Start-up Canva senses success in online design


A SYDNEY start-up could do for graphic design what Apple did for mobile phones.

After a year-long slog, Canva will today lift the lid on its long-awaited online solution that promises to turn anyone into a designer.

Users can jump to to design flyers, birthday and business cards, Facebook covers, posters, info graphics and more instead of purchasing design software such as Adobe.

The work can be shared with others to allow for two-way online collaboration.

Instead of designing elements from scratch, the starting point is search. Pop in “travel icons” and images of aeroplanes, luggage and currency will be displayed. Once the image is selected, it is dragged on to a digital canvas on the screen. Fonts that match the layout are preselected but users can also choose their own text style. They can also import personal images from their mobile phones or laptops.

The end result is “published” or “exported” which means the design can be saved and used for web or print.

A designer can send a link to the finished product to a client for approval.

Changes can be made and both parties can collaborate without consuming much bandwidth emailing high-resolution images back and forth.

The design would be hosted on Canva’s secure server.

Canva is free to use and offers more than one million photos and graphic elements, including premium images which cost $1 for one-time use.

Payment is only required when the design is published or exported so users can dabble freely with different options during the design process.

Canva chief executive Melanie Perkins said photographers and designers from all over the world had been invited to contribute to its image library. They received a 35 per cent cut on every sale.

Twitter investor Bill Tai, who took a punt on Canva when it was still in the embryonic stage, believes the start-up can make a big impact on the global scene.

“Canva’s founders have had a bold and consistent vision to empower everyone to unlock their creativity by coupling a smooth and simple user experience on top of a powerful engine,” Mr Tai told The Australian.

“Apple did this with the smartphone and it greatly expanded the market.

“It’s been exciting to see the team deliver on their promise with great execution on the product.”

Another investor, Google Maps co-founder Lars Rasmussen, said Facebook and Twitter created a world where anyone could instantly share experiences with friends, but an online design tool “for us all to use is entirely lacking”.

“The design market is ripe for disruption and I believe Canva has the answer,” Mr Rasmussen said.

Ms Perkins said Canva had a simple mantra of “search, drag and publish”.

“There’s a huge gap in the market where there are no products that give people complete creative freedom that caters to those with low and moderate budgets in terms of money and time,” she said. “Designing at the moment is really, really difficult.”

When a fresh user starts using Canva they are presented with a quick how-to guide which takes less than 25 seconds to grasp.

Ms Perkins said Canva had “integrated the entire design ecosystem into one page so you can learn it very, very quickly”.

“One click and you can actually access all the design tools – stock photography, font, stock layout.

“We’ve cut out the images and added text placeholders so it can literally be dragged and dropped straight online.”

Ms Perkins, who runs a 12-person team in the trendy inner-city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, described the project an “extremely technically challenging and very complex”.

Canva has raised $3 million in seed funding from different investors including Commercialisation Australia, Matrix Partners, InterWest Partners, Blackbird Ventures, Seek co-founder Paul Bassat’s Square Peg Capital, Yahoo chief financial officer Ken Goldman and former CVC Asia-Pacific chief Adrian MacKenzie.

Ms Perkins said it had since received many offers from investors but the company’s wasn’t focused on funding.

“We really want to get Canva into lots of people’s hands and we want to be able to prove that we’re solving the problem, that we now know we have the product to solve (that problem),” she said.


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