When it comes to design, it’s common to hear the phrase that “tools don’t matter”. While this may be a basic truism used to emphasize that quality of the design is more important than the tools used to create it, the tools we use can still have an impact on the design process.
In a recent episode of Podcast Awesome we chat with Font Awesome’s design team, Jory Raphael and Noah Jacobus, about how their experience of switching to Figma has made their work easier.
Lazy about workflows? There’s no shame in that game.
So, tools can indeed make a difference in the design process. While the quality of the design is still the most important factor, using the right tool can make the process easier and more efficient. Figma’s features allowed Noah to work more quickly and effectively than he could in Illustrator. This is not to say that all designers should switch to Figma, but it does demonstrate the importance of finding the right tool for the job.
[Noah] “If I’m being honest, it actually was kind of born out of laziness to a degree because at the time that Figma was gaining a lot of traction and kind of becoming a big thing, I was still doing a lot of my icon work in Illustrator, just like [Jory] was.
But I was also doing a lot of product design kind of in concert with that craft. I hadn’t fully moved over to being a specialist at my previous job yet. When it came time to actually place my work in context and test things out in terms of the icons, it became much easier to eventually just start doing all the work in Figma to kind of cut down on a lot of steps.
And that went through a few rounds of testing initially to see if this would even be a feasible replacement for Illustrator for me.”
Adobe owns Figma now. Is that a good or bad thing?
For years, Adobe Illustrator was the go-to tool for icon design. It is a powerful vector-based program that allows for precise editing and manipulation of artwork. But not everyone was satisfied with Illustrator. So, is Adobe buying up Figma a good thing? Noah is hopeful.
[Noah] “I am usually a little bit wary of Adobe acquisitions of things. They’ve made some very smart ones and have supported them well. And there have also been some that have been killed because of the acquisition in some ways or left to kind of shrivel up and die on their own. I think that Figma is enough of a powerhouse kind of on its own that that’s not going to happen with the employees there and the community, especially as such a huge force with a lot of momentum behind it that helps support the product and keeps it moving.
So my gut would say that there are a lot of things that Figma does really well that are going to make their way into Creative Suite in some capacity rather than the other way around. I don’t anticipate a ton of Adobe bloat coming into Figma, but I could be wrong. I would love to see some of the things that Illustrator does really well coming into Figma.”
Figma makes vector editing easy-peasy.
Vector editing is an important tool for icon design, and Figma has made it easier than ever. With its Boolean operations and ability to adjust the endpoints of a stroke, Figma has made vector editing much more precise and customizable. This makes it easier to create icons that communicate a message effectively. With the right tool, vector editing is now easier than ever.
[Jory] “…. one of the things that makes Boolean operations in Figma so cool is that you can
make them and then you can undo them. We can go back and shift things about them. And you could do that in Illustrator at a certain level, but it was more difficult, number one. And I never knew what button to press to what rules it was following.”
Is there a future for integrating Font Awesome Kits with Figma?
The ability to link Font Awesome Pro accounts to Figma isn’t a live feature yet, but would be incredibly useful for designers which would allow them to easily access and customize their library of icons and graphics without having to leave the Figma interface.
[Jory] “In however binding a podcast conversation can be, I will tentatively say, yes, I would love to. We have this feature in Font Awesome called Kits, which is basically your own individual version of Font Awesome. And we allow you to upload your own custom icons to it. And there’s a lot more things coming to that soon. But the ability to kind of link that Kit up to all sorts of services is, you know, would be so awesome. So yeah, I’d love to do that. And I guess we’ve committed to it on this podcast. So I’ll say yes, I don’t know when.”