Design Domination Podcast Episode #174: Canva Acquires Affinity: What It Means for Designers

The news of Canva buying Affinity and its parent company Serif has shocked and outraged designers worldwide. Find out more about the Affinity acquisition and what it means for designers.

I wanted to talk about the latest news in the creative industry, which is quite shocking.

Canva and Serif’s Announcement

Just off the heels of the Adobe-Figma merger being stopped, we have another big acquisition in the industry. But this one happened out of nowhere—and fast.

That is: Canva acquired Serif, a U.K. company and the creator of the Affinity software. This happened on March 26, 2024.

Serif says on their website:

We have to say that selling Serif was not on our minds at all, but when Canva contacted us (only a couple of months ago!) there was something about it which just felt right.

Like I said, it happened fast.

Serif will now be a division of Canva Inc.

About Serif

The Affinity products are owned—were owned—by Serif, an independent company that was founded in 1987 and released the first Affinity product in 2014.

Affinity software has products that compete with Adobe in terms of page layout, photo editing and illustration. Affinity Publisher (not to be confused with Microsoft Publisher! Ick!) is similar to Adobe InDesign, Affinity Photo is similar to Adobe Photoshop, and Affinity Designer is similar to Adobe Illustrator.

But the apps are not as bloated (or buggy) as Adobe apps.

I did a comparison of Affinity Publisher versus Adobe InDesign in episode 106. I need to update that though, because Affinity Publisher has added some features since then. So it’s no longer a totally accurate post.

Affinity apps are used by 3 million designers. They are especially popular because they aren’t on a subscription model, like Adobe has had for years. I mean, you can buy each Affinity app for $49 USD or $115 for all three! You just can’t beat that!

About Canva

Canva Inc. is an Australian company that’s been around since 2013.

Canva is used by 175 million people. Much to many designers’ dismay, it’s used by mostly non-designers. But many designers use it as well, especially when working in teams.

Affinity apps, on the other hand, have always been specifically geared toward professional designers and some hobbyist designers.

Canva has, in the past, acquired Flourish, Kaleido, SmartMockups, Pexels, Pixabay and SlidesCarnival.

I am not familiar with all of them. But I didn’t know that about SmartMockups, Pexels and Pixabay. Did you?

I mean, I know that the stock images are integrated into Canva, but I didn’t know they had acquired them. I was surprised they had acquired SmartMockups too.

Why Serif Decided to Sell Affinity to Canva

So why did Serif decide to sell Affinity to Canva anyway, especially when they tweeted in September 2022:

Ain’t nobody acquiring us 😎

— Affinity (@affinitybyserif) September 16, 2022

Designers are calling them out on that. But, hey, it’s not like they could have predicted the future or aren’t allowed to change their minds!

Serif said it felt like a “great fit”:

Product-wise it is a great fit as Canva do not have professional design tools as part of their offering, and we do not have any cloud or collaboration as part of ours.

They also went on to say that they think that together they will be able to create the world’s most comprehensive visual communications offering and that they have the same mission and vision that design shouldn’t be limited to those who can afford complex software.

That’s a dig at Adobe.

They think that the acquisition will accelerate this vision.

Affinity and Canva Pledge

They also issued an Affinity and Canva Pledge, which talks about four key points:

  1. Fair pricing,
  2. Accelerating Affinity,
  3. Accessible for all,
  4. Community led.

Fair pricing

As to “fair pricing,” Affinity says on its website:

We are committed to fair, transparent and affordable pricing, including the perpetual licenses that have made Affinity special.

Accelerating Affinity

As for “accelerating Affinity,” they say:

We will double down on expanding Affinity’s products through continued investment in Affinity as a standalone product suite.

Accessible for all

As for “accessible for all,” they say they will provide Affinity software free to schools and nonprofits.

They aren’t saying “accessible” in terms of “accessible to people with disabilities,” although Affinity Publisher recently got some accessibility features, which is exciting. If they continue with that and make it really good, then people could ditch InDesign.

Community led

As to “community led,” they say:

We are committed to listening and being led by the design community at every step in this journey.

What Will the Affinity Acquisition Mean for Designers?

What will the Affinity acquisition really mean for designers, you might be wondering. It will definitely be interesting to see how things play out for a few reasons.

1. Pricing Model

The pricing model is on a lot of designers’ minds.

Will we eventually see a subscription model for Affinity in the future? Many graphic designers suspect that Affinity will eventually move to a subscription-based model, just like every other company has gotten on board with.

They say if they do go that route, it will only ever be as an option alongside perpetual licenses.

We’ll see about that. Time will tell!

Maybe they would offer certain features through updates as part of a monthly fee or something. But that perceptual license has always been a huge selling point for their software, so I don’t see why most designers would be choose a subscription option.

2. Accessibility

Another thing to think about is accessibility in terms of people with disabilities.

Not long ago, Serif incorporated accessibility features into Affinity Publisher.

Canva, on the other hand, is notorious for exporting inaccessible PDFs—PDFs that need a ton of remediation to make them accessible.

So could this potentially mean that Canva will be made more accessible?

That would be great for a lot of designers and non-designers who are creating documents, like brochures, inside of Canva instead of using InDesign, which is way more meant for the job than Canva. I mean, if you had to dig a hole, wouldn’t you use a shovel, not a spoon?

So, anyway, I personally am curious if Canva is interested in making the output of the designs more accessible. So we’ll see about that.

3. Competition

Another point is competition. Will this acquisition possibly make it easier for the Affinity suite to compete with Adobe software?

Maybe this will be helpful in a financial or development way for the Affinity suite.

Serif said in their announcement that this acquisition will help them “take Affinity to new levels” and

Their [Canva’s] extra resources will mean we can deliver much more, much faster. Beyond that, we can forge new horizons for Affinity products, opening up a world of possibilities which previously would never have been achievable.

4. New opportunities for designers

This could mean a ton of new opportunities for designers.

They also said:

We’re looking forward to accelerating the rollout of highly requested features such as variable font support, blend and width tools, auto object selection, multi-page spreads, ePub export and much more.

These additions will further cement Affinity as the best advanced design suite on the market and will be released over the coming year as free updates to V2.

They also mentioned a possible future integration between Canva and Affinity products. I was actually wondering that myself before I am across them mentioning it.

I was thinking it might be like what InCopy does with InDesign. It also reminds me of Dreamweaver templates from back in the day and being able to lock clients out of the code, but you could still edit the code in Dreamweaver.

It sounds like what they’re planning could be similar, because they also said:

Creative and brand management teams need professional tools to create and edit assets, images, icons, logos and other elements—and Affinity apps are the perfect choice for that.

Being able to quickly sync those assets to Canva for the wider organisation to easily use within their documents, presentations, whiteboards and other visual communication materials would make a lot of sense.

That sounds really interesting. I am sure many designers would find that to be very useful.

They also said they don’t have a specific plan for this but that they want to offer a way for users to easily sync Affinity files and assets to different devices and to share and collaborate with Affinity files. They attribute this being a possibility because of Canva’s platform.

What Designers Think About Canva Buying Affinity

But from what designers have been saying online, most do not seem to be happy about this news.

Designers in my Design Domination Facebook group and elsewhere are saying that mergers like this never benefit the end user, only the companies involved. Yeah, that’s typically been the case.

Most designers, myself included, suspect that Affinity will eventually move to the subscription-based model.

I thought this comment under Canva’s announcement about it on Twitter seemed to sum up a lot of designers’ feelings:

Many designers also feel very strongly that “real designers” don’t use Canva. I talked about why designers should embrace Canva, not hate it, in episode 117. So I wonder if some designers think this gives Affinity a bad look now.

What say you? How do you feel about this? What do you think it means for Canva and for Affinity software?

Let me know in a comment.

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