AWS Startups Blog

Canva CEO Melanie Perkins on the Future of Design

Canva's Publish page

For many years, anyone interested in graphic design was largely dependent on expensive software that was largely geared toward professionals. Budding artists who wanted to design had to first invest in the right desktop computer, install a design software, study how to use it, purchase elements, spend a lot of time getting feedback for editing, and finally, if needed, create a print ready file for professional hard copies, notes Canva CEO Melanie Perkins. “It was a lot of work!”

Looking to democratize design for everyone, Perkins co-founded Canva in 2014 to reimagine design for the Internet age. “We’ve had a very strong focus on ensuring it’s accessible to everyone—regardless of your level of design experience, the language you speak, your income or the device you use,” she says. “So whether you’re a teacher, a student, an entrepreneur, a nonprofit organization or a Fortune 500 company, Canva gives everyone the ability to create beautiful designs and publish them anywhere. Just recently we heard from one of our users who created an animated design for a digital billboard—without any graphic design experience!”

We recently caught up with Perkins to talk design.

Have you seen a shift in how aesthetics have changed among designers with new tools like yours? What are some examples? 

Across the globe, there has been a strong trend towards visual communication. We’re seeing this across almost every industry—people in sales used to create text-heavy letters and now are often expected to create custom visual pitch decks. Journalists are often expected to create graphics to illustrate their stories and marketers are often expected to be able to create great graphics for social media. Even in schools, we are seeing a trend towards visual communication. The rise of Canva over the last few years has certainly been assisted by this strong trend towards visuals.

Are these trends local or global?

Canva is now used in 190 countries. While there’s the obvious language translation that’s been required, it’s also been essential to source fonts for each language and to create templates for each market. At Canva, we have conducted a lot of research into the design aesthetic of many countries and have deliberately created localized templates for various festivities and celebrations. For example, in the United States there is Halloween, but in Germany, our design community would seek out Oktoberfest templates.

How do successful designers differentiate themselves?

Design has always been about a lot more than the way something looks, it’s about helping you to achieve your goals. Through Canva’s platform—we’ve seen a Sheriff using Canva to create ‘Wanted’ posters and catch criminals—we’ve seen a design that helped someone find her birth mother, we’ve seen people land a job creating a great resume, thousands of small businesses getting their idea off the ground. Successful design is about so much more than just the aesthetic, it’s about being able to help you to achieve your goals.

What can’t technology do when it comes to creating art?

Canva is a tool that makes it simple to take your ideas and turn them into a great looking design. But that, of course, requires you to have those great ideas yourself and then to be able to distill them down into the simplest form so they can be effectively communicated.

What hurdles still need to be overcome?

We’ve only achieved 1 percent of what we believe is possible. There’s still so much we need to do to fulfill our vision of empowering the whole world to design. So whilst we have more than 10 million users, there are more than three billion internet users worldwide so we still have a very long way to go!

Canva is an AWS Hot Startup! To learn more read our AWS Hot Startups blog post.

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung currently works in startup content at AWS and was previously the head of content at Index Ventures. Prior to joining the corporate world, Michelle was a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, the founding Business Editor at the Huffington Post, a correspondent for The Boston Globe, a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and a writer at Entertainment Weekly.