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Are your designs suffering because of not using Canva?


Canva for graphic design

While this premise is obviously setting me up to say yes, I want to be perfectly clear: Canva is primarily a tool for NON-designers. Small business owners and the like who don’t have the budget to hire a professional designer but still want to use graphics that are better than Microsoft Print. It’s not a professional design tool (watch Michelle Mozes talk about this topic) and lacks the features, capabilities, and customization of Adobe software. And, despite what their tagline might say, design is not easy.


However.


There are uses for Canva that make it a valuable tool, even for professional designers. While this may be an unpopular opinion, here are some of the details laid out below to help you make your own informed decision.



Pros of Using Canva

animation settings in Canva

Animation


Canva’s animation features include a wide variety of easy-to-use options with decent flexibility, especially if you use them creatively to create the effect you want. These are great for banner ads, email banners, Instagram reels, website banners (like for fundraisers), etc.


Now you don’t have to learn a new, complex program such as After Effects in order to create respectable animations. And you can gratefully (and good riddance!) wave goodbye to spending hours creating frame animations in Photoshop.


resizing in Canva

Resizing


Canva has a quick smart-resize function (similar to InDesign’s) that will create a copy of your file at your specified new dimensions while attempting to resize the content in the current design to fit. This is particularly useful for the animated banner ads above, as well as going from social post to story size (or if you misread the dimensions and need to do a quick tweak).


Used to be, you had to spend at least 30 minutes on each animated banner ad resize. Canva’s resizing isn’t perfect, but it shortens the process from 30 minutes to just 5!


sharing collaborative files with Canva

Editable by the client (or even your pm/copywriter)


Anyone else on the team can make small text edits for you. This leaves you with more time to focus on providing higher-level design value such as the initial creative ideas, branding, and layouts. (This can create a certain amount of risk, which we'll discuss below).


It works the same way as with email editors like Constant Contact where the copywriter can go into the body of the email to make their text edits directly, without taking time away from the designer.


This also makes Canva a great platform for creating design templates for clients who don't have the means to pay for ongoing retainer design or as an upsell to one of your standard packages.


So, for example, if you offer a branding package, you can upsell your client to Instagram/WhatsApp posts and story design templates matching their branding. They get more concrete value out of the somewhat-abstract brand guide, and you get to know that the beautiful branding you made for them will be followed through with a well-designed social feed. Plus the satisfaction of setting them up for success!


And, on the client’s end, they receive the feeling of trust that their designer understands them and is looking out for what they truly need.



Cons of Using Canva

typography kerning and leading options in Canva

Unsophisticated work environment


Canva is not a professional design tool and is therefore missing many core functions of Adobe software that designers need to produce unique work.


This makes it hard to ideate or have full creative control when you’re just starting and playing around with a design. Therefore, Canva is better for creating simpler supporting assets once the brand and design elements have been finalized.


Canva’s lack of pro functionality also makes print assets look unpolished.


For example, you can’t:

  • control the bullet indentations

  • create a text wrap

  • create a custom bounding box

  • add paragraph spacing

  • add auto page numbering

  • make pixel-perfect nudges

  • etc.

For this reason, among others, Canva is better for creating social and digital assets than print materials.


creating a copy of your Canva file

Editable by the client


It’s great that others can do minor edits for you.


BUT.


Giving control of a design into a non-designer’s hands will always come with a measure of risk.


They can easily mess up your design without even realizing it - and then send it out into the world for all to see and judge. Or, hopefully they realize that it no longer looks good, and then they come back to you to redo it.


Therefore, pro tip (learned the hard way!): always duplicate a final design/Canva file before sending an editable link to a client. This way you have a backup in case they need you to redo it.


 

With all this being said, how can you work with Canva in a way that takes advantage of its strong points without falling to its shortcomings?


A good process for working with Canva

  1. Create the branding in Adobe software - fonts, colors, illustrations/icons/imagery, etc. This way you have full creative control to experiment and customize as needed.

  2. Create a Brand Kit in Canva to have easy access to your brand elements and keep things (like fonts and colors) consistent without constantly having to check back into InDesign for your hex codes

    1. Export all imagery, logo files, and design elements as PNGs

    2. Create a Brand Kit, importing all of your branding, fonts, colors, etc.

  3. Design social and digital assets in Canva. For more complex layouts, custom masking, etc. design first in InDesign and then export the individual elements and recreate the design in Canva.

    1. Pro tip: keep as many design elements "live" within Canva as possible, that way you (or your client) will be able to edit them in the future without having to constantly switch between programs. Elements such as text, basic shapes, lines, etc. can be created within Canva, keeping them editable.

  4. Add animations, if needed, in Canva

  5. Download!

    1. Pro tip: With a Pro account you can download your file at multiple proportionate sizes, ie. 300x200, 600x400, etc. so you can get a higher resolution output than you designed in.


Canva is simply a tool like any other. And we use any tool in our arsenal to create the best work for our clients in a way that works best for us.


 

Additional reading on this topic:

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