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As inbound marketers we need to be able to create great visual content on the fly.
You’re likely to come across situations in which you wish you could design professional quality graphics yourself.
If you’ve always seen yourself as a “non designer” then there’s finally an alternative that is worthy of its tagline: “Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software.”
It’s called Canva, and it’s taking the inbound marketing world by storm.
This article will cover a bit of history (how Canva took off) as well as how the platform works and looks today.
*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post for Canva.
WHAT IS CANVA?
A little Canva History
Back in March of 2013, Canva’s three co-founders (Melanie Perkins, Cameron Adams and Cliff Obrecht) spent 6 months in San Francisco pitching to angel investors. Without a prototype (just the big bang vision) Canva raised around $1.6 million from an impressive list of prominent US and Australian investors – including FB’s Rasmussen, Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman and former CVC CEO Adrian MacKenzie.
How Does It Work?
Seek co-founder Paul Bassat summarised what makes Canva great:
“[Canva] combines the simplicity of Word with the functionality of Adobe.”
Once you have mastered this highly user friendly platform you can create unique quality images for Blogs and Social Media posts effortlessly and with enough creativity, for free.
Canva’s interface allows you to select whatever custom size image and template format you want to create for all of the major social media platforms. Canva’s current design categories are: Events (invitations, collages, etc.), Blogging & eBooks (infographics, kindle/album cover, etc), Marketing Materials (gift certificates, business cards, etc.), Social Media & Email Headers (FB covers, Google+ photo, Twitter header, Youtube channel art, etc.). Including the other two main categories below, Social Media Posts and Documents.
Canva’s interface is easy to use, letting users drag and drop selected templates, photos and add text. Canva allows you to choose from over 1 million photos, graphics and fonts. It is essentially free, because while there are many free images and typography options to choose from, if you use any of their stock images you will be charged $1 per image. Not only is this a relatively good deal, but it also alleviates any fear that the copyright image you used may come back to haunt you. Also, these images are clearly labelled so there’s never confusion as to which are free. If you need more free images, you can check out Canva’s post on 74 Best Sites To Find Awesome Free Images.
That said, many designers like to use their own images in Canva because the platform allows you to upload your own and use them in the existing canva templates. You can then apply filters, resize and crop your images, so they will fit in the template. When editing a layout you can change text, fonts, sizes and colours. Like Instagram, Canva offers lots of cool filters to enhance the look and feel of your image. (Just look for the “Filter” option).
Once you have created your design you can save your image(s) as a pdf or png image. If you decide to save a design as a pdf you can add clickable links to it as well. Just click on the “Download” button on the top right hand corner.
Finally all your images are saved on your home page (“Your Designs”) so they can easily be duplicated, reused and re-edited in the future.
The great thing about using your own images is that 1. They are unique & original and 2. Since they are your own they are free.
*Important Tip – When creating images for your company or client’s social media posts, use Canva to add a company logo to the image. That way if the image gets shared 100s of times the source of the image is not lost.
Interactive Stream (newsfeed) & Profiles on Canva
The genius of connecting designers with new aspiring ones has led to the implementation of an interactive social platform in which you can create your Canva profile, upload and make public your designs and access a simple and effective newsfeed called Stream.
If you already use social media to engage with your fans, Canva’s new profile is there to let you increase your exposure & boost your design cred. You can use it to share your images to your preferred social media platform page or to engage with other Canva fans. As of mid-May 2015 canva has 2.3 million (and counting) users and 12 million images created.
The Success of Canva
How did they do it? Melanie Perkins, the CEO and co-founder of Canva, said that one of their techniques has to do with using “marketing as education” to reach new users. They have capitalised on the fact that so many people want to learn how to do graphic design. By doing extra “hand-holding” (they even have a Canva Design School with free tutorials and teaching materials to educate users) they’re basically selling people on the product itself, and it’s working. For details on how Canva created a strategy that grew it’s blog traffic by 226.47% refer to the original success story (includes detailed helpful tips).
In 2014, Canva gained even more popularity when Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former chief evangelist, got on board with Canva and invested in the company. Yes, having a well-known experienced marketer on your side helps. For Kawasaki, the decision to represent Canva internationally was actually prompted by his own experience as an early adopter of the platform. This is what he had to say: “I was an early adopter of Canva and used it to create graphics for my social media posts and email newsletters…After making contact with Canva’s founders, I was enchanted by the company’s vision and desire to change the world. Macintosh democratised computers; Google democratised information; and eBay democratised commerce. In the same way, Canva democratises design. You don’t get many chances to democratise an industry, so I seized the opportunity to work for Canva.”
So far in 2015, Canva is killing it on all marketing and social media fronts. It’s safe to say Canva has it down with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, even Google+. I recommend a visit to each of their social media outlets to get inspired. For the sake of visual marketing, I’m displaying some of their posts on Instagram, where Canva has also become a leading example for graphic design accounts. I personally follow them and below are some of their top posts (great images with simple tips):
Canva is, as mentioned above, essentially a free graphic design platform that empowers people of all skill-levels to be able to design, but it also pushes for constant creativity and quality by integrating a social stream connecting professional designers with new users. Canva represents a new online world of “design meets collaboration” and its exponential growth, along with investors and staff recruitment, is a reflection of its tremendous potential. I dare say, Canva is one of those pioneering startups that’s here to stay.