Collapse Artifacts in Figma

Figma, Sketch, and other UI Design tools have what I like to call an “anarchy canvas”, a functionally infinite canvas, with no built-in mechanisms for organizing, which forces designers to use spacing and positioning to communicate relationships between objects.

One of the many problems that arises with this anarchy canvas is that designers leave artifacts surrounding the final screens.

A screenshot of a few screens for ParkHub with their associated artifacts floating around them.

Typically, these artifacts are either removed once they’re no longer needed, or are moved to a “playground” page, to separate them from production-ready screens.

Both of these solutions have significant drawbacks.

With the first solution, the inspiration screenshots are lost to history. What was the designer thinking? What were they trying to emulate? When we remove inspiration we remove the context surrounding the decisions that were made.

With the second solution, we disconnect the artifacts from their relevant elements, again, destroying useful context. The artifacts can be copied by themselves, creating orphans of inspiration, or the artifacts can be copied along with their relevant elements, but this runs the risk of the relevant elements becoming out-of date as the production screens continue to be developed. To prevent this, the designer will have to update both places.

* Typically in Figma, master components exist on the final page, which is convenient in tying them to the relevant screen, but it makes it hard to find the master components without right clicking an iteration and clicking “go to master component. Sketch handles this differently, when you create a component (called a “symbol” in sketch) it sends it to a different page. Annoyingly, that different page also adheres to the “anarchy canvas” principle, where each new element is arbitrarily appended to the right of the most recent symbol.