A company called Canva.com from Sydney, Australia, has launched what it hopes will become the default tool people use to create and collaborate on design online. The service, which offers an easy to use drag-and-drop interface and access to over a million photographs, graphics and fonts, is aimed at the mainstream user who doesn’t consider him or herself a designer, as well as at professionals who want to collaborate with clients around their work.
The company’s technology has been in development for a year, and the startup has already raised $3 million in seed funding from Matrix Partners, InterWest Partners, 500 Startups, and various angels.
The idea for Canva spun out of CEO Melanie Perkins‘ previous business, Fusion Books, an online publishing system for creating school yearbooks launched in 2007, offering a similar interface. Explains Perkins, “we always knew that the technology we developed was much more powerful than just the yearbook market,” she says, adding that she’s always thought it was crazy how much design today was still being done on the desktop.
However, Canva isn’t meant to replace pro tools like Photoshop or InDesign, for example. “We draw a line in the sand, and we don’t do things like logo design or things that require a lot of fine-tuned pixel manipulation,” says Perkins. “But what designers can do is upload that content, and then do the layout design in Canva.”
Canva is completely free to use. The company plans to generate revenue through the paid images it sells on its platform, which are offered alongside the free selection. To fill its catalog, Canva has employed some designers to build the basic components in-house, but also reached out to professional photographers, designers, and illustrators, asking them to contribute their own portfolios to the service directly.
Canva is very as easy to use. On the left side of the screen, you’ll have a search box where you can type in keywords to find specific images, or you can browse through the categories, like lines, banners, shapes, frames, animals, food, travel, technology, and more and just begin dragging and dropping things onto the blank canvas to the right.
Other options let you quickly add backgrounds, choose from pre-made layouts, add text or even your own uploaded work. And there are number of little things that Canva does that make it easy on end users who aren’t design savvy. For instance, it automatically proportionally resizes images when they’re dropped into place, and it prevents you from accidentally stretching images out of proportion. Also, text dynamically resizes as you type and it automatically changes from black to white as you experiment with swapping out different backgrounds. It helps you figure out where the center or the margins of the page are, by showing grid lines as you move things around, and so on.
Based in Sydney, Canva is currently a team of twelve full-time, including Perkins and COO Cliff Obrecht.