Is Canva better than us?

Hello Graphic Designers around the world

Today I was a bit surprised on what happened and it kinda hurt my feelings.
I am part of a community where I usually do favours such as design the leaflet for it.

We had agreed to a style and I sent over a first draft.

The person who asked then sent over another leaflet style that he was to use which he designed from CANVA.

I was hurt as that was such as waste of my time to create one where then he didn’t need it after all.

I know he didn’t do it on purpose but…
Should I be upset?
Should I agree that CANVA has taken over?

I am unsure how to feel?

Thank you for the help.

The nature of this profession has changed and will continue to change.

Those designers who think of themselves as artists who make things look nice will have an increasingly difficult time going forward. Designers who specialize in common, one-off projects, like logos, flyers or banner ads, will find it difficult to compete against lower-wage designers overseas, crowdsourcing, a glut of other design graduates and the semi-automated, do-it-yourself services, like Canva and Wix. This will not change. It will only become more common going forward.

There are increasingly fewer reasons why small business owners — the kind who think in terms of one-off projects — need to hire designers to do what they or one of their non-designer employees can obtain online for much cheaper. These kinds of clients don’t think in terms of great, award-winning, one-of-a-kind design — they just want their sales flyers or business cards to look reasonably nice. If they can get that done cheap, fast and to their specifications without the hassle of dealing with a designer, they’ll do it.

The primary reason these clients hired designers in the past is because the services and tools were not available for them to do it themselves. They, like most people, buy their clothes off the rack rather than hiring tailors. They pick and choose from sets of pre-made house plans instead of hiring architects. They don’t hire interior designers to furnish their new houses — they do it themselves in a piecemeal fashion by thumbing through catalogs, visiting stores and looking online.

So what if they’re wearing the same shirt as 5,000 other people they’ll never meet or sitting on the same sofa that’s in a hundred other houses that look the same as half the other houses in their subdivision? They don’t care about these things as much as they care about convenience, saving money and getting something that’s good enough.

Now that Canva, 99Designs, Wix, Snappa, etc., exist, why would people who buy everything else off the shelf hire designers to do the work they can now also, essentially, buy off the shelf?

So where does all this leave professional designers? It leaves us playing a game where the ground rules have changed. Those who adapt to the new reality will do fine. Those who don’t will fall by the wayside. Change always happens and this change is little different from what’s happened to a thousand other professions in various ways for many years.

Honestly, small one-off clients with small one-off projects has never been a good way of making good, steady money anyway, with the exception of those who have figured out ways to scale it up and mass produce the stuff using a formula of some kind.

So how does a pro designer compete against Canva and others? You don’t.

Instead, you shift focus to those things that these online service and crowdsourcing sites can’t provide. You also work for clients who need more than Canva or Fiverr can provide.

A semi-savvy start-up might get a serviceable logo from 99Designs, but it won’t get them an integrated visual branding strategy that considers their target audience, competition and marketing challenges. Canva can produce a nice-looking banner ad, but it can’t create a money-making ad strategy that intelligently leverages and plays off the brand equity built up from the company’s previous marketing initiatives.

Planning to make a decent living designing things that can be cheaply outsourced to lower-wage countries or handled via do-it-yourself software is a dead-end plan. Successful designers can no longer thrive with an outdated-strategy of mostly just making ordinary things look nice.

Designers need to think past small-time clients and one-off projects. They need to think in terms of what the future will bring, like AI-assisted design. And even more important, they need to build their careers and their niches with these things in mind while catering to those business clients that need strategic custom solutions to difficult business problems.


Very well put, B.

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A most excellent reply from Just-B.

Agreed. Sums up the reasons I’ve become primarily a technical document consultant. I still do some one-off projects, but they’re mostly forms of manufacturing input—things with tight specs for which you can’t just order up a generic solution—e.g., custom graphics for laser-etching around the insides of composite bicycle wheel rims.

This is so inspirational. I’ve just started freelancing and have been feeling a bit disheartened about the industry; these words have completely changed by perspective.
Just to add, identify your USP and use it as a way of getting your foot through the door

The main problem here though is that what B is describing is only available through about a decade or more of experience, often through a studio/agency career. A “freelancer” directly out of school is going to have a hard go of breaking into that level of the industry. They won’t have the chops a higher end client is savvy enough to be looking for and they don’t learn anywhere near that level of expertise in college. Woefully short actually.


College and university design programs prepare students to design cool stuff, but usually fail to prepare them for the realities of the business. A career is something that needs to be planned and implemented — it doesn’t just automatically happen after graduation.

Small, independent general graphic design studios are a whole lot rarer than they were a few years ago. Those studios tended to cater to the needs of small businesses, and for the reasons already mentioned, those needs have declined.

In-house work is still very much viable, but finding a company that appreciates and fosters good design can be a challenge.

Ad agency work is still viable too, but can be difficult to break into and tends to be erratic and lack stability — especially at smaller agencies whose business depends on one or two big clients.

A segment of the business that really seems to have taken off are those specialized design firms that have found their niche catering to what’s been made possible by emerging new technologies. 3D, virtual reality, motion graphics, environmental design and AI, to name a few, are all growth areas in desperate need of talented, savvy designers.

EDIT: For what it’s worth, these are nothing more than my opinions based on experience and observations. I’m not claiming to have the final word on any of this. If anyone else has a different view and set of experiences, it would be good to read them.

I was just about to post about Canva but thought I would do a search first and this thread came up.

I think you have a right to be upset. You were asked for your skills, you gave them freely, only to be replaced.

My gripe with Canva is that I have clients that use Canva and want me to use Canva. I politely decline. It’s fine if clients want to use Canva for some of their collateral but I’m not fixing their files for them in there.

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Ha, oh man. I am a small business owner and this was the exact decision I made recently.

The logo for my business is from an icon set an artist published. I messaged them and said “I don’t care that the logo won’t be unique and I know the shenanigans I’m opening myself up to by doing this. Can I pay you extra for this icon and have you give me license to use it as a logo?”.

Paying for a custom built logo (or taking the time to make one I’m happy with myself) just wasn’t worth it when I hadn’t even launched my product at all. But as my product continues to grow I’ll find myself on the other side of the fence and will be able to commission a proper design.

I’d suggest doing this at the earliest possible juncture.

The problem is, if you reach a certain point of public awareness with a brand identity that is telling the wrong story and evoking the wrong emotional responses to your product, it is a far more costly exercise to change those perceptions about your product or service later, than it is to make sure people think what you need them to think about your business in the first place.

Think how much effort it took VW to change the public perception about Skoda. They must have spent millions to do that.

A logo is not adornment. It is a visual mnemonic for brand loyalty and, as such, is part of an overall communication strategy.

I have a client who, when they were new and just beginning to franchise out their business, very smartly got all their ducks in a row in this (and every other regard). Their business advisor told them that, these days, a brand’s value is around 15-20% of the company’s worth.

As a brand grows with the company, so it’s cost should be scaled accordingly. A good designer, who wants to foster a long-term relationship with a company, should accommodate the development and position on the growth scale of a company. That’s not to say, they should create an entire brand strategy for £50, but rather use a longer head. Bearing in mind the value of that said 15-20%. Counter to this, it is usually wise for a company to bear in mind the speculate to accumulate ideal. In all other areas of a business that has that kind of value to overall worth, care is usually taken to invest accordingly. Somehow because a mate of a mate can knock up a logo for £50, the area of identity and communication is often overlooked and devalued, usually to the company’s detriment. Brand strategy and communication is just as important for small startup as it is for a multi-national.

The same thinking is rarely applied to other areas. No one ever says, why should I pay £850 to get my accounts done by a professional, when my grandson has just done well in his maths GCSE.

I’ve often seen the benefits and pitfalls of both approaches. The client I mentioned, franchised out to over 50 locations across the country within a couple years and now has hundreds. They have just moved to larger offices for the third time since starting around 6 or 7 years ago. They win business awards all the time. It definitely paid them to be telling the right story to their potential customers. Granted a solid brand cannot alone do this. It required all other areas to be grounded well too and fundamentally, huge amounts of drive and passion from the owner. However, having a good base in brand communication to work from allowed all her efforts to be given the best chance possible to succeed.

Conversely, I have seen many companies come unstuck when their audience is receiving an entirely different message than the business owner intends.

Hope this helps, even in a small way.

This was only going to be a couple of sentence reply. I got somewhat carried away, it seems!

No, Canva never can be better than graphic designers.

Canva has lots of options but again they’re limited in terms of creativity. Canva can never beat a creative graphic designer.

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