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Craft Over Canva

Why now is the time to stop believing that the ability to create good design and be a designer is ‘as easy as Canva’.

Charlie Loft, Yolk Creative London Ltd.

Co-Founder & Creative Director

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OK, so I’ve been in the creative industry for a long time. If you include the 4 years of training to become a graphic designer (whilst also studying photography) it is a whopping 29 years!

In that time, I have gone through the various stages of development and earned promotions from Junior Designer all the way through to Creative Director - eventually becoming a founder and business owner of a creative agency.

Without being arrogant, I think it’s safe to say that I know a thing or two about design. I know good design when I see it and am also capable of creating it. Of course I am, I’ve been doing this for nearly 3 decades!

So, here’s the thing. If I (and other people like me) have studied, trained, and actually done this job, what makes someone think that, with no knowledge or experience, they can do what we do with something like Canva?

Canva is, like any tool, it’s only as good as the person operating it.

Charlie Loft, Creative Director & Founder, Yolk

I have seen some absolute horror shows recently followed by the phrase “we designed this in Canva, what do you think?”. I’ll tell you what I think. I think that if you don’t know what you’re doing then take the time to learn the craft, do your research and become a designer. In the meantime, please leave it to the professionals, the people who live and breathe this stuff, the people who understand messaging hierarchy, the people who know the difference between kerning and leading, the people who can SEE design before they start moving pixels around. Design isn’t shot gunning everything onto a screen and hoping that it sticks.

I’m not being critical of Canva as a piece of software, it’s an easy to use, off the shelf template kit and has its place. But please stop believing that the ability to create good design and be a designer is “as easy as Canva”.

Canva is, like any tool, it’s only as good as the person operating it. In the same way that everyone with Instagram thinks they’re a photographer, suddenly everyone with a copy of Canva is a bona-fide designer.

There is a lot of ‘mediocre’ going on in the digital advertising world, but Canva can’t be blamed for it. The people who think that selecting a template and smashing out ill-considered ads are the problem.

Are they doing this because they don't place a high enough value on quality and so see no reason to spend their budget on it? Is it because they’re under huge time restraints and don't have time to fuss over the tiny details that make or break creative work? Or is it that the people doing this don’t see what they’re doing as being mediocre because they’ve been convinced that ‘Canva is the answer’?

We're living through a time of 'throw away' culture where attention spans are sub 15 seconds. There's a lot of mediocre because the perception is that everything is easy with the right app or piece of software. It's easy to do a TikTok right? So, designing an advertising campaign must be a piece of cake!?

"All I need is an app, some colours and some words and it'll work…. Right?"

To make myself 100% clear I’m not against Canva in the slightest and I have absolute admiration for Melanie Perkins (the founder). She has created a platform that allows people to move fast in a time where there is no time, whilst building a start-up worth $26 Billion - now that IS impressive! But what grinds my gears is people without the required marketing or creative skillset churning out rubbish, quicker than ever before, and thinking that is a good thing.

As creatives, we need to be sensitive to the fact that our clients need to move fast and so software like Canva is an asset, but only if it is used correctly. If we are involved with the initial template design, we can give clients the right foundation at least… of course this comes at a cost (as time equals money) but not as much of a cost as flooding people’s social feeds with terrible comms that miss the mark completely.

Copy writing is a true skill and not many people out there understand that either. I'm an idea generator and so words, and word smithing, get me as excited as the creative/design output.

When a well-designed and tonally considered piece of creative appears in the sea of mediocre people do tend take notice... and then replicate it over and over again until it becomes the new mediocre.

Our job is to keep swimming against the tide. Keep creating and keep proving that being a designer is anything but “as easy as Canva”.

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