I recently discovered Canva and am having such a good experience with it, feel compelled to write about it. Canva describes themselves as “amazingly simple graphic design.” In the title I call Canva a “simple and delightful design tool.” Simple is not to be confused for powerful. Using Canva, you can create things like fliers, presentations and posters – really, graphics of any kind. I’m using it primarily to create Instagram posts, but there’s a little more to it than that. Within my ice cream company, we have a small team. Within that team there is one person that needs graphics on an ongoing basis to help support the promotion of events and other marketing opportunities. Our primary way of promoting is through Instagram (where we get the most traction) and second to that, Facebook and Twitter. We use the same graphic(s) on all channels. Now, it’s not very cost effective to create a new graphic for similar, repetitive events such as in-store tastings that we do. It’s also not extremely efficient to have a team member dependent on someone like me to create simple graphics when they are needed. This is where Canva is extremely helpful.
Using Canva I can pre-design templates that my team can simply change and update on the fly, on an as needed basis. Here’s an example: we often do in-store ice cream tastings as a way to get people to try our ice cream for the first time. Using Canva, I pre-design templates so my team can create the promotional graphics on their own. In this scenario, all that needs to be edited is the location and the photo in the background, it takes less than three minutes.
Here are a couple more examples of simple pre-designed templates I created that can be duplicated and edited on the fly. One template is for customer quotes and the other is just to highlight one of our ice cream flavors. In a relatively short amount of time I am able to create three different templates that team members can use to indefinitely create their own graphics.
Now, even if I set these templates up in Sketch or Illustrator, since they are professional design tools – it would still be harder for a layman/laywoman to edit and export. This is because the Canva interface is designed for non-designers, but as a designer I also love it! The controls are really simple and easy to use and requires very little training if any to get up to speed.
The fact that Canva is designed for anyone is great. If you’re not a designer and you are not working with one, Canva offers their own pre-designed templates (many) that you can choose from. With a little simple tinkering you can customize the pre-designed templates. It’s important within our company that everything we create is on brand. So while Canva may be intended for designers and non-designers alike, my preference is to pre-design templates that the team can use as opposed to having people create their own designs or use the generically branded, out of the box templates provided by Canva.
Below is a one off design I created for a recent event. You can do almost anything in Canva that you can do in a professional design tool. Any constraints there are actually help to expedite the design process and (in my opinion) make it better for the purposes of creating image graphics for Instagram.
Canva is Just Fun
I love designing things but there is something about Canva that is incredibly addictive. A trait that you don’t really get with professional design tools. Maybe it’s the ease of use or the drag and drop style interactions but it’s just really fun to use. The first day I started using it, one hour turned into four; I was having so much fun designing in it that I couldn’t stop. It actually made me feel more creative than if I was using Sketch App. I think part of it has to do with the fact that as designers, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make something amazing. Canva somehow mitigates this and allows you to make something amazing without having to feel the pressure of it. It allowed me to really focus on fun ideas using just imagery and text.
Canva also has a vast and high-quality font library ranging from fun and goofy to very professional. The font selection menu is very clear and shows you what fonts actually look like.
Exporting your images is super easy and Canva allows you to export all images or just a range. If your exporting a range then your images must be grouped together, Canva provides an easy way to order images using up and down arrows.
I don’t really have too many criticisms of Canva but after using it for a bit now I do see some ways in which it could scale better. For example, everything you create is on one scrollable page. Over time I can see how this may become unwieldy – I’m already wanting a way to have a higher level of organization. I’d love to be able to categorize graphics in a way that makes them easier to navigate. Same goes for the image library; images are grouped altogether and many images are one time use only. I’ve also noticed that if the Internet is slow Canva may loose track of updates and undos and on rare occasion I’ve lost work. This is quite rare though and I imagine is largely out of Canva’s control.
One feature request I have based on my use case is: I need to share my account with the team members that I create the graphics for. Right now there’s no way to do this so I have to share a login. I’d love to be able to invite people to my Canva account and have some very simple authoring controls and permissions.
These nitpicks are really small and very easy to overlook given how much time and effort has obviously been put into the design, interactions and overall user experience of Canva, it’s simply great!