Why democratizing design is key to new Canva updates

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher May 1, 2023
A design for living...Canva's latest moves.


Visual communication methods are critical to both hybrid work and customer engagement, according to new research from Canva. The 2023 Visual Economy report shares insights on how companies are diving headfirst into visual communications to support customer experience and internal communications.

A couple of stats from the report, which surveyed 1600 business leaders across the US, UK, and Australia on visual communication methods:

  • 90% said they increased efficiency.
  • 89% said they enhanced collaboration.
  • 85% said visuals carry more authority than other methods.

It’s not news that visual assets help get and maintain the attention of consumers (there’s a reason social media is primarily visual).

But it’s also interesting to find that internal communications are becoming more visual as well. For example, the Canva report argues that business leaders prefer visual methods like video, presentation, and whiteboards for things like status updates, business updates, recruiting, and teamwork and that 86% favor data visualizations when creating and sharing plans and presentations.

Making designers of every employee

In this study, 61% of business leaders said they expect their non-designer employees to have enhanced design capabilities (e.g., create new graphics, gifs, and presentations from scratch).

Although design democracy is a goal of many companies, it comes with challenges around consistency (56%) and design quality (53%). Giving non-designer employees the tools to create visual assets is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the company isn’t bottlenecked, waiting for its designer to create new ads, presentations, graphics, etc. Marketers and salespeople can do it and keep things on track. But on the other hand, opening the door to design can leave employees to run amuck, creating whatever they think will work, whether they follow brand guidelines or not.

Companies put a lot of work around how their teams talk to customers. Positioning, messaging, and copywriting must follow specific guidelines to ensure the brand is recognizable. Many also work hard to help their employees build their personal brands on social media and at events. The same effort must go into how visual assets are used, whether through marketing, sales, or support.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of business leaders in this study provided design training to non-graphic design roles. It’s a great opportunity for designers to train others to do some of the more basic work they get tied up in, allowing them to work on more important projects. When review and approval workflows are in place, senior designers can ensure what gets published is on-brand and of high quality. Think of this process as how a senior content marketer works with freelance writers or junior content marketers.

Design software is evolving to support design democracy

Design software is evolving to support more non-designers. Canva, Adobe, and other software platforms are designing their software to support people who need to do design but don’t have the design training typically needed to create visual assets. Generative AI is taking this democratization of design to new levels.

For example, Adobe announced Adobe Firefly, a tool that lets users use their own words to generate new images, audio, vectors, video, and 3D and use creative elements like brushes, color gradients, and video transformations. Firefly will be a part of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, two tools that are not non-designer-friendly.

Canva has been a tool built for non-designers and designers since 2012. According to Linkedin Talent Solutions (as stated in the report), there has been an increase of 104% of people listing Canva as a skill on their profile in the last 12 months. Today, over 125 million people are designing with it every month. It is easy to use, but that also makes it easy to go rogue.

That’s why Canva announced the Brand Hub at its recent event. The Brand Hub is part of the Visual Worksuite and includes tools and features that help brands empower their teams to create visual assets and content, adhering to brand guidelines. Along with a brand kit that includes logos, colors, fonts, icons, graphics, and other assets, brand guidelines, and controls enforce the brand kit. An approval workflow also moves new assets and content through a review and approval before publishing.

The Canva Visual Worksuite also has built-in generative AI. You can read about many new features on their blog, such as Magic Design, Magic Eraser, Magic Replace, and Magic Write. These new tools highlight several things the report discussed - not having a single software platform to streamline design and a lack of control and visibility into what is published.

Last year Canva unveiled the Visual Worksuite, which includes a design tool for images and new tools for presentation creation, whiteboard, document creation, videos, websites, and print. It is a one-stop shop for many creators and non- and for-profit businesses of any size. It is an alternative for those who can’t afford an Adobe suite of tools or don’t want the complexity of multiple tools, Adobe or otherwise.

The addition of generative AI makes the Visual Worksuite much more appealing for designers and copywriters because it now offers AI-powered writing and visual design, keeping everything on brand.

The Visual Worksuite does seem to solve the problem of having a single tool to do many things, including collaborating on content development. However, it’s still a work in progress in some areas, including text-based content development and digital asset management.

My take

I am not a trained designer, and I don’t pretend to have the high-quality skills some of the designers I’ve worked with have. But I am an avid user of Canva for both my clients (who don’t have Adobe products) and my work because it is easy to use and affordable.

I’ve tried some of the new tools, like the presentation creator and the text-to-image tool, and I like what I see. They aren’t perfect, but for someone with lots of ideas who needs a tool to help them put those ideas to paper (so to speak), they significantly improve productivity and speed to final product.

As for using tools like Canva and Adobe for the creation of internal communications., I am all for that. It is essential to give employees the information they need to understand their company and stay up to date with what’s going on. So any way we can do that that increases our understanding is a win.

A grey colored placeholder image