During the Web Summit in Portugal I had the chance to meet and interview Melanie Perkins, the CEO of Canva. Her take on marketing and her business were very interesting. Here is a taste of what we talked about and the advice she gave me.
For those of you who don’t know what Canva is; It’s an online computer program that helps you create your own graphic designs. It is the perfect tool to help you create a professional looking presentation, social media posts, different marketing materials and a lot more.
At the moment Canva is most known for helping you make presentations. It will make your presentation more visual, content rich, more engaging and to sort of bring it into the 21st century.
Canva has 1,9 million designs created in total. Canva also offers the chance to embed Giphys, YouTube videos, tweets and so into your presentation. Canva is also often used for social media graphics, according to Melanie, you can actually see social media networks take off especially Instagram Stories with the help of Canva.
When asked: “what are the most important characteristics of good content?”, Melanie said: “The best way to make your content stand out, is to make a clear contrast between font, the words, titles and subtitles. It is not just high-quality design, the content you want to bring across needs to be clear and straight forward, try not to write too much text”. When making a presentation the main guidelines are:
- don’t put everything on 1 slide,
- use enough white space,
- not too much text.
- use more visuals,
- and only use max 10-20 words per slide.
One of the most exciting things about Canva is that anyone can make a good-looking design. Canva wanted to create the opportunity where you can make high quality templates, so that everyone in the company can use them. This way when anything needs to be changed, you don’t have to go back and start changing everything in your design. You can use the already indicated template, to then further your creation.
Canva is already a big success, but like every modern company they are trying to think of ways to improve. Their vision is to enable people to take an idea and turn that into the end design with zero friction between the two. There were so many people creating business cards and marketing material, that they wanted to finish that loop and enable people to print their material as well.
Canva also realised that people often share presentations and are not just presenting it in person. Today they are launching something called responsive presentations. This enables people to view presentations perfectly on their mobile or on a big screen, or any other screen and it will still look good. You can all so share the link of your presentation on any media platform.
With this new project Canva really want people to be able to design amazing things and to get to their end point as quickly as possible, without having to press too many buttons. The bonus here is on top of everything you don’t have to install any software on your computer to do so.
In 2016 the computer program had 20 languages and then in 2017 they launched 100 languages. Canva noticed that there is a digital divide in the world. The internet is only in a few languages, which means that the people who don’t speak those languages don’t have access to the internet or the information or services. By launching a 100 different languages Canva is trying to solve that problem, to the extent that last year they tackled some really hard languages. They launched in China, and in right to left reading languages, like Arabic and Hebrew. Canva is working on bringing all these languages to the mobile world too.
This year they also focussed on making sure that everyone has a likewise currency, likewise billing, likewise fonts, likewise templates. Canva really wants people from around the globe to have a likewise experience. Melanie is very passionate about this and feels it is a part of Canva’s mission of empowerment in the world of design. This is a big part of what Canva stands for, solving the digital divide is a part of their philosophy.
Being based in Australia, it is a company of mixed cultures and people. At the moment they have 700 employees, where 450 people working in Sydney Australia, they also have an office in the Philippines, Beijing and a few people in the U.S.
Melanie has managed to find a way to embrace everyone’s culture and even with such a massive amount of people keep a feeling of togetherness within the company. When asking her how she does this, she explains what the company values are.
Canva has 5 values:
- Set crazy big goals and make them happen.
- Pursue excellence.
- Be a force for good.
- Empower others and be a good human.
- Make complex things simple.
You can probably see how “make complex things simple” is embodied through their culture and their product. But it has also been embodied in how they communicate throughout the company.
Set crazy big goals and make them happen, that’s embedding how Canva set out as a company, but it’s also something that they do on a really regular basis. Canva sets goals every 3 months and then they have a celebration each time they achieve them. They celebrate by doing something silly, like releasing doves and they had a little Holy festival where they would throw ink at each other, or a tortilla festival where they learn Spanish. Canva does this so that the focus on achieving the goals as a team. Another thing Canva does to keep the team spirt alive is that they always have lunch together as a team. Melanie said, “I think we have an atypical emphasis on collaboration, because there is so much we have to achieve together. I think that’s a really important part of our culture”.
If there is one thing Melanie would be quoted on, it would be: “You can only grow as big as your dreams.” Melanie really believes that it’s so important to spend a lot of time dreaming about the future you want to create. This is because all the philosophies, visions and culture already start getting formed and relied upon in the early stages of your company, so it is really important to get a clear picture of what you want your company’s future to look like. Melanie also believes that you shouldn’t worry about the fact that you are trying to create this “big thing”, you need to take it of small step at a time. This give you more confidence to take the next step.