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.
This post just spoke out my thoughts on this topic.
The way people underrate that software is just too much.
The post is long but it’s worth the time, thanks for sharing this.
I also have a Marketing background and a business degree so I know about company brand and how we must stay on brand so that it’s recognizable. This was taught in one of the Marketing classes I was required to take for my Bachelor of Business degree. As a business person, you need to know about the importance of company image and brand. Therefore, this is not only taught to designers, Marketers and other creatives understand it as well.
I am a professional graphic designer and have been in the industry for 40 years. I have seen word processing come and go as well as many other programs that take work away from graphic designers. However, work always comes back around because when it is done by amateurs, you can tell. There is no finesse. I have seen an upscale of ads provided to the newspaper I work for being done by everyday people with Canva. Same thing happened with word processing. When they are next to an ad I have done, it shows. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. We provide free graphic design with our ads but some people just want control. That control could cost them customers when the competition uses professionals.
Thanks for the great points, Karen, especially “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should” and “That control could cost them customers when the competition uses professionals.” Definitely!
In recent years, online design tools like Canva have gained immense popularity. This is because they make the design process simple and easy to use for anyone, regardless of their design experience. While some designers may feel threatened by the rise in popularity of these tools, they should instead embrace them.
Thanks for weighing in. I don’t know that design tools like Canva actually change the design process, just the execution of the work.
I definitely agree with you. I love Canva and I don’t think it is a threat as well. I think that this is even something that could help graphic designers. It’s a a tool that could make their lives easier. For those people who wants to pursue graphic design as a career, do you think Canva is a good tool for them to learn?
Thanks for your thoughts. I think it’s good to learn different software, but those are just tools. They won’t give you the skills you need, and tools may change over time with technology. It’s vital to learn good typography practices, color theory, etc.
Canva is a definitely a threat. I’ve been a professional designer since 1997 when I was still a senior in high school. I work for a small print shop that does lots of different jobs. Big and small. Large format is now becoming huge in our industry. Canva made logo’s do NOT work for large format.
The amount of actual design jobs I get has waned tremendously. I am basically taking everyone’s home-made Canva designs and printing them. The margins are horrible. The resolutions are horrible. Not to mention everyone uses A4 paper size for there letterheads and where I live we use 8.5 x 11. That’s not the only European size i get either. It is almost always wrong and by far an amateur design.
But it’s free and customers think this is the only thing that matters. Trust me when I say it doesn’t matter at all. How will people take you seriously as a professional if everything you create has an amateur look and low-res graphics.
In conclusion, it is for sure taking away from my income and making my customers look worse in return. But just because they figured out how to do it themselves they think it is the most wonderful design and I can’t talk them down.
Hi, Brentalonious. Sounds like Canva isn’t necessarily a threat then. You’re still having to redo work because what’s been prepared isn’t sufficient for printing.
Show them the problems with Canva but also what it is OK to be used for.
If you’re also freelancing and don’t want DIY clients, you need to attract different ones who value the design work.
I love Canva, and I don’t see it as a threat at all! No, it will never replace my beloved Adobe Illustrator – or me, for that matter – that isn’t what it’s for.
What I love is exactly what you say above, the easy access for clients. I design social media templates for them and it’s a huge win/win – I don’t WANT to do all of their ongoing social post design. My time is limited and expensive, and they’re better off handing that off to their VA.
And, that doesn’t mean it’s a one-and-done, either – I also offer a retainer service so they don’t have to be the ones looking over every graphic their team builds with the templates – I serve as art director to keep the brand looking great and free up the business owner from having to approve every design.
That’s awesome, Tracy! Thanks for sharing that. Great points! 🙂
I’m a production designer and work extensively with very complete and detailed company brand guidelines. I have a question and a comment:
1. Do non-designers understand their companies may have brand guidelines that should be followed? If so, I think it’s hard for them to follow, being as you say, they are not a designer.
2. I just started working with a company who eventually will want some of their pieces editable in Canva, so I guess I better start learning it! I’ve only been the Canva home page once to glance at it. Where’s the best place for a designer to go to start learning it?
Thanks for another great podcast!
Thanks so much, Rebecca! 🙂
To answer your questions:
1. Yes, many may be aware their company has brand guidelines, but: Do they pay attention to them? Do they remember they exist? Do they understand them? How specific are the guidelines? Maybe they leave too much leeway for them to deviate because something isn’t addressed.
I think those all play a factor in whether or not the guidelines are adhered to and adhered to well.
I have clients we’ve created brand guidelines for, even a website guide for, and they don’t pay attention to them. It can be a challenge.
2. If you’re already using the typical design software, you will pick up Canva very easily. I found it very intuitive.
There are a lot of tutorials on YouTube, and Michael Roach Creative does some Canva workshops from time to time.
It’s not hard to follow directions. Most people (designers or not) can do that. As a copywriter and someone whose done basic designs (flyers, page-layouts etc.), we have brand guidelines that we follow and I’ve never had trouble following directions.
Actually I’ve received business BECAUSE of Canva…clients frustrated with learning software, not looking professional, etc. or simply the client does not have the experience/knowledge to make it look professional without using overused template. There is a place for it and you hit on it in the podcast.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Teri! That’s great to hear. 🙂