Canvassing Canva

In July 2012, the idea that eventually culminated in Canva was born. Three people, Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams decided there was a need for something to help people with basic principles of graphic design.  Originally the idea was for software to allow students to create their own yearbooks, though it was realised that it could help people with graphic design in a much broader sense too. Thus Canva was created.

The Beta version was officially launched on 26 August 2013, and received an outstanding reception from small businesses, marketers and bloggers in particular.  So much so, that in just over one year on 30 October 2014 the service reached an incredible 1 million users.

At the time this blog was written, over 22,940,000 designs have been created by over 3 million users in just 650 days since the service was launched. And it just keeps going.

But why? In this blog we’re going to look at the basics and the benefits to see how it may be used for your business.

The Basics

When logging into Canva for the first time after you’ve registered, you will arrive at a screen that looks like the following:


Under the heading ‘Create a Design’ you have numerous size options for your creation, as well as one for custom dimensions if you have a specific, unique size requirement.

By clicking the ‘More’ option, additional size templates will be revealed. These are divided into the following sections:

  • Events (Invitations etc)
  • Blogging & Ebooks (Infographics, Kindle covers etc.)
  • Marketing Materials (Posters, Menus, Business Cards etc.)
  • Social Media + Email Headers (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Email etc.)
  • Social Media Posts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc.)
  • Documents (A4, Presentation, etc.)
  • Ads (Facebook etc.)

The ones that we will be mentioning in particular are related to Social Media. The importance of having a good Social Media header on your different platforms cannot be underestimated. A fuzzy Facebook cover image, for example, may not seem like noteworthy element of your Marketing Strategy, but more and more these days perception is critical. A potential client visiting your Facebook page will judge your business on how professionally your profile appears. A sub-par cover image automatically indicates both a lack of professionalism and a lack of influence. After all, a successful, large company wouldn’t have a poor image on display.

Canva makes the creation of a header as easy as possible, even including the shadows of areas that will not be seen due to things such as profile images. For example, on a Twitter Header design:


The Details

So now we get onto the nitty gritty. How can you use Canva? Why not employ a professional to create images for your business? How can you possible create an image good enough for professional use? All valid questions.

Quite simply, Canva is very easy to use. The most unimaginative employee with no creative talents can still create something that can be used, even temporarily, for your social media. Because that is what we’re suggesting you use this service for.  Social media. The bane of some businesses, the miracle of others.

The fact of the matter is, Twitter, Facebook , and others are becoming less of a choice and more of a necessity for businesses. As highlighted earlier, a scruffy Facebook cover can put your business in a bad light. But no social media at all? Well that’s even worse. That indicates your business isn’t modern, and therefore not worth taking a chance on. We could reel of the facts for you, how many millions of people are on Twitter etc. but you must have heard them all by now.

 Arguments about whether social media pertains to certain industries are invalid. No matter what industry you are in, we can guarantee it has an online, social presence somewhere in the world. And then it’s just a case of when it becomes prevalent in your sector, and whether your competitors will capitalise on it first.

One of the main draws of Social Media is its immediacy. Customers can contact you directly, you can update customers instantly, etc.

So when you decide to do a last minute offer, and you want to promote it on Social Media, how do you do it? Do you pay x amount of money for a professional to do something fancy that takes time, and lessens the impact of what is supposed to be a spontaneous offer?

Or do you do it yourself?

Enough chit chat, let’s see how easy Canva really is…

The Menus


The different menus on the side of your screen allow you to alter the design of your image in different ways. For example, the Layout tab will allow you to select a template (as shown above). The Search tab allows you to find an image within the Canva database. The Text tab is pretty self-explanatory as is the Background tab. The Upload tab allows you to upload your own images to the service (Useful if you have previous branded artwork that you can edit, also for uploading your company logo).



The search tab is pretty much self explanatory. It’s where you can search for images within the Canva database to apply to your design*.  Below the search bar you can see an array of different menus that classify the different types of image.

  • Grids (Frames that fit the whole design)
  • Frames (Frames that allow you to input your own photo/upload/image so that it fits cohesively)
  • Shapes (Probably the menu you will use the most)
  • Lines
  • Illustrations
  • Icons (Extremely useful for social media use, can find all icons such as Twitter, Facebook)
  • Photos
  • Charts (Usually used when creating an infographic for blogging)
  • Canva


The Shapes menu is probably the one you will use the most. They are predominantly free to use within your design and can easily be resized and re-coloured to suit your idea. Text can be written over or under them, and they can be made transparent to create a layered effect. The tool bar where you can change the colour of the shape also allows you to copy it, delete it, and is where you can define its place your design in terms of layers (‘Forward’ ‘Back’).

*When you search for an image, beware that the first designs that will show will be ones you have to pay for. Usually if you continue to scroll down through the list, the free ones will crop up.


Canva very kindly provides a host of templates, depending on what ‘design option’ you have selected. A general Social Media post for example will give you this screen:


This makes it very easy for people to create an aesthetically pleasing design very easily. There are a variety of templates to choose from, some of which are completely free and some of which you will have to pay for. Understandably, the more original and complex designs are the ones that you will have to pay for. Even so, the price you pay will most likely be less than $3. Bargain!



With hundreds of fonts to choose from, the only difficulty with adding text to your design will be which font to choose.  As with adding a shape, you can change the colour, style and position of your text easily.



Adding a simple colour to your page will always be free, but some patterned backgrounds you will have to pay for (though not much!).



Uploading your own images to the service is probably one of the most beneficial, and significant aspects of Canva from a business point of view. For one, you can upload your business logo which will ensure your design looks professional, and more importantly, branded.

To conclude…

Canva covers all bases. If you fancy yourself a creative person who likes to play around with designs, then Canva caters to you. If the idea of having to create an image for public consumption brings you out in a cold sweat, then Canva also makes things as simple as possible for you too.

At the end of the day, images make Social Media far more interesting. Unfortunately, it is hard to justify spending money on professional graphic designers to create an image just for Twitter or Facebook. That’s where Canva comes in. The fact that it is free to join is just another bonus and the paid element of the service? Well, from a personal point of view, I have been using the service for nearly a year and have yet to resort using a Paid feature. Basically, it changes the game when it comes to quality Social Media content. Why wouldn’t you use it?


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