Canva is just plain awesome. I’d like to point out that very simple statement has way more behind it than it first might seem. I own a full suite of Adobe products, including Illustrator and InDesign, the graphic designer’s go to havens for all things design. I own Photoshop, the photographer (plus many other professionals) backbone. And yet I still love Canva.
Initially, I resisted the idea. I already own Illustrator and InDesign and have a monthly subscription to keep Photoshop up to date. Why would I consider paying for another monthly subscription to use Canva? Well, now that I know how to use Canva for its strengths, I’m going to show you how!
(Disclaimer: you can use Canva for free. It doesn’t have all the features I’m referencing here though.)
Canva: The Beginning of a Beautiful Relationship
It was Canva’s blog that first drew me into the software as a service’s world. I expected it to be a bit of fluff and quickly written articles, but it’s both deep and thorough. They cover design theory better than most of my college instructors. I’ll be linking to some of my favorite articles below.
I think the article that drew me in covered excellent business card design. I was in the process of redesigning my website and as a result, wanted to update my business card. My previous card was gorgeous, but the letterpress printing didn’t allow for a photograph of me. I’ve seen far too many business cards with photos done poorly, so I searched for inspiration.
Like all good blogs, they have a section at the end of each post with related article links. And that’s where the rabbit hole of design began. Before I knew it I was on a webinar and signing up for a free two-month trial to Canva for Business. After exploring the web app, I saw the potential for my clients.
I consider my job only half finished when you receive your photographs from me. You need to implement them, use them to create more business for yourself and build brand equity. What better way to do that than have a beautiful design tool at your fingertips?
Brand Standards for Design Success
The thing is, an entrepreneur does not a designer make. And while I love playing in the world of design, I don’t want to design all of your collateral for you. Will I help you get started at the end of your Brandscape Photo Experience? Absolutely! Do I want you to call me each time you update graphics for your Facebook ads or opt-in popups? Nope! And even if I did, it’s often that in the online marketing world you’ll need something, like, yesterday. I’m not available with less than 24-hour turnaround.
This is why Canva is so brilliant. In the paid model, they have a space for most brand guidelines. You can upload your logo, input your brand colors. The Brand Kit even allows you to upload your own font if you use one they don’t include.
If you’ve worked with an excellent designer to set up your brand visuals in the past, you likely have something they call a Brand Guide. You can simply copy that information over into the Brand Kit area of Canva. However, if you’re in the DIY phase or rebranding or in flux, Canva’s got you covered. They link over to their blog with suggested font pairings and color palette inspiration if you’re still working your brand standards out.
When I rebranded, I created a screencast of me setting up my Canva account with my new brand standards to show you a little bit of what’s under the hood.
My biggest gripe with their brand section? They include some great templates, but only update the colors and not the type from your brand kit. They’re well designed, but not fully “on brand” if you use them out of the box.
If you don’t yet have set brand standards (or if you don’t have them in one place), this is the first place you should start! I created a fill-it-in brand standards card just for you to download. I’m including both a PDF and jpeg, and you can upload the jpeg right into Canva to fill.
Best of the Canva Blog
There is no substitute for hiring a professional designer, just as there is no substitute for hiring a professional photographer. A pro, for example, innately designs via grids. If you’ve taken my photography workshop for business owners, you know photographers also frame images with a grid in mind. Grid design will keep everything you put out there looking consistent. And of course, consistency builds trust!
Personal branding is something I talk about all the time here, so it’s no surprise I’d be critical of an article about it. This article is a really good start to the visuals of a personal brand.
I mentioned a font pairings section above. I wasn’t kidding – it really is a great resource! I’ve got Pinterest bookmarks up to my ears with similar resources, but it’s helpful that they showcase typefaces already available to you within their program.
If there’s any term within this post you don’t understand, I suggest you read 50 Design Terms Explained Simply For Non-Designers. They aren’t all terms you need to know! But if you’re speaking with a designer, it’s good to be aware of the things that matter before asking for revisions that don’t make sense. If you outsource your design work to freelancers on Upwork, speaking their language will considerably cut down on your investment in hourly fees. As a photographer, I think you should pay particular attention to #32!
Color plays such a huge role in psychology and branding! Color symbolism and choosing the right color palette for your site can be confusing. These two articles break it down with examples. Want to know why I went from salmon and gray to crimson and royal blue in my rebrand? I bet you can tell me after reading.
This is only a partial list of the photo graphics I’ve created over the last 45 days.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you I don’t use Canva exclusively. There are too many frustrations for me to layout graphics more than a page on Canva, as they don’t have built-in rulers. Also, when there are too many layers, it’s hard to move multiple elements at once. You saw me struggle with that in the screen cast, moving both the white background element and text at the same time. But when I create a social media graphic, it’s nearly always in Canva. It’s quick, it’s got my brand standards built in, and I can easily duplicate graphics in different size dimensions for the different social media platforms out there.
Ready to make your own Brand Standards Card? Download a blank version of mine and get it going!
Click Here to Download