Figma pulls AI tool after criticism it plagiarised Apple’s design

Figma’s new tool, Make Designs, lets users quickly create app mockups using generative AI. Now, the tool has been pulled after the tool created designs that looked strikingly similar to Apple’s iOS weather app. Figma CEO Dylan Field posted a thread on X early Tuesday morning detailing the removal, blaming himself for pushing the team to meet a deadline, and defending the company’s approach to developing its AI tools.

In posts on X, Not Boring Software CEO Andy Allen showed how faithful Figma’s Make Designs tool is at creating replicas of Apple’s weather app. “Just a heads up for designers using the new Make Designs feature: you may want to double-check existing apps or heavily tweak the results to avoid unwittingly getting into legal trouble,” Allen wrote.

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

“We do not do any training as part of the generative AI features,” Rasmussen said. The features “rely on off-the-shelf models and a custom design system that we commissioned, which seems to be the underlying problem.”

That’s broadly in line with what he said on X on Monday in response to a user who suggested Make Designs was trained on existing apps. “As we shared when we launched Figma AI last week, there was no training as part of this feature or any of our generative features,” he wrote. “We’re investigating the extent to which the similarities are a function of the third-party models we’re using versus the design systems we commissioned to use the models and will address the issue as needed.”

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

According to Rasmussen, the key AI models powering Make Designs are OpenAI’s GPT-4o and Amazon’s Titan Image Generator G1. If it’s true that Figma didn’t train its AI tools but is generating apps similar to Apple’s anyway, that could suggest that either OpenAI’s or Amazon’s models were trained on Apple’s designs. OpenAI and Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rasmussen argued that Figma didn’t want to conduct any training to improve its features until it was open with its users about its AI training policies, which it also introduced last week. As part of those policies, users have until August 15 to decide whether or not they want to allow their content to be used for Figma training. (Starter and Professional plans are enabled by default, while Organization and Enterprise plans are disabled by default.)

I asked if Figma plans to train its own models, which, given the company’s new AI training policies, sounds like something that’s going to happen. “We definitely see opportunities to really refine their design workflows by teaching these models how to design in the context of Figma,” Rasmussen said. However, “we are going to take steps to make sure that our own models or any tweaks we make to open-source models are only learning general design patterns and Figma-specific design concepts so that they can be better tools for professional designers.”

I also asked Rasmussen how Figma plans to fix its processes to catch potential issues in the future. “We’re reviewing the custom design system to make sure it has enough variation and meets our quality standards,” he said. “That’s the root cause of the problem. But we’re going to take extra precautions before we re-enable it.” [Make Designs] to ensure that the entire function meets our quality standards and is consistent with our values.”

Rasmussen also pointed out the fact that Make Designs is in beta. “Beta builds, by definition, aren’t perfect. But it’s safe to say, as Dylan shared in his tweet, that we simply didn’t catch this particular issue. And we should have.”

Rasmussen said Figma hopes to re-enable Make Designs “soon.” Other Figma AI features will continue to be available in beta. (To access any of Figma’s AI features, you must sign up for a waitlist.)

Figma is the latest company to come under scrutiny for its strategy to incorporate AI into its creative tools. Adobe had to make it clear that it would not use its work to train its AI after backlash over changes to its terms of service. And Meta had to change its AI labels after photographers complained that its old label was incorrectly applied to actual photos.

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