Graphic designers love or hate Canva. Does Canva hurt the design industry? Is Canva a threat to graphic designers? Will you lose work? Can designers leverage Canva as an opportunity to get more work? Here's why designers should embrace, not hate, Canva.
In this episode of Design Domination, I’m talking about something that seems to be a controversial topic to graphic designers, and that is Canva. Stick around as I give you my take on why designers should embrace, not hate, Canva, and ask: Is Canva a threat to graphic designers, or can designers leverage Canva as an opportunity?
A few months ago in the Design Domination Facebook group, I posted a funny Canva meme with pics of a graphic designer and a client talking.
The designer in the meme says, “I’m a graphic designer.” The client asks, “What software do you use?” The designer replies “Canva.” The last image shows the designer being held back by men in suits.
So I asked about Canva in the group. It sparked a really interesting conversation, which inspired me to talk about this.
I’ve seen designers all over say things like:
- “You can tell when something’s been designed in Canva.”
- “Canva designers are not real designers.”
- “Canva is a design tool that has its place.”
- “It can make non-designers think that design is easy.”
- “I will lose work because clients will use Canva.”
It’s clearly a polarizing topic! Designers seem to be on one side of the fence or the other about Canva, nothing in between.
Is Canva a Threat to Graphic Designers?
Is Canva a threat to graphic designers? Does Canva replace the need for graphic designers?
I’ve heard graphic designers say that they fear they will have trouble getting design work because of Canva, since it allows clients to create designs themselves. To add insult to injury, it even has a free plan and it’s easy to use, so it’s very popular with non-designers.
I hear ya. I see where you’re coming from if you have this concern.
But how about we think about it another way? Does using a spreadsheet suddenly make you an accountant? Does knowing how to use a hammer make you a carpenter?
And you know why? Because those are tools to get the job done.
But tools alone do not instill in someone the expertise they need to have to do a particular job properly.
You may use a spreadsheet to keep track of expenses and income. It doesn’t suddenly give you additional information about tax laws and write-offs to save you money.
You may use a hammer and even have really good aim when it comes to hitting nails, but that doesn’t make you a carpenter.
There’s simply much more to it than that with both of these, right?
But even if we bring this back to design software… If someone uses Adobe Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator, Affinity Studio or Figma, does it make them a designer?
If they are a graphic designer using that software, does it make them a better designer? Are they now suddenly more creative? Definitely not!
Have we stopped seeing bad design because design software exists? Definitely not!
Good design comes from a good designer, not the tool.
I’ll even go so far as to say that I think our creativity can actually be limited by the software, like when we don’t know how to do something in the software, how to achieve a certain effect, especially when it comes to logo design. I think it’s better to do pencil sketches before touching the computer sometimes.
Will Graphic Designers Lose Work Because of Canva?
So will designers lose work because of Canva? Maybe, maybe not.
If clients want to go the DIY route, it’s often due to cost. Do you want to spend time estimating work you may not get?
Are you willing to lower your rate just to get the work?
I hope not!
Why Designers Shouldn’t Worry About Canva
Let’s put this into perspective. Here’s why designers shouldn’t worry about Canva.
Canva is not the first design app to come out for designers and non-designers.
In the 1980s, there was The Print Shop, a PC program. I was going to say it was for Windows, but when I used it, it was so long ago. It was before Windows. But get this: apparently it’s still around—and available on the Mac! Maybe it’s the same one. I don’t know.
Anyway, there’s also Microsoft Publisher and PowerPoint. (Yes, some clients do design things other than slides in PowerPoint.)
A lot of these programs have come with templates and clip art (that’s a phrase I have not uttered in a very long time).
There’s nothing new under the sun here.
If those clients don’t care about a custom design or if they think that design is easy, do you want to work with those types of clients? Do you want to be convincing them to work with you? It really doesn’t have to be like that.
If they can fulfill their needs by using a pre-existing template in Canva, who cares? If they don’t care if they use a pre-existing template that is overused, that’s not your problem.
It’s hard to convince clients they have a problem that they don’t think they have. Don’t care more than they do, and, if you do, I totally get it.
Your time is better spent on other clients with other types of projects or leveraging what you can do with Canva.
So why be scared of Canva? I hope these points alleviate your concerns about Canva, if you had any.
Why a Graphic Designer Should Use Canva
Now, having said all that, why should graphic designers use Canva? There are lots of reasons why designers should embrace, not hate, Canva and create opportunities with it instead.
Accessibility to Non-Designers
First off, Canva is accessible to non-designers. By the way, by “accessible” in this case, I don’t mean “accessibility,” like I normally talk about. I mean able to be accessed, used by.
Canva is definitely great for when a client needs to be able to edit something, especially frequently. Its interface is pretty intuitive, straightforward and easy to understand.
I am a designer and I have designers on my team, and we could use and used to use the InDesign templates I originally created and create new images from those files.
But my social media manager is not a designer and he doesn’t have a subscription to Adobe CC. He doesn’t need one either. That’s not his role. Canva lets him easily edit something we’ve already designed.
We even do all the custom-designed course completion certificates in Canva. Everything is set up and styled, and he just needs to go in and add the name, date and course. He doesn’t need to do anything else. It works great for this purpose.
Canva Design Services
Clients are often looking to get files they can edit without having to make a financial or time investment in understanding how to use the software. This actually gives designers a unique opportunity.
If clients already know they need a solution that needs to be easy to use by people with varying technical skills, and they’ve decided on Canva, why not fill that need?
You can market the design of Canva templates as a service you offer. There are so many opportunities:
- Social media images
- Website graphics
- E-mail newsletter header images
- Cover design
- Ad designs
- Flyer design
- Business cards
Obviously, it doesn’t work for everything. I mean, you wouldn’t want to use it to lay out a book in Canva. It’s not the right tool for that type of job.
But it doesn’t have to be that you design a template for them and you’re done. You could design things in Canva and still continue doing design work for them in Canva. Maybe you have an arrangement where you do monthly or quarterly design work for them.
Social media images may be even more frequent. You could design the overall look of them in Canva, but each post may still require additional design work.
Just because it’s set up in Canva doesn’t have to mean it’s one and done and there’s no need for you to step in and provide guidance as a designer anymore.
Inspiration From Canva Templates
On another note, I’ve heard from some designers that they get inspiration from looking at the Canva templates.
One of my designers said she finds that she is even more creative using Canva than she is using Photoshop because Canva has more limited features than Photoshop.
Cons of Using Canva
That brings me to another point.
Canva doesn’t replace more robust, professional image editing software. It doesn’t give you the option to create a clipping mask, for instance. It’s not Photoshop, and it’s not meant to be.
It’s also an online service. If you can’t connect to the internet, you can’t access it.
I hope that I’ve helped you see how Canva isn’t a threat and is just another tool.
Focus on what you offer that goes beyond that. Your talent is more important.
Weigh in: what’s your opinion of Canva? I want to hear.
Do you think graphic designers should feel threatened by Canva? Does Canva replace the need for a graphic designer?
Do you use Canva? How do you feel about it?
Let me know in a comment here or in the Design Domination Facebook group, or send me an email.