Canva is an online graphic design platform where you can edit images and create your own graphics. It costs nothing to use and people can choose from thousands of free illustrations and images to create some pretty decent graphics.
Of course, the imagery will only ever reflect the capability of the user, but its incredibly simple interface allows most people to get some good results. It provides a great opportunity for small and micro businesses to handle this sort of stuff themselves.
This has understandably ruffled feathers amongst the design fraternity. There’s a perception that graphic design has been commodified by the entry of this disruptive upstart. Designers are somewhat peeved that people think that ‘everyone can be a designer’. It has, for many, de-valued the skill, talent and experience required to produce good quality graphics.
The truth from where I stand: perhaps. But no more so than the proliferation of global marketplaces such as eLance or DesignCrowd. These sites are filled with suppliers from all over the world, who provide access to graphic designer services at rates that are drastically less than their Aussie counterparts.
I am no longer a millisecond away from maniacal laughter when I hear people gleefully exclaim that ‘they got their logo from an awesome designer on Fiverr’. Why? These people were never going to be the client of a professional graphic designer or branding consultant. It’s a slightly more sophisticated step than getting their cousin’s mate ‘Dan’ to whip up a logo for them in Photoshop. The same could be true of the Canva user.
The need for (lots of) good quality graphics
In a world bursting with communications channels, graphics provide valuable cut-through by creating a visual holiday from the abundance of words that pervade our everyday lives. The growth of social media, content marketing and online media in general, from organisations both large and small has also drastically increased the need for graphics and visuals. It makes perfect sense that the process used to procure these graphics becomes more automated. For many small organisations, it just doesn’t make sense (financial or otherwise) to be back and forward with a design professional to nut these things out.
Rather than thinking of it as taking business away from the graphic design professional, Canva has in actual fact just created a link to graphics that previously did not exist. In an old-fashioned context, it’s just like a giant clipart gallery or stock photography library, the difference being that consumers can just get on and create this stuff themselves. It’s actually pretty cool.
The importance of a brand strategy
But here’s where the design professional can add significant value: branding. Businesses with an understanding of how brand can create competitive advantage will often seek out a professional who can advise on a branding strategy. Visual branding is a crucial part of this, especially in our digital world where brand associations are often built visually.
Brand strategy and brand development teaches small businesses how and where to fish. Tools such as Canva allow them to go and catch the fish themselves.
Rather than shying away from it, I’ve found that Canva can add significant value to both me and my clients. It has some slick brand management capabilities in an accessible, low-cost and easy-to-use way that their more traditional competitors in the software sector just cannot match. With a bit of help to set it up, the average person now has the capability to execute their brand time and time again with pretty flawless results.
The five Canva features that make it easy
You can use Canva for free to create a bunch of predefined sized graphics, for example, social media images for Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. You can then customize these however you want. There is also the ‘Canva for Work’ option (approx. $18 AUD per month) which I recommend for my clients, which allows me to use the following five features.
1. Colour palette
This can be used to plug in a client’s pre-defined colour palette. Users then have a choice of these colours to use in all of the branding elements, such as backgrounds, simple graphics or text.
Much like the colour palette, you can pre-define a set of typographical elements (font, size, weight) so that every graphic looks and feels consistent.
3. Image bank
There is access to heaps of stock images through Canva for a small additional cost, however, you can also upload your own bank of predefined images that the client can choose from. It’s great if you have a unique imagery style that needs to be kept consistent. You can also create folders for other types of graphics such as icons or illustrations.
4. Logo bank
A section where you can keep all of your brand's logos as PNGs or JPGs.
5. Customised graphics
Here’s where it all comes together. You can define literally any sized graphic and export this as a JPG, PNG or PDF (both print and web-ready). While Canva definitely has its roots as a service for creating digital images, there is no reason that you can’t extend this to print-ready graphics as well. The sky really is the limit – you could conceivably create pretty much every pixelated graphic you ever needed from this platform.
The Bomb for brand management
I’m a total realist: my small and micro clients don’t have the time or budget to keep coming back to a designer for small graphics – nor should they. Ten years ago we didn’t have Canva, but now we do, and the opportunities this opens up is good news for everyone.
I love the confidence I have knowing that my client has all the elements at their disposal, ready to create on-brand graphics and visuals in no time at all. For everyone’s workflow, you can’t beat it.
Does Canva also make you happy? How has it added value to your business? Let me know in the comments below!