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Meet the design platform that lets even non-designers flex their creative muscles

Canva’s one-stop solution allows everyone in an organization to create and collaborate on professional-looking presentations

Meet the design platform that lets even non-designers flex their creative muscles

Damian Slattery’s job is very different these days. Slattery, Fast Company‘s vice president of marketing, says clients are more demanding, expecting snappy, gorgeously designed proposals—and they want them right now. “The pace is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “Clients expect our work to be thoughtful, creative, and beautiful. And fast.”

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The frenzied pace has accelerated in recent months, and Slattery suspects the pandemic-driven shift to remote work has played a role. New digital tools have expanded how companies and their clients collaborate and have made it more possible to demand accelerated turnaround times. “These days, there’s no reason you can’t be faster,” he says. The only limiting factor, of course, is that there are only a certain number of hours in a day.

Fortunately, that same proliferation of digital tools has given marketing professionals more ways to work efficiently. Slattery says new tools such as Canva, a platform that offers customized design templates and tools for everything from presentations to social media posts and videos, have helped uncork a common bottleneck in the marketing process. “They arm you with the ability to have your output match your input in brilliance and uniqueness,” he says.

THE DESIGN CHALLENGE

When it comes to the design stage of the marketing process, clients have always wanted ideas presented clearly and creatively. But speedy turnaround times don’t always mesh with a collaborative and iterative design process. “It’s always been a back-and-forth process,” says Shannon Pashcow, associate director of integrated marketing at Fast Company. “I’d get on a call with our sales rep, talk about what he wants, and then get to work designing it, laying out the story. Then I’d send it back to him, and a day later he’d give me notes.”

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Add in more rounds of review, more reviewers, and multiple versions of design files, and the process can become even more complicated and time consuming, says Canva Chief Marketing Officer Zach Kitschke. That’s why Canva built a suite of collaboration features into its visual communication platform. “With Canva, once you’ve created a design, you can share that URL with someone else and make edits together in real time.”

Kitschke says Canva further streamlines the process by giving knowledge workers the ability to create professional looking designs easily. Traditionally, designers would need to search for stock photos and other assets, email them to colleagues for review, and use photo-editing and layout software to manipulate those images before importing them into yet another software application. Canva gives access to more than 100 million pieces of content, including stock photos, illustrations, and even audio clips. Its editing tools allow designers—and even non-designers—to manipulate images and designs, all within Canva. “We wanted to take all of the hassle out of that process,” Kitschke says. “There are benefits of having everything in one place.”

STAYING ON BRAND

A templated approach to design may raise the eyebrows of seasoned designers. After all, shouldn’t creative design be bespoke rather than off the rack? What’s more, brands often have strict guidelines for design, from the color palette to specialized fonts. Canva for Enterprise allows professional designers to build branded templates—and set brand controls on these—to help them have more control over the brand and maintain consistency. American Airlines is just one example of a company that has built its own templates and brand kits to help maintain consistency and speed up the design process.

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The result? Designers don’t have to start from square one with every new piece of content and instead can draw from a broad menu of templates that align with their company’s brand. Perhaps even more importantly, these templates can let colleagues outside of creative services create marketing collateral they need. This is a boon for time-starved designers who are often stretched thin by requests from all corners of an organization. With a library of approved templates, a sales associate can drag-and-drop images and text to build a slick brochure, or the head of HR can quickly create a suite of recruiting materials—all of which aligns with the company’s design ethos.

Kitschke says Canva worked with Gracie Barra, a Jiu-Jitsu training program with more than 800 franchise locations around the world, to build a template library that can be used by any franchisee. “The central design team needed to ensure that designs did not go out with incorrect colors and fonts,” he says. “Now, any of their franchisees can jump into Canva and quickly create content that is much stronger.”

Digital tools such as Canva aren’t likely to put designers out of a job. Instead, by taking the busy—and often tedious—work of creating a pitch deck, presentation, or marketing video from scratch, design professionals have more freedom to focus on what really matters: coming up with the creative and inspired ideas that will help their brand or their clients’ brands rise above the din. Or as Slattery puts it, “To be able to do all of that with speed is a gift to people who do integrated marketing like we do.”

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About the author

FastCo Works is Fast Company's branded content studio. Advertisers commission us to consult on projects, as well as to create content and video on their behalf.

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