Exclusive Interview: Canva Turns Simple Content Design Tech into Big Business

A rising star in the design space brings together what we’ve recently been covering in content creation and user design across marketing tech. Content, whether distributed by publishers or in the form of video ads by brands, cuts through all stages of a business’s marketing initiatives.

Even with technical data solutions like CDPs, tech improvements that simplify user experience allow creatives to work alongside specialists and data scientists.

Within the content world, the challenge to solve for is providing a single source where teams can work together online, instead of remaining siloed and uncoordinated offline.

This week, Australia-based design platform Canva announced a new enterprise offering, inviting the biggest global organizations to take advantage of the same graphics solutions that have brought simplicity to the content pipeline for businesses and individuals in 190 countries and in 100 different languages, give or take.

Since launching in 2013, Canva also introduced an upgrade, called Canva Pro, to its free drag-and-drop design platform.

The next step in its evolution of services, Canva for Enterprise, provides bespoke tools that cater to the needs of enterprises executing larger design projects, like global campaigns. Workflows are managed organization-wide, so that sales teams can use pre-approved templates, print out on-brand business cards, and maintain consistent message and look across all marketing channels and devices.

Enterprise customers can confidently remain on-brand and on-trend while gaining access to Canva’s over 70,000 designer-made templates, 50 million premium images and videos and over 2,000 font families.

The progress made in graphics solutions and tech innovation also comes with an impressive headline-grabbing valuation: $3.2 billion at latest count. 

Simple controls on enterprise projects 

On the day following a New York customer event, and the enterprise solution announcement, I sat down with the founder and CEO of this legitimate tech unicorn.

Melanie Perkins told me about the idea that came to her while in college, which spawned her first company, Fusion Books. Using simple design principles, the tool allowed students all over Australia to design their school yearbooks using the drag-and-drop method that still makes the Canva platform so appealing today.

“Eighty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies work with us already,” Perkins explained. “And small and medium businesses have contributed in creating a total of 1.8 billion designs on Canva, with over 20 million users.”

Enterprises have taken to the easy way in which digital content and printed materials can be built, using shared templates. But they also needed greater control to guide the workflow and ensure that all materials remained consistent.

“For larger enterprises, their priority is to remain on brand,” Perkins stated. “In creating designs across the organization, from sales and marketing teams to human resources, enterprises want to make sure they only use approved colors and designs.”

Perkins showed me how the controls work for an enterprise customer. Although I was asked not to disclose the company, I saw the administrator’s view for a global campaign. Designers within the organization can select from specific brand-approved colors and fonts on any project, while managers can control which aspects of a project can be accessed by others on the team. They can also assign roles and track the workflow, while also using a new comments section on the team dashboard to maintain communication with their colleagues. 

A future in real-time collaboration, finally 

Perkins told me, “Canva for Enterprise is empowering designers to use their superpowers across all company channels and social media.”

She shared with me what she sees from her unique vantage point in content and design as a growing area of collaboration in the future.

Users have built over 80 million presentations on her platform. These include internal PowerPoint-style presentations that businesses can use for fundraising initiatives, or that sales teams put together as pitch decks. Certainly, any company presentation – for internal use, but also especially those that are public-facing – should have consistent design markers and messaging. The biggest enterprises would depend on precise controls over these materials, but would also want to empower their teams to be able to create new iterations on-the-fly without the risk of careering off-brand.

Because of Canva’s access to so many visual designs and templates, users building out presentations on the platform can also avoid “death by Powerpoint,” which Perkins described as an overdependence on text and drab layout.

To be fluent in today’s world of real-time news and analytics, elements imported to presentations are also automatically updated. So, if users embed from YouTube, or include relevant tweets, the presentation’s audience can see the latest metrics on views, likes and retweets.

“Teams can collaborate and tap into the power of the Internet,” Perkins said.

The massive attention and financial gains that have come to Perkins’s idea seem meteoric, but they’ve arrived over the course of an 11-year journey from her first innovations in yearbook design. The jump from startup to unicorn might be assumed as accidental and sudden.

Yet, looking closer at the specific problems Canva solves, bringing simplicity to content creation at global scale, anybody can see that the simple outcomes were achieved by long, steady effort.

At first, I was surprised to hear a tech entrepreneur speak so directly, in 2019, about enabling collaboration over the Internet. This, after all, was precisely why the Internet was designed decades ago.

But achieving simplicity is a complicated, ongoing endeavor. And providing simple solutions, where the largest corporations can collaborate in real-time at all stages of a design project, continues to yield rewards for its talented developers and enthusiastic users. 

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