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It's a kind of magic - Canva adds more AI to the creative cauldron

Alyx MacQueen Profile picture for user alex_lee October 4, 2023
As the skills for visual communication become a pre-requisite for professionals, Canva launches a new suite of AI-powered products for DIY visual communications.

Collage of images in different styles and colors ©

A picture tells a thousand words, so they say. But the process that goes into making creative designs that tell a story doesn't come naturally to all of us. 

Ten years after being founded, DIY design tool Canva steps into the role of fairy godmother, with the launch of its new all-in-one AI Magic Studio. Co-founder and CEO of Canva, Melanie Perkins elaborated:

A decade ago, Canva set out to empower the world to design by simplifying a complex and fragmented design ecosystem. As we go into the next decade of our journey, we’re incredibly excited to be taking a massive leap forward with the launch of Magic Studio – the first all-in-one suite of design AI tools created to supercharge the way teams create and scale visual content.

Since the launch of the enterprise-focused Visual Suite last year, over 65 million users have started to use Canva. Its existing AI products have been used more than 3 billion times, but this latest update waves a magic wand over the AI cauldron. Some of the features include: 

  • The Magic Switch can repurpose content from one format to another at the click of a button. For example, you can transform a presentation into a one-page report. Those pesky lists from a whiteboard brainstorming session can become a blog post. 
  • Magic Media — type in a prompt for an image, and the magic button produces an image or a video within a few seconds. This feature was already a part of Canva's offer but has been updated with more style options. 
  • This goes a step further with Magic Design — a prompt or upload an image to transform it into a video, presentation, or any other media format. Choose your preferred color schemes and fonts and then share drafts or download the final version.
  • The AI apps included on Canva now include Dall-E, Imagen by Google, MurfAI, Soundraw and more.  

The importance of consistency

Marketing teams have always had the unenviable job of making sure that brand styles — logo positioning, font, and color palettes — adhere to specific parameters for consistency. When your designs are consistent across different channels, it helps to create a unified brand experience for your audience. This can help to build trust and credibility with your customers.

Canva's latest release has taken brand voice into account too. Different logos, templates and guidance can be added to the brand kit, and the copywriting assistant will apply your brand’s tone of voice in any design or document. 

It's important to wring the most value out of designs to reach different audiences. For example, an informal short reel may be eye-catching for an Instagram audience, but won't necessarily be appropriate for LinkedIn. Creating new designs from scratch, or resorting to the copy/paste that throws formatting out of whack, can be time-consuming, frustrating, and expensive depending on the program you use. Simplicity is the watch-word, according to Perkins:

With a focus on making complex things simple, Magic Studio has been built for the 99% of the world without complex design training. This launch marks the start of an exciting new chapter as we double down on empowering over 150 million individuals and thousands of businesses to unlock their creativity and achieve their goals.

Canva has also paid attention to safety and security as part of this launch, with the announcement of the new Canva Shield. Settings can be changed according to employee roles and responsibilities for security and privacy control, so organizations can choose which Magic Studio products are available to individuals. 

AI and creator compensation

Intellectual property rights and AI’s impact on creators has been an increasingly recurring topic, so it was interesting to note how Canva addressed this. Danny Wu, Head of AI at Canva declared:  

The future of design will be determined by human creativity but will also be fueled by unprecedented levels of AI innovation. Creators are at the heart of our community, so we fully embrace our responsibility to ensure that we’re offering them AI-powered tools that are firmly grounded in transparency, as well as ethical and fair practices every step of the way.

Welcome words, but what does this mean in reality? (no pun intended). According to the press release, Canva has launched a Creator Compensation Program with "a $200 million commitment in content and AI royalties to be paid to the company’s creator community over the next three years." 

This is a program that creators can choose to opt in or out of. Canva Creators who consent to having their content used to train the company’s proprietary AI models. will receive "an initial payment followed by monthly payment for continued use."

My take

Canva's ambition to put visual communication into the hands of every worker across the enterprise continues to grow. As someone who is more confident looking at spreadsheets and lines of code than designing something that looks beautiful, this is an encouraging update. Graphic design tools can be complex and unwieldy even with YouTube how-to guides on hand. Many hours (and some tooth enamel) have been lost trying to navigate unfamiliar menu options that don't correlate to what I expected to happen.

The versatility of the features in this announcement combine freedom to design creatively without intensive training, but also contain guardrails to make it easier to remain consistent. 

There are two particular points that will be interesting to watch as users get to grips with the new features.

The announcement included "the launch of an industry-first debiasing model ensuring Magic Studio products produce safe and inclusive results." The proof of this remains to be seen - there is a long way to go, particularly when you consider all of the places where AI draws these biases from.

Given the fight that creative people have to protect and have their work acknowledged, it's encouraging to note that Canva has declared their intentions and values about compensating artists and creators. Again, it will be interesting to see how this plays out over time.

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