I would consider myself to be a visual learner. I surround myself with gifs and memes, and when it comes to academia I gravitate towards infographics, mind-maps and charts to observe key pieces of information. So it’s not surprising that I chose a graphics based tool to review. In my area of study (Digital Humanities and IT), we cross paths with a myriad of visualisations every day, in many different formats. I think then it is prudent that we should be able to create our own graphics in order to convey, share or focus our knowledge or opinions, even if we have a lower level of computer literacy.
Enter “Canva.com”. Canva has deemed itself the “Amazingly Simple Graphic Design Software”, and it is definitely true to its word. It is an open source software and its simplicity in my opinion is much needed. I am familiar with Photoshop, Gimp, Photoplus and InDesign but as most of us know Photoshop et al, can be convoluted, time consuming and of course very expensive.
Canva was created in 2012 by Melanie Perkins of Sydney, Australia. The idea for Canva stemmed from the fact that whilst teaching graphic design to her students, they struggled with the basics. Perkins then formed a partnership with Cliff Obrecht and from there they initially created Fusion Books - an online design tool for designing high school yearbooks. They later went on to launch Canva after realising that the technology they developed had even more potential.
The website as mentioned previously, is www.canva.com. Its interface, as it should be, is bright and simple, and very encouraging. Canva may be used for designing posters, profile pictures, Facebook banners, infographics and pie/bar charts. It revolves entirely around controls such as drag-and-drop, which makes adding, removing, and editing elements onto your canvas a cakewalk. Canva stores a vast amount of text and images in its repository, the one slight snag is that you will have to pay $1 per image once your design is downloaded (which is still rather inexpensive). Also, having said that, the software allows the user to upload many personal images for manipulation, so downloading the software’s images is not completely necessary. When it comes to its colour scheme, at first glance Canva provides a palette of up to about 8 colours, but if you’re after a specific colour or hue then the colour-picker provided may help with that and it even allows you to enter a hexadecimal code for that specific hue. There are also video tutorials available upon launching your account of how to work your way around the website. Users can also create videos and gif images which can then be uploaded to social media accounts. Your work can then be saved and exported to PDF and PNG depending on what it is you have created.
If you are a design pro, then you may find Canva a bit limiting in what it has to offer. Canva is very much aware of this, as it never had the intention of taking over pro tools such as the aforementioned Photoshop or InDesign. With Canva the everyday user has everything to gain and nothing to lose by utilising it, but the professional has nothing to lose and not much else to gain.
Regardless of this, for the user who simply wants to make a flyer, poster, invitation or meme then Canva will be your best friend. It helps the average user to overcome any design fears. Canva employs designers and also reaches out to photographers and illustrators to share their works on the website for us to avail of. It also provides creative inspiration via a stream of designs previously made by registered users, and this is why I feel it deserves recognition on DiRT.
Since its origination in 2012, Canva has been growing from strength to strength, opening an office in Manila in 2014 and eventually raising additional funds of approx. 6 million dollars in 2015. It also gained new investors that year, including Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson. From reading reviews about Canva the outlook on the entire software looks positive. It also seems to be escalating in rank on many tech based websites. Canva has since created a workplace version of their software, which allows for team collaboration on various potential projects. Smart Company gave Canva a gleaming review and listed it number 5 out of a total 75 in its article: “75 Best Tools for Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2016”. If you have access to internet and a computer you’re basically more than half way there to designing your first masterpiece. Canva is a smart tool that everyone should experience, for the computer savvy and the not so computer savvy.