Figma’s AI design feature disabled after copying Apple’s weather app

July 5, 2024

  • Figma's AI design tools attracted criticism for copying Apple's weather app
  • This raised concerns that Figma's tools could create copyrighted materials
  • CEO Dylan Field subsequently shut the features down to investigate
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Figma CEO Dylan Field announced that his company would temporarily disable its new AI features.

The decision comes after allegations that the tool was reproducing designs strikingly similar to Apple’s Weather app, raising concerns about whether Figma’s training data contains copyrighted content.

If Figma’s tools contain copyright material, then so will its outputs. That could leave users vulnerable to legal issues. 

Figma is a collaborative web design app which recently rolled out AI-powered features at its recent Config conference. It embeds several off-the-shelf AI models into Figma’s own systems, offering:

  1. AI-generated content: Produces relevant text content directly in design mockups.
  2. AI-powered rewriting and translation: Adjusts copy length, tone, and language within designs.
  3. FigJam AI: Helps visualize complex ideas, sort feedback, and automate tedious tasks.

The Apple weather app controversy surrounding Figma’s AI features began when Andy Allen, founder of NotBoring Software, discovered that Figma’s AI tool consistently generated designs reminiscent of Apple’s Weather app. 

Is Allen right? Take a look below and see for yourself.

Allen took to X to accuse Figma of “heavily” training its tool on existing apps.

While Field took responsibility for the oversight, he also stated that the issue probably results from the app’s off-the-shelf models; “In other words, the accusations around data training in this tweet are false.”

Fair enough, but what happened to due diligence? Is Figma not marketing this tool based on its new AI features, thus taking on some responsibility for its outputs?

Plus, this could create legal risks if creators unknowingly publish copyright content created with Figma.

Field said he’d remove the feature to investigate, “I have asked our team to temporarily disable the Make Design feature until we are confident we can stand behind its output. The feature will be disabled when our US based team wakes up in a few hours, and we will re-enable it when we have completed a full QA pass on the underlying design system.”

Figma’s AI design tools have already attracted mass criticism. Do they lower the barrier to web design and democratize skills, or risk the mass production of poor-quality, cookie-cutter apps?

The jury is out.

This has also tapped into the broader raging debate about copyright and intellectual property in the AI era. 

Last year, a major study by cognitive scientist Dr. Gary Marcus and concept artist Reid Southen, titled “Generative AI Has a Visual Plagiarism Problem,” exposed the ability of AI models like Midjourney and DALL-E 3 to produce images that closely resemble copyrighted material – similar to Figma’s tool.

Legal challenges are also mounting, with authors and media companies filing lawsuits against AI companies for allegedly using copyrighted material in their training data without permission. 

Those are yet to be resolved, leaving everyone, from AI developers to creators, scratching their heads over what copyright means today.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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