A few months ago, I wrote a short article about the steps to take when designing a mobile app. I described the design process that I guide my students through during my interactive design course as well as a few tools that help get the job done. One tool in particular received a lot of attention from my readers and my students.
Most of my students and readers expressed that they aren’t designers and they don’t enjoy the confusion of Adobe products like Photoshop… Enter Canva.
Canva is a free online design tool that makes design simple and easy for everyone- regardless of skill level. Users can start from scratch with custom dimensions or begin with a little inspiration by selecting from Canva’s inventory of predesigned templates.
An alternative to photoshop…
(says one of my readers)
When I first discovered this tool, Canva was in its beta stage and my team and I decided to give it a test run. The social media and community managers raved about it and after introducing Canva to my students and readers who loved it- I knew I had to catch up with Melanie Perkins (Canva’s founder) to get some background on the company and how she got started.
Me: Tell us about yourself, your background, and how you got started.
Melanie: When I was at university I was teaching design programs such as Photoshop and InDesign. These were really difficult for students to learn and complex to use. It would take a whole semester for students just to learn the basics. I realized that in the future design would be entirely different, that it would be online, simple, and collaborative.
In 2007, I started my first company, Fusion Books. It took the concept and applied it to the niche market of school yearbooks. Over five years, my co-founder Cliff Obrecht and I grew Fusion Books into Australia’s largest yearbook publisher and expanded to France and New Zealand. However, we always knew the market was larger than school yearbooks and together with Cameron Adams launched Canva in August 2013.
In the last ten months since launch we have had over 550,000 people create over 3 million designs which has been very exciting.
Me: What is Canva and who is it for?
Melanie: Canva makes graphic design simple for everyone by bringing together a drag and drop design tool with a library of more than 1 million stock photographs, graphic elements and illustrations. It’s particularly popular with marketers, bloggers, graphic designers and small businesses who need to create lots of visual content.
There are lots of preset design types you can choose from, such as Facebook Covers, Blog Graphics, Presentations, Business Cards, Social Media Posts and even Facebook Ads. Or you can choose your own dimensions.
It has been designed to be very simple to use and learn, so it is suitable for everyone from complete beginners to professional graphic designers.
Me: As entrepreneurs there are many things that motivate us to start our businesses and drive us to continue. What motivates you?
Melanie: It’s been seven years since I originally came up with the concept for Canva. Having a problem that I believe should be solved has been strong motivation to continue even when it seemed like I was going against the grain.
We are so fortunate to have an incredible team. Creating, inventing, building and solving problems with a group of motivated and passionate people is ridiculously fun.
The support we have had from Canva users around the world is also a great motivation to continue building out our vision.
What can we expect from you and Canva in the near future?
Melanie: We have a lot in the pipeline, though nothing we can talk about just yet. What we can say, however, is we have only achieved 1% so far of where we think we can take Canva. Our vision is to enable people to take their idea and turn it into a design as seamlessly as possible, we think we have made some big steps in this direction already, however we are just getting started.
Me: Is Canva a replacement for softwares like photoshop, illustrator, etc?
Melanie: Canva is designed to be a layout creation tool, not to enable the fine grain vector manipulation that’s required for things such as logo design.
Using traditional desktop publishing software the arduous part of a design project is often getting the text approved. A designer would send their client a PDF of the design and the client would email back a list of changes, ‘on page 27 change ‘their’ to ‘there’. The designer then goes through the document and makes the changes. This takes up a huge amount of time and unnecessary effort. So with Canva we wanted to make collaboration extremely simple. It’s all online and a designer can simply send their client a link to their design.
For example, a designer can create a beautiful logo in Illustrator and then upload it into Canva and layout the business card. The designer can send their client a Canva link and the client can update the text without having access to the professional design tools.
The same applies to social media graphics. While very large brands may be able to afford custom graphics to be created and posted several times a day, for most businesses and bloggers it’s far too expensive. Designers can create templates for social media, and even presentations, that their client can then update with new text and images.
It’s still early days for Canva and we have a lot more features for professional designers in the pipeline to make this process even easier.
Me: What are some words of wisdom that you’d share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
Melanie: Solve a problem that you feel passionately about and really believe should be solved. It’s taken over seven years from the initial idea to get Canva to where it is today. It’s a long journey, so to make sure that you are solving a problem worth solving.
Don’t be afraid to jump in and get started. You can’t possibly know everything you need to know about starting and running a company before you start. If you are determined to solve a problem and passionate to learn everything as you go, that is enough. Take the first steps and the rest will, eventually, follow.
Me: How can my readers connect with you online? (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Website, etc
Melanie: If you haven’t given Canva a go yet, I’d love you to try it out. It’s free and very quick to learn. Go to www.canva.com
Connect with Melanie and Canva:
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