A Design Dictionary for Navigating Figma like a Pro

May 31, 2023Eugenia Sorgetti

Unveiling the Figma Universe

Navigating the multifaceted universe of design can be a daunting task, especially when a tool as potent as Figma is in play. Figma, a cloud-based design tool, is lauded for its collaborative features and versatility. It is a one-stop solution for designing, prototyping, and gathering feedback all in real-time. However, to truly tap into Figma's potential, understanding its terminology is paramount. This blog post aims to demystify Figma's language, breaking down its glossary into digestible chunks. By the end, you will be well-versed with Figma's lingo, enabling you to harness the power of this ingenious design tool more efficiently and effectively.

Figma's Design Dictionary

The ABCs of Figma

Building Blocks: Frames and Groups

In the Figma world, 'Frames' and 'Groups' are the fundamental building blocks. Frames act as containers, holding design elements together and ensuring visual consistency. They provide structure, hierarchy, and a cohesive layout for your designs. On the other hand, Groups allow you to organize elements, making them easier to manipulate as a collective unit. With Groups, you can efficiently manage related elements, rearrange them, and apply changes seamlessly.

Blueprints of Design: Components and Instances

'Components' and 'Instances' are the blueprints of your design. Components are reusable elements that can be replicated as Instances throughout your design. When changes are made to a Component, these updates automatically reflect in all its Instances, ensuring consistency across your design. Components allow you to create and maintain a unified design system, making it efficient to apply changes and updates throughout your project.

The Fabric of Figma: Layers and Objects

'Layers' and 'Objects' are the fundamental building blocks that form the fabric of your Figma designs. Layers define the hierarchy and visibility of design elements, allowing you to organize and structure your design composition effectively. Objects, on the other hand, encompass all the elements you add to your design, including frames, components, and text. They represent the tangible entities that make up your design composition.

The Art of Adjustment: Constraints and Resizing

'Constraints' and 'Resizing' are tools for making adjustments. Constraints control how objects behave when their parent frame is resized, while the Resizing settings determine how an object adjusts its dimensions when you manually resize it. Mastering these terms will help you create responsive designs that adapt to different screen sizes.

Autolayout: The Automated Designer

What is 'Autolayout'? Autolayout is Figma's automated designer, a powerful feature that makes managing layouts a breeze. It allows you to create dynamic frames that adjust based on their content. Want to automatically adjust the spacing between elements when you add or remove content? Autolayout is your go-to tool.

Check out our Figma Auto Layout Guide for more details.

Smart Animate: The Illusionist

'Smart Animate' is Figma's illusionist, adding a touch of magic to your prototypes. It allows you to animate transitions between different states of a design element, making your clickable prototypes feel more dynamic and realistic. With Smart Animate, your designs can mimic real-world behaviors.

Variants: The Master of Disguise

In Figma, Variants are the masters of disguise, empowering you to create multiple versions of a component that share the same base. They offer flexibility by allowing you to create different variations of a component for various states, such as hover, click, or disabled. For example, with Variants, you can create a button component and easily generate different versions with customized styles and interactions.

This streamlines the design process, ensuring consistency while accommodating diverse user interactions. Variants enable efficient design maintenance, as any changes made to the base component automatically update all its associated variations. With Variants in Figma, you can effortlessly create versatile and adaptable components that enhance the user experience and save valuable design time.

Figma variants and component states

Prototype and Interaction: The Puppeteer

In Figma, 'Prototype' and 'Interaction' features act as the puppeteers, controlling how your design behaves. Prototyping allows you to create interactive previews of your designs, while Interactions define how these previews respond to user input, like clicks or mouse hover.

Figma in Action

Crafting with Autolayout

Autolayout shines when it comes to creating responsive designs. By mastering Autolayout, you can create design elements that adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes, saving you countless hours of manual adjustment.

Breathing Life with Smart Animate

Smart Animate can make your prototypes feel alive. With a touch of this feature, static pages can transform into interactive experiences that mimic real-world behaviors, capturing user attention and improving user experience.

Customizing with Variants

Variants are your ticket to efficient customization. By learning how to use Variants effectively, you can maintain a consistent design language while catering to different use-cases, all without creating entirely new components for each variation.

Prototyping and Interacting

Prototyping and Interaction features empower you to create designs that not only look good but also feel good to use. Mastering these tools will allow you to create interactive prototypes that provide valuable insights into user behavior, helping you refine your designs further.


Figma is an innovative interface design tool that is increasingly becoming a favorite among designers. It offers a range of versatile features, including real-time collaboration, a browser-based platform, and the ability to share work via links rather than static images. Figma allows users to design, prototype, and get feedback all in one place, enhancing workflow efficiency. The simplicity of its interface, coupled with its powerful features, makes it an excellent tool for both beginners and experienced designers. While Figma is a comprehensive tool in itself, it can be combined with other tools to achieve higher-quality designs. To get the most out of Figma, users should familiarize themselves with its key functions, shortcuts, and workflow organization tips. Understanding how to create frames, layers, and interactive prototypes can significantly enhance the design process. Overall, Figma is a powerful tool that is shaping the future of digital design.

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Eugenia Sorgetti

Eugenia Sorgetti

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