Design should not be difficult, believes Melanie Perkins, CEO and Co-founder, Canva. “When I was at university, I was teaching design programmes such as Photoshop and InDesign. These were really difficult for students to learn and complex to use. It would take a whole semester to just learn the basics. I realised that in the future, design would be entirely different; it would be online, simple, and collaborative.”

Canva was created because of the struggles of Perkin’s students.

The platform allows users to visually express themselves with or without the technical knowledge of graphic design. It makes the designing process more streamlined for users who previously lacked the time or the expertise to make high quality graphics for themselves or their businesses.

How does Canva work? According to its website, users can search from over 1,000,000 images, select what best suits their needs and drag it to resize. Next step is to choose a layout from ready-made options and tweak the background if need be. After that comes adding text. The design is ready to be downloaded and used.

Preparing a simple design takes about four to five clicks and a few seconds. Canva as an app can be used for free, but most images require users to pay US$1 per image or they can upload their own set of pictures which they won’t be charged for.

The platform recently reached one million users, with over eight million designs created for both web and print. It also secured US$3.6 million in its second round of funding.

The Co-founder has also been able to expand beyond the online platform through Canva Marketplace and Canva Design School.

Canva Marketplace is the response Canva has to the professional designers in the industry. Announced in November, 2014, it allows professional designers to contribute their own layouts and elements to other Canva users and earn royalty when users choose to purchase their works.

Canva Design School makes graphic design education accessible for its audiences. It has several tutorials ranging from the proper usage of fonts and backgrounds to improving presentations. Teaching materials that come with workshops organised are also available in the Design School. Mini challenges found in the workshops allow users to absorb new information in a fun and creative way, without the difficulty that online graphic tools usually come with. According to the startup, this enriches users to be more conscientious of the design choices they make.

The Philippine focus

Canva Manila Team 2

While the startup is headquarted in Sydney, it has been giving much attention to the creative community in the Philippines. Since its launch, Perkins noted, the Philippines continues to be one of its top 10 markets.

Canva continues to receive “an incredible response from Filipino marketers, bloggers and designers who have been using it to create their own graphics,” she shared.

The platform launched its Philippine office in August, 2014, and had its first Canva Creatives Conference in November, which saw 800 attendees.

Perkins believes that the Philippines is an exciting market for Canva, because Filipinos have a strong design aesthetic, are English-speaking, and are fast adopters of new technology.

Going forward
2014 was the year of growth for the platform. Aside from launching on the iPad, the company also created a Canva Button for third party websites to integrate Canva. It also started the social aspect of allowing people to share their designs with friends. Perkins, however, still believes that they’ve “only achieved a small part of [their] vision.” After all, she said, “The vision for Canva is to allow everyone to take an idea and frictionlessly turn it into a design.”

Beginning next year, the startup will be establishing a regular designer meet-up, running portfolio reviews with local designers and hosting designer talks.

The company aims to bridge the gap people have in understanding graphic design. “Visual communication is becoming increasingly important. Canva makes it possible for everyone to use graphic design to communicate an idea,” concluded Perkins.