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Or Why Designers Hate Canva

When I began my career as a designer, back in the mists of time, I found myself immersed in the world of print design (there was no internet – that’s how old I am, kids). I worked tirelessly to ensure our marketing materials (I worked at a university) looked exceptional.

Not only did I design these materials, but I also wore the hat of a prepress operator, responsible for ensuring everything we created went to the printers in the right format. It was a demanding dual role, requiring both the creative right side and the analytical left side of the brain to work in tandem.

In those days, we had some top-quality equipment – an imagesetter, high-volume Xerox copiers and colour photocopiers. Local businesses soon discovered our capabilities and started sending us their work for output on these machines.

While my expertise grew, so did the headaches. We began receiving artwork created in word processing software, like Microsoft Word, and once, we were expected to output an entire brochure designed in Photoshop. People sent us artwork files in Excel and other unsuitable applications. It was baffling.

But the modern-day equivalent of this design chaos has a name – Canva. To put it politely, Canva falls far short of being professional design software. Yet, those who purchase or use the free version often assume it’s up to professional standards – probably because that’s what the makers of Canva tell them.

“You don’t need any design skills – just choose a layout you like and get started”.

For social media graphics, it’s passable, but for print? It’s painfully basic.

The creators of Canva boldly market it as a DIY design solution, claiming you no longer need a designer. Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s a steaming load of nonsense. Buying a tool belt and a drill from a hardware shop doesn’t turn you into a builder any more than using Canva turns you into a designer.

Creating effective graphic design for print requires a blend of creative skills, marketing chops and technical know-how. You can’t substitute that with drag-and-drop templates.

Back at the university, I had to explain the basics of artwork file production to folks who rocked up with a floppy disk containing their latest masterwork designed using Microsoft Word. Let me tell you, that got old really quickly. And now, I find myself in the same situation, explaining concepts like type, trim, bleed areas (bleed?), and safe zones to clients who’ve created their marketing materials in Canva, and are wondering why I’m bothering them with technicalities.

Educating them about colour modes, image resolution, and raster vs. vector formats? Not exactly a thrilling day at the office. The worst part? They could have hired a professional who knows this stuff inside out, but instead, they chose the DIY route to save a few quid.

Today, after some painful baby steps in getting a client to provide print-ready artwork, I’ve decided to add a giant disclaimer to my invoices. It basically says, if you insist on using Canva for your artwork, I wash my hands of any responsibility for print quality, spelling, grammar, legibility, layout – you name it. All the checks and quality control I automatically include in my design service are the fruits of decades of experience that you thought you could do without.

Yes, I might sound like a grumpy old man, but there’s a reason designers charge what they do. The knowledge we gain through years of shepherding print jobs through the presses is invaluable. Yet, in this age of penny-pinching, where people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, design is seen as an expendable cost to the detriment of quality.

Creating flyers in Canva is one thing, but when clients start whipping up their own logos in Canva, we’ve crossed into a no-go zone.

Canva’s creators want it both ways. They offer thousands of logo templates but buried in their help files, they admit you can’t trademark your new logo and have no exclusive rights to use it. So, it’s pretty worthless.

Your logo should be unique, representing your unique business. If your logo is a Canva template, the one thing it’s not is unique. It will be the same, or very similar, to thousands of other businesses. It’s time for a reality check.

I am tempted to add a £100 per job Canva Tax on any DIY marketing I have to print. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t.

 

Photo by Jas Min on Unsplash