UPDATED 21:34 EDT / JULY 02 2024


Figma disables new AI tool that repeatedly cloned Apple’s Weather app

The collaborative design software company Figma Inc. has quickly disabled its recently launched generative artificial intelligence-powered application design tool after it blatantly copied the look and style of Apple Inc.’s Weather application on numerous tests.

The new feature, called “Make Design,” leans on generative AI and large language models to spin up full-fledged applications for users, based on their natural language commands. Figma said at the time of its launch that users simply have to tell it the kind of app they want to create, and it will go ahead and do its magic, creating an entirely original application – only it doesn’t quite work that way in practice.

According to Not Boring Software Chief Executive Andy Allen, all the app does in reality is clone existing applications. At least, that was his experience when he asked Make Design to create a new “weather app.” 404 Media reported that he tried creating a weather app numerous times, and on each occasion it would spit out something that was eerily similar to the stock Apple Weather app found on iPhones and iPads.

Allen shared his findings via a series of tweets on X:

Figma responded quickly to the discovery, and CEO Dylan Field took to X himself to explain that the company is temporarily disabling the Make Design tool.

“Within hours of seeing this tweet, we identified the issue, which was related to the underlying design systems that were created,” Field explained. “Ultimately it is my fault for not insisting on a better QA process for this work and pushing our team hard to hit a deadline for Config.”

The exec added that the feature will only be re-enabled once “we have completed a full QA pass on the underlying design system.”

Figma Chief Technology Officer Kris Rasmussen also piped up on X, explaining to his followers that none of its generative AI tools are trained on its customers’ work. He said that Make Design’s apparent cloning of Apple’s Weather app is a result of the “function of the third-party models we are using vs. the design systems commissioned to be used by the models.”

Founded in 2012, Figma provides a cloud-based platform that companies use to design user interfaces for websites and applications. The startup’s platform enables multiple designers to edit an interface at the same time. Figma, once an acquisition target for Adobe Inc., also makes it possible to collect feedback from other users who may be participating in a project, such as software developers.

The company also offers a range of “no-code” tools that can help to speed up the design process for applications without the need to write any software code.

The Make Design tool is meant to build on those offerings by dramatically simplifying and speeding up the design process for users, who can simply describe what they want rather than piece it together themselves. According to Field, Make Design uses a range of “off-the-shelf” LLMs, OpenAI’s GPT-4 models, Amazon Titan and Jasper. These are combined with Figma’s own “design systems.” He said at the time that the problem with this approach is that “variability is too low.”

Despite knowing this, Figma went ahead and launched Make Design anyway, in what some might think was a hasty effort to beat its competitors to market.

Figma may have rushed the deployment of Make Design, but it was the right move anyway, said Constellation Research Inc. analyst Liz Miller. “AI, especially generative AI, continues to go from experimentation to utilization and we should all have the same mindset as Figma,” she said. “Jump in and start using it, but be ready to pull back and shield it if something goes wrong.”

Allen warned designers on X that did jump in to be extremely careful with any apps they have already created. “You may want to thoroughly check existing apps or modify the results heavily so that you don’t unknowingly land yourself in legal trouble,” he said.

Image: Andy Allen/X

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