Canva, a web app that wants to make graphic design super easy, launches today


canva-200x200The creative industry is undergoing a revolution of sorts as startups are creating all kinds of apps that democratize what once were exclusive and expensive tools of the trade.

Instagram, which lets users apply all kinds of photo filters at a press of a button, is just the beginning. There’s Narrative Science, which crafts grammar-perfect articles from data; Knack, which lets users create web apps without needing to code, and Piktochart, which simplifies the creation of infographics.

But for straight-up graphic design, there aren’t a lot of tools out there with the democratizing potential of Instagram.

Canva is a candidate. Launched for users in United States and Australia that are on the waiting list, the web app aims to make graphic design dead simple. While Photoshop is expensive, complicated, and has a steep learning curve, Canva is supposed to be free, simple, and easy to learn.

It is created by an Australian startup of the same name. Back in March, it announced a USD 3M fundraising round involving prominent Australian and US investors like Matrix Partners, InterWest Partners, 500 Startups, Facebook’s director of engineering Lars Rasmussen, and Yahoo! CFO Ken Goldman.

After being in development for the past year, the app is finally being unveiled to early adopters.

Upon logging in, I was directed to a home screen with a set of predefined canvas sizes which matches the dimensions of a Facebook profile cover, A4 document, or presentation. Users can select custom dimensions as well.

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Picking any one of the preset dimensions would bring me to the design page, where I can pick from a number of possible designs. To use a particular template, I’ll just need to drag and drop it onto the canvas.

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The app makes using stock images easy. Canva has a searchable library of premium images which cost $1 each per design use — much cheaper than what many stock photography sites are offering. In total, users can pick from one million images and hundreds of fonts. I also have the option of selecting images from my computer or Facebook account.

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I’d certainly like to share more about my experiences, but many of the app’s features doesn’t seem to be working in my case (other users appear to have no issues though). I was told the engineers are pushing a bunch of tweaks, so I’ll update this article when the app is fixed.

In any case, Canva holds a lot of promise in giving everyone access to cheap yet sophisticated-looking layouts. But I doubt such tools will entirely displace the profession anytime soon.  In fact, it could help designers work more productively and act as another monetization channel since the platform enables creative professionals to share their layout and photos with others.

While there’s been a lot of hype about how apps like Instagram are replacing professional photographers, the creative industry ultimately involves aesthetic taste, an eye for good visuals, and creative spark.

That won’t be as easily replicated.

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