Main content

Canva steps up its enterprise push with new products and UX - and a teamwork play

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright May 29, 2024
Fast-growing visual design vendor Canva unveiled a strong enterprise pitch at its US event last week, with a mission to unify enterprise communications and teamwork on its platform.

Canva's three co-founders on stage at the Canva Create event
Canva's co-founders at Canva Create (Canva)

Fast-growing visual design vendor Canva rolled out the latest phase in its enterprise push with the launch of new products and an updated user experience at its flagship Canva Create event in Los Angeles last week. Enterprise-friendly features include a dedicated Canva Enterprise offering with enhanced security and admin features, integration to business data sources such as Salesforce, tailor-made tools and templates for marketing, HR, sales, and creative teams, and improved support for collaborative editing.

The offering is pitched at all kinds of knowledge workers, not just those in creative and marketing roles. Canva believes that a growing demand for visual content in enterprise communications will encourage organizations to adopt its platform for everyday content creation, replacing the traditional document-centric tools they currently use. Duncan Clark, Canva's Head of Europe, tells us:

Whether you are a salesperson making a pitch, or a marketing person making a campaign, or you're an HR person explaining how the organization works to your colleagues, everyone expects you to communicate visually. However, to do that inside of an organization is a very fragmented and confusing experience. Even just the different tools that are used for different parts of the design journey inside enterprises adds a lot of expense and a lot of headaches in terms of training and onboarding your staff... We're also seeing enterprises struggling with fragmentation around AI and around workflow tools.

Just to get your day-to-day work done inside a company these days, you're often working with dozens of different tools, all of which have their own price, all of which have their own user experience, and not all will be interoperable. What we're trying to do is to remove all that fragmentation and create a single, unified experience that allows anyone in any part of the organization to create visual content quickly and efficiently.

FedEx, with more than 5,000 users on Canva across marketing, HR and communications, is one of a growing cadre of enterprise customers. Others include Expedia, which saved 160 design hours per week having rolled out a new system for design creation, and Salesforce, which after using Canva to unify its global branding saw a two-thirds reduction in the cost of creating each design. Although the bulk of Canva's 185 million monthly active users and more than $2.3 billion in annualized revenue comes from individual accounts, having first launched a business suite eighteen months ago the company now has more than 130,000 teams using its products in companies with more than 1,000 employees, and has already signed its first million-dollar enterprise deals. Clark says:

What we're seeing time and time again, is that if you want to cut through organizational complexity, consolidate cost and increase efficiency, then the Canva offering of a unified integrated experience adds a huge amount of value...

Content creation is very, very fragmented in most enterprises, with dozens of tools used across them, which is expensive, inefficient, and also raises issues around IP, if you keep putting your content into lots of different tools.

More than just design

The business suite therefore extends well beyond traditional design tools, with document creation, whiteboards, data visualization and a video presentation recorder among those included. This sets it apart from Adobe, which is the dominant enterprise vendor in the design space, but which focuses more on design as part of the marketing function rather than broader use cases. Clark explains:

We feel that visual communication is a critical skill now inside organizations, and the demand for it is at an all-time high. That demand for visual communication actually is completely wall-to-wall across the organization.

Obviously marketing is an area that has a strong design focus, and we are one of the most widely used marketing tools in the world. But we see that same need for high-quality visual content in all aspects of work, whether it's highly visual documents, whether it's sales pitches, or whether it's internal reports. What we're doing this week is introducing several products that supercharge, in the enterprise, our ability to help people produce visual content and to collaborate well together.

New capabilities introduced last week include:

  • A new Canva Enterprise subscription for organizations with multiple teams or teams of more than 100 people. It includes customizable brand management with approval workflows, an admin console to manage permissions, enterprise-grade user access and identity management, and indemnification for AI-generated output from Canva's AI tools.
  • An updated Canva app with a customizable dashboard, a quick action toolbar, a new sidebar location for featured team assets, and streamlined commenting.
  • Canva Courses, where content can be organized as a set of lessons for training or information purposes.
  • Canva Work Kits, customizable collections of templates and resources tailored to specific functions within the enterprise, beginning with sales, HR, marketing and creatives.
  • New features for collaborative editing such as AI-suggested edits, document outlines for navigating larger documents and a more organized commenting experience.
  • Bulk creation of multiple versions of a design with variable elements such as images, text, and graphics uploaded via an Excel or CSV file.
  • Data autofill to bring data into variable fields in Canva documents from Salesforce and from MLS (Multiple Listing Software) sources, which allows bulk personalization of designs.
  • Record voiceovers and video commentary to accompany presentations, documents, designs and screenshares.
  • Integrations that allow ads for Google, Meta and Amazon to be created in Canva from ready-made templates and have automated checks to make sure they match the target platform's requirements before final submission directly to the ad platform.
  • New AI features include creation of graphics from a text prompt, applying layouts and styles to a design, or transforming a design from one format to another, such as turning a whiteboard into a document or a presentation into a website. There are enhancements to image and video editing and a new feature that rewrites content in your own personal tone of voice.

Affinity acquired by Canva

There was also an update to Affinity, the high-end professional design suite acquired by Canva in March this year for a reported $380 million. The Affinity range was created from scratch by long-established UK-based software publisher Serif, with the first releases of Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo coming out in 2014 and 2105 respectively, while Affinity Publisher followed in 2019. Popular for its affordable perpetual licensing model, which Canva committed to retain following its acquisition of Serif, Affinity had reached more than 3 million paying customers prior to the acquisition. Clark says:

What we saw as an amazing opportunity when we met Affinity was to combine our two products into an overall offering that empowers every kind of designer to get their work done... Our vision is that you will be able to draft assets, such as vector graphics and highly edited photos on Affinity. You'll then be able to scale those assets to your entire organization on Canva.

A new v2.5 update to the Affinity suite adds new editing features such as variable font support, a stroke width tool and a QR code tool. Most notable is the addition of native Windows support for ARM64 chips, such as Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite laptop processor, which means that the Affinity range now offers native ARM support across Mac, Windows and iPad machines, enhancing its reputation for high-speed design and editing. This complements Canva's existing tools with an offering that's proving popular with professional designers. Clark adds:

It's a highly interoperable, integrated experience, which actually is very similar to what Canva has tried to do for the 98% of people who don't have design training. So there was a philosophical alignment there, in addition to them having that advantage of, compared to some competitors, of having created something from scratch with an architecture that was designed to work that way.

My take

When I met with Canva's leadership a year ago, I was impressed by their relentless execution. There's been no let-up in the year since, adding Affinity to challenge arch-rival Adobe in high-end design and now launching a dedicated enterprise offering that provides the level of administration tooling, compliance controls and security that these buyers demand — plus many other features designed to appeal to this segment.

There was more going on behind the scenes at Create, where a "cringe-worthy rap and breakdance performance" did its job of getting noticed, even meriting a mention in the 'whiffs' section of my colleague Jon Reed's review of the week in enterprise tech. "Haters gonna hate," commented co-founder and COO Cliff Obrecht in a LinkedIn post, going on to note: "Think it’s got like 50m + views. Now everyone knows about canva enterprise." Meanwhile, meetings were said to be taking place in backrooms at the event to start preparing for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, although it may take another year or more before a listing comes to fruition. Canva was valued at $26 billion in a secondary stock sale earlier this year.

What I find most interesting about Canva's enterprise offering is that its ambitions are far wider than Adobe's. Whereas its larger rival takes a marketing-centric view of the enterprise — or a document-centric view if you look at the Acrobat side of its business — Canva is aiming to persuade knowledge workers across the enterprise to consolidate all of their communications and team workflows on its platform. Its press release last week — which walks the talk by being presented not in Word, HTML or PDF, but as a Canva document — positions its new products as "poised to redefine the way millions of people work," and includes this quote from co-founder and CEO Melanie Perkins:

We democratized the design ecosystem in our first decade and now look forward to unifying the fragmented ecosystems of design, AI, and workflow tools for every organization in our second decade.

With most enterprises currently looking for ways to consolidate a growing multiplicity of teamwork tools onto more manageable platforms — what diginomica calls the Collaborative Canvas of digital teamwork — this mission statement is bound to resonate.

But is visual design the common factor that will nail enterprise communications, or does it only look that way if all you have is a visual design toolbox to hammer home your messages? There are many vendors out there claiming to offer a unifying platform for enterprise communications and teamwork. Many of them come from a document-centric or messaging-centric heritage. Some of them, like Canva's Australian compatriot Atlassian, see workflow as central (and I'm inclined to agree with them). Others, such as Zoom's Workvivo subsidiary, who I spoke to following its deal to take on enterprise migrations from Meta Workplace, start from communications and the employee experience.

My take is that Canva's going to have to add more substance in these other facets of teamwork around its core strengths in visual design if it's going to become a solid platform for knowledge workers — or else build closer alliances with players that have complementary strengths. But it's also the case that enterprise teamwork and collaboration continues to evolve at a rapid pace and is likely to change dramatically as some of the baggage of its document-centric origins start to fall away. Graphics and video are going to become more important and that opens up opportunities that players with strengths in those areas can seize. In other words, Canva's bold strategy could yet pay off. Watch this space.

A grey colored placeholder image