With the mission to get into every workplace across the globe, Canva acquired the exact brand match domain name Canva.com in 2012, as soon as the name was changed from Canvas Chef to Canva. Today more than 40 million people log in to use Canva each month, spanning across 193 countries. In this interview, we talk with Liz Mckenzie, Head of PR and Communications at Canva, about this amazing web-based design app and how everything started.
What is the story behind Canva as a product?
The Canva journey began back in 2007 when Melanie Perkins was studying at the University of Western Australia. Melanie tutored other students on how to use traditional design programs such as InDesign and Photoshop, but they found the software hard to learn and use. That was when she knew that the future of design was going to need to be online, collaborative, and very simple to use.
With few resources and little business experience behind her, Melanie and her partner Cliff Obrecht founded an online school yearbook design business, Fusion Books, to test out the idea. They launched a website that lets students collaborate and design their own yearbooks online. They started out niche to prove that their new approach to design was possible and needed. After it kept growing for a few years they decided to broaden it out and tackle the whole design space and launched Canva to the world in 2013.
Canva reimagines design for the Internet age. We integrate all the professional design elements, including stock photography, graphic elements, and fonts so you can design anything from posters, Tshirts to videos. You can start with thousands of beautiful layouts, or build your own designs from scratch. Because it’s online, it’s also collaborative. That means you can easily work with clients or colleagues on designs, without needing to email countless changes back-and-forth.
Today more than 40 million people log in to use Canva each month, spanning across 193 countries. Canva is now valued at US$6 billion.
How was the brand name “Canva” chosen and why?
The business was initially called Canvas Chef, to show how the software could offer all the ingredients needed (fonts, illustrations, photos) to design anything — be it a flyer, business card, or restaurant menu. This eventually fell out of favor with the co-founders, so when looking for a new name, one of the team’s engineers explained that “canvas” was pronounced “can-va” in French, and the rest is history.
Who is your target customer and how is your brand name helping in reaching them?
The need for design is universal, from students creating videos to job seekers designing resumes, entrepreneurs creating pitch decks, business owners designing flyers, and nonprofits creating fundraising campaigns. Canva has scaled rapidly, and won’t be slowing down any time soon. There are lots of factors involved in scaling a business and the most fundamental is solving a genuine problem a lot of people struggle with. For too long, graphic design was too complex and expensive for most people, even though almost every profession benefits from beautiful designs. So when we launched Canva, there were already millions of people who needed a tool just like it, so word of mouth spread like wildfire.
Our brand values intentionally communicate a sense of openness, to show how Canva can help anyone bring their vision into reality. We have the opportunity to reimagine productivity tools from the ground up to cater to what everyone needs today, and the ability to communicate your ideas visually has never been more important. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the superpowers of being able to design — it’s wonderfully human, empowering, and inspiring.