Steve Jobs often referred to the personal computer as a “bicycle for our minds.” This always stuck with me. It was the best analogy I’d ever heard to describe a computer.
“We humans are tool builders, and we can fashion tools that amplify these inherent abilities that we have to spectacular magnitudes.
For me, a computer has always been a bicycle of the mind. Something that takes us far beyond our inherent abilities.”
A year ago almost to the day, I shared a demo of a Figma plugin using GPT-3 called “Designer.” It single-handedly changed the course of my life.
At the time I’d been experimenting with Figma plugin ideas, and GPT-3 demos were going viral on Twitter. I got my hands on the GPT-3 beta and began exploring. My experimentation with design tools and natural language as an input goes back to 2018, when I released a plugin called Assistant for Sketch. GPT-3 took Assistant to the next level. I wrote at length about how Designer works here.
I spent the past four years at Square working on Cash App as a product designer. My pattern recognition picked up on lots of things I found I was doing repeatedly, was tedious, or felt could be automated. I gave a talk at Figma’s Config 2021 detailing my experimentation with plugins to automate some of the things I picked up on, in addition to how the plugins work.
It’s fascinating to find ourselves in a place where for the first time ever, design is getting more systematic by nature with the evolution of design systems. I found that with a robust design system in place, you’ve got the puzzle pieces in place (components) and part of your job is to find ways to put them together to solve a puzzle (a screen or an experience).
The introduction of GitHub Copilot reinvigorated this passion and energy I had for software automation. It reminded me that the plugin explorations I did were similar to a “Copilot for Figma.” All of the dots were connecting.
This all leads to Tricycle, which makes product design tools that automate parts of your design process from prototype to production powered by AI. What’s a tricycle to a bicycle when we talk about a “bicycle for our minds”? A tricycle has a third wheel that provides additional stability, is easier to learn to ride, and attracts beginners. And I hope Tricycle’s tools amplify our inherent design abilities far beyond what we could have ever dreamed of. This is the sentiment I hope to get across as Tricycle makes tools that help you design products, whether you’re an experienced designer or just getting started.
I learn best by doing. Early on in my design career, I sought inspiration from others and remixed what I liked to create something new. When I’m coding, I often reverse-engineer an existing repository and make changes until I get what I’m looking for. A blank Figma canvas and a blank code editor can be really intimidating when you’re just getting started. There’s an opportunity to make learning tools to serve as a starting point for beginners.
The position we currently find ourselves in with product design and its tools reminds me of where car manufacturing was in the early 1900’s. Pre-assembly line, cars took more than half a day to be assembled by hand. The moving assembly line dramatically increased the production and output of car manufacturing by dividing assembly tasks into smaller parts that continuously moved from one worker to another on a conveyer belt. It reduced the time to assemble a car to just 90 minutes. I believe Tricycle will mean for product design what the assembly line meant for car production.
I remain deeply fascinated by the unknown and untapped potential in design automation. I hope to make tools that help you save time and focus on what’s important while designing, whether you’re just getting started or have years of experience.