Most of us don’t have a design department at our beck and call, despite the constant need for sophisticated graphics for social media, email blasts, websites and blogs.  It’s lucky for us that a young Australian design instructor named Melanie Perkins created Canva, a graphics design platform that is simple enough for any shopkeeper to use. And the program is even free, at least in its basic iteration.

Today there are over 8 million people using Canva, and if you aren’t one of them, you’re missing out on one of the best tools on the web. The graphic that accompanies today’s blog was created in minutes using Canva, as were some of the illustrations for the new edition of Specialty Shop Retailing.  

“With Canva​ what we wanted to do was empower everyone to create designs because in this market everything is increasingly visual: from sales to marketing to social media,” Perkins told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Now more than ever companies need to create graphics to communicate ideas and branding that communicates what they are trying to achieve. We wanted to make that process really simple, because not everyone can learn complex photo editing software.”

Canva designs are based on templates for most of the common social media formats as well as a few documents such as letters, resumes and business cards.  Each format offers a range of layouts that can be used as a starting point and then customized.  It’s easy to upload your own photos and logo to use in your designs, and if you have a paid subscription you can resize a graphic to use in different formats.  It is also possible to use Canva for custom sizes such as program ads.

Many of the sophisticated templates and design elements such as frames, photos and shapes are free, however once you start working with the program you’ll discover that there is a $1 charge associated with using a significant number of the Canva elements.  I certainly don’t begrudge the company such a small fee for the use of their material. Linking your account to a credit card will remove the watermark or grid on these for-hire images when you download them.  

Setting up an account also allows you to save your designs “on the cloud” so that you can update them in the future — for example the design above, which originally asked our Facebook followers to support our store in the Best of Madison poll. If there was ever a competition for best free web design tool, Canva would definitely have my vote.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

PS Please note that there will not be a Specialty Shop Retailing blog next week.