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SMB Executive Spotlight - Melanie Perkins

Australian-based Canva, a 3-year-old design company, has grown exponentially into a multi- million dollar venture. What is interesting about it is that it was founded on a simple yet brilliant solution to common design problems for the common folk – those with little to no design expertise. And the person responsible for this is Canva CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins.

Getting to Know Melanie Perkins

While attending university when she was 19 years old, Melanie Perkins already had a perceptive mind and big dreams. Headquartered at her mother’s living room then, she and her boyfriend Cliff Obrecht began Fusion Books, a design software company marketed to schools as an easy-to-use tool for creating customized yearbooks. As it grew, she left university to pursue her entrepreneurial path and never looked back.

Ms. Perkins did not start out as a graphic designer, and was exposed to the field through a subject in her first year at university; nor did did she have any entrepreneurial experience but, according to her, this inexperience also allowed them to view the experience as a challenge than a hindrance. She then moved on to build Canva.com with Obrecht and Cameron Adams. Now at 28 years old, she and Obrecht are still together and running two highly successful platforms.

Brief History of Canva.com

With Fusion Books becoming such a success, people began inquiring about other functions such as creating campaign materials, and designing for social media or blogs. At the same time, while Perkins was teaching design programs like Photoshop or InDesign at the University of Western Australia, she made an observation: “In every class, I saw students struggle to even learn the basics. It took months to be able to create something that looked good. It made me realize that in the future, design would be different. It would be collaborative, online and easy to learn. I asked myself: why shouldn’t everybody be able to create beautiful”.

These insights were the basis of what Canva is now – an easy-to-use program that made design more accessible and fun to use, in the same way that social media had become more convenient and interactive. The world was speeding up, and there was a clear need for user-

In 2012, Canva was born. The next year, funds were raised with the help of interested investors both from Australia, Silicon Valley and Hawaii for the eventual launch of the product by August of 2013. Canva.com garnered above 700,000 users for its first 12 months alone. By the middle of 2015, they went up to around 4 million users. Currently they are headquartered in Sydney, with a customer support and marketing office in Manila, Canva is run on a freemium model -- many of what one can find within the online design platform are free, and users pay a dollar for images and templates of higher quality. Generally, options are laid out and can be dragged and dropped into your template and then adjusted or edited as you see fit.

Navigating Through Canva.com

When you sign up at Canva.com, the first page leads you straight to a menu of templates commonly needed for social media and online marketing: social media posts, cover photos, posters, ads, even eBooks and album covers. The editing page shows various tools and elements you can drag-and-drop to your template like lines, illustrations, charts, icons, shapes, grids, frames and photos. You can also upload your own photos or use the search bar to look for particular images and elements. You can even search through your Facebook for photos you want to use straight from the Canva editing page.

Images and text can also be hyperlinked to a URL if you click on the drop down menu that pops up when you click an element. Clicking on “Filter” for instance lets you use filters and adjust image elements like brightness, blurring, and others.

The layouts portion shows you pre-made layouts, the elements of which you can edit yourself. Users are also presented with blank photo grids.

Headings, subheading, and body text layouts are available, and there are countless fonts to choose from. Making, say, speech bubbles is also easy – go back to the shapes section to pick your speech bubble and then simply add text.

After editing your visual content you can save and download, or share it through Facebook, Twitter or email. It can also be made public on Canva’s Design Stream where you can interact with other Canva users and comment on each other’s designs.

What Canva Can Do For Small Businesses

Any business can no longer do without social media and online marketing, and design is an integral part of it. But not everyone has the skills to handle, say, Photoshop or InDesign to create beautiful visual content for various online platforms. For small businesses, this may require extra expenses should they decide to hire a graphic designer. Especially that content has to be supplied in blogs, websites, and social media on a frequent, regular basis, the back-and-forth between business owner and graphic designer poses as an impracticality not just to the starting entrepreneur, but also for the designer who may have bigger fish to fry. Canva eases this burden efficiently that users can dish out material in as little as ten minutes. Even for people who are not design savvy, what’s great about Canva is that the basic elements applied in design are laid out for them to choose from, and mix and match which ensures that your content will look great.

Evaluating Canva.com

Canva barely needs any tutorial for the beginner – the interface alone is clean, and not just easy but fun to use. Having so many options available the free elements alone would already suffice for regular online marketing, and getting the higher quality ones comes at a small cost. It removes the guesswork that non-designers contend with when putting visual content out for their brand, and the quick process saves time for more business matters.

Canva can be an indispensable tool for your online marketing and advertising needs. Visual content is just as important as any other, and you will want it to look presentable and beautiful with tried-tested design rules applied to templates and other design elements

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