How Canva has brought our team together

There is a common trend on marketing teams where there seems to be an endless need for design assets and very little time to complete them. Much of this is due to the fast paced world we live in. Figuring out a way to manage this reality was what our team set out to do.

On our team at AWeber the biggest area where this became a concern was with our blog and social media posts. We have a team of writers that pump out lots of valuable content that needs to get promoted — that way you can find it and read it. For promotion we create an image for the blog post, an image for social posts, and an image for the weekly blog digest email.

These images are all similar but vary in their purpose so both their size and content need to be altered for each application. One day it dawned on me that this process could be smoother and that if we figured out a good solution it would serve three purposes:

  1. Enable our writers with tools to have control over the visuals that accompany their writing
  2. Reduce the amount of back and forth needed between content and design
  3. Create a way to easily maintain a consistent visual brand identity

Enter Canva.com

I’ll admit, this was my idea, but I was skeptical. I didn’t know how the team would respond and I wasn’t quite ready to relinquish visual control of these assets. However, when I started to play around in Canva I was blown away by its power and ease of use.

Phase 1

To kick things off I created a single template for social posts and one for blog featured images. I figured we could test at this scale first because I wasn’t sure if it would be a successful experiment. For imagery we turned to 3 free resources: unsplash.com (of which I have contributed some of my own photos), pexels.com, and stocksnap.io.

Basic template

Some considerations when creating this first template were:

  • Will the design be flexible enough to handle a variety of title lengths?
  • Is the photo area large enough to provide a window that will fit a variety of images?
  • Is this something that could be created in less than 10 minutes?

Guess what, IT WORKED!! The writers jumped right in and started creating these with ease. Not only did it enable our team to not have to rely on design, the social posts started getting more engagement as well.

This was so encouraging for me and our whole team had the opportunity to gain some insight into how we each think. Seeing what picture each individual chooses for their post is always exciting for me.

Since this was an experiment I didn’t really have a plan for if it worked. The images brought some consistency to our growing our visual brand vocabulary , but our social feeds started to get stale with many of the same template being seen over and over again. This was an awesome problem to have but one that needed to be addressed. Enter phase 2.

Phase 2

I went back to the Canva template drawing board, and with input from the team I developed more templates: 4 for blog posts, 1 for our weekly twitter chat, 1 for case studies, 1 for our podcast, 1 for webinars, 1 for integration partners, and 1 for guest posts.

Having this suite has allowed our social channels to stay fresh and added a greater variety for our team to play with. One of the best parts was in our meeting about phase two, the writers were the ones asking me for more options and giving suggestions on what they should be.

Letting go

For me this was an exercise in restraint. As many designers do, I hold design and details to a very high standard. Releasing control may seem like a small thing to many, but for me it was quite difficult.

What had the biggest impact on me was an analogy I have come to love and share often. In the Australian outback, cattle farmers know that it is impractical to build fences around the vast amount of property they own. Instead they dig wells where they know the cattle will stay near to because water is their source of life. What we have built here (and are continuing to build at AWeber) are wells.

There have been many instances where I’ve looked at an image created by our team and think “oh I would have done this -or- I wouldn’t have chosen that combo”. But when I step back and assess how little those details matter compared to what we were able to accomplish with this exercise I realize there is something magical about letting go.

We are now more nimble, the team feels empowered, and designers have additional time to ship really innovative experiences that take focused energy. The decreased context switching has set us all up to think bigger and our visual brand assets don’t have to suffer.