Was Canva von Apple gelernt hat und mehr – Guy Kawasaki und Melanie Perkins im Interview

Today I interview Melanie Perkins and Guy Kawasaki from Canva.

Canva is a very interesting and popular online-designtool. More then 10 million people use it worldwide.

(Zur deutschsprachigen Version des Interviews.)


Which role does design play in your life?

Melanie Perkins: Design is increasingly important for everyone and especially businesses. As the internet and particularly social media has taken off, the need to make your posts and site stand out has driven us all to become more visual.

I have been designing for years. My idea for Canva occured to me when I was tutoring fellow students at university in how to use the Adobe design programs, and realised they were far too hard and expensive for most people to use, even though many millions of people wanted to be able to design.

How did you come up with the idea for Canva and what is special about it?

Melanie Perkins: The Canva journey started back in 2007, while I was studying at university. At the time I was teaching students how to use programs like InDesign and Photoshop. Students found the programs hard to learn and even harder to use. I realised the the future of design would be entirely different. It would be online, collaborative and very simple.

When I first had the idea, building the product of our dreams was not even a remote possibility. My co-founder and I were university students. We had no money. We had no engineering or business experience. We did not even know what a ‘startup’ was, let alone know anyone who was in one. We just had a problem that we wanted to solve and an absurd amount of determination.

We launched a startup called Fusion Books, which tested the idea of how we thought design should work for a niche market: school yearbooks. After several years we verified that the simpler way of designing worked and decided to take on the whole design space.

Canva is special because it makes design accessible to everyone. Previously, design was difficult and expensive, so most people could never even attempt to create professional design. Canva is for the whole market of people who want to design.

From a software point of view, it’s special because it’s the only product that lets you do every step of the design process in one place. By offering a marketplace of more than a million images as well as thousands of professional designed but customisable layouts, Canva can be used for every step of the design process.

Who is using the app and what can be done with it?

Melanie Perkins: More than 10 million people use the app across 179 countries and it is especially popular with digital and social media marketers, startups and not-for-profit organisations.

Canva enables you to create professional designs for everything from business cards to presentations to marketing materials, regardless of your design experience. We do this by offering thousands of professional designed layouts for each doc type, say a Facebook cover or a slideshow presentation. These are completely customisable so you can change the words, the colours or the photos. Or you can build your own from the very beginning.

How did the realization of Canva evolve and how did you find the first users?

Melanie Perkins: I’ve been working on the vision for Canva for more than ten years now since I first realised design needed to evolve. Since then, the company and the idea have grown a lot. But the fundamental elements and plans for the business have remained fairly similar to the original vision. From the outside it looks as though we are reasonably developed, but we’ve only achieved 1% of what we plant o.

How did you manage the feat to attract more than 10 million users up until today?

Melanie Perkins: We found our first and our 10 millionth user in the same way: we are building a solution for a significant project faced by millions of people all over the world. Solving a real problem meant people are out there searching for your product, rather than the other way round.

The other key driver for us has been word of mouth marketing. This is why offering Canva in so many languages was a priority for us. It’s much easier to recommend an app in your own language. Those 10 million users were gathered in years we were only in English. It may sound like a lot but there are 3 billion internet users in the world, and only 28% speak English, so we’re only just getting started!

Why did you join Canva?

Guy Kawasaki: I joined Canva because it was an amazing opportunity to change the world—specifically, to change the world by democratizing design. Thirty years earlier, I helped change the world with the Macintosh Division of Apple by democratizing computing. Canva is a similar opportunity. It was too good to pass up. Opportunities like this come along once every few decades.

What exactly is your task at Canva?

Guy Kawasaki: I am Canva’s chief evangelist. “Evangelism” comes from the Greek word that means “bringing the good news.” I bring the good news of Canva which is that without buying expensive software and spending weeks to learn it, people can create great graphics. My job is to ensure that as many people as possible know about the good news of Canva.

How do you introduce your experience (e.g. with apple) into your work for Canva?

Guy Kawasaki: It’s easy to draw parallels between the work I did at Apple with the work I am doing with Canva. That is, democratizing technology so that more people can use it. Macintosh empowered people to use computers. Canva empowers people to become designers. There are also many similarities in the design values of Apple and Canva in terms of simplicity, elegance, and ease-of-use.

How important is the topic of internationalisation for Canva and how is it approached?

Guy Kawasaki: When you have something as awesome as Canva, or Macintosh, you want everyone to use it. It’s that simple. We don’t want cost or complexity to be a barrier to design, so we certainly don’t want language to be a barrier either. Let’s just say that Canva reached thirteen million users a lot faster than Apple.

Canva has already gained some reputation as a brand. How important is this to its further success?

Guy Kawasaki: As Apple has proven, branding is a key component of success, but what’s even more important is the product itself. It’s very easy to brand and evangelize something that’s great. This is called Guy’s Golden Touch: whatever is gold, guy touches. The Canva brand is about empowerment, efficacy, and elegance. That’s what we stand for.

What vision do you have for Canva and how do you want to make it profitable?

Guy Kawasaki: The design space is very large. We’d like to empower regular people to design anything and everything. We are always exploring business models—right now, we sell graphic components as well as additional, high-end services. However, people can use Canva for a long time and for many purposes without paying us. If we empower enough people, we are confident that the money will come.

I would be delighted about the best three pieces of advice you can give to the founders of online-startups.

Guy Kawasaki: My best three pieces of advice are:

  1. Focus on creating a prototype, not a pitch, plan, or forecast. The purpose of a company is to create customers, not raise money. Many entrepreneurs focus on raising money, not shipping.
  2. Constantly revise your product. Shipping a product is a process, it’s not an event. If you want to be a great company, you cannot ship and take a rest. Truly, the hard work begins when you ship.
  3. Hire people better than yourself. A players hire A+ players. But B players hire C players, and C players hire D players. Founders and managers should take price in hiring people better than themselves.

Thanks for the interview

Peer Wandiger

4 Gedanken zu „Was Canva von Apple gelernt hat und mehr – Guy Kawasaki und Melanie Perkins im Interview“

  1. CANVA hat für mich einen ganz gravierenden Nachteil: ich kann es weder auf dem Android Smartphone (Galaxy Note) noch auf einem Android Tablet nutzen – egal welchen Browser man nimmt, immer heißt es “unsupported”. Und wenn ich es dann nur zuhause am PC nutzen kann …

  2. Danke. Ein tolles Interview, insbesondere die drei Tipps am Schluss. “Die harte Arbeit beginnt erst mit dem Moment der Veröffentlichung.” … So true.

    Viele Grüße

  3. Danke für das interessante Interview.

    Besonders wichtig finde ich folgendes “[…]Da wir uns an die Lösung eines echten Problems gemacht haben[…]”.

    Wenn eine tolle Lösung für ein konkretes Problem gefunden wird, gibt es auch eine (genau definierte) Zielgruppe dafür. Wenn es sich dann auch noch um die Lösung für ein eigenes Problem handelt, gehört man auch selbst “zur eigenen Zielgruppe”. Das spornt natürlich an, es immer besser zu machen.

    “[…]Einfachheit, Eleganz und Eingängigkeit[…]” werden leider viel zu oft vergessen oder vernachlässigt.

    Ich werde mir Canvas auf jeden Fall ansehen.

  4. Lieber Peer,

    danke dir für das Interview. Canva verwende ich mittlerweile seit fast einem Jahr. Coole Sache und empfehle ich sehr gerne weiter. Mich hätte noch interessiert wie diese die ersten Hürden der Umsetzung genommen haben, wenn sie Anfangs keinen Techniker/Programmierer an Board hatten.

    Liebe Grüße,


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