Whether you identify as a designer or a non-designer, I think we can all agree that we are living in an era where short and easily digestible materials are increasingly preferable to dense reports. We have recently seen renewed interest in the field of data visualization, with formats such as infographics and one-pagers in high demand. At the same time, many organizations have limited funding and training opportunities available to purchase and learn design programs. Fortunately, there are a number of free and low-cost tools available online with equally low learning curves, allowing both designers and non-designers to create polished products. Examples of these include Canva, Piktochart, and Visme.

I recently held a live demo of one of these tools, Canva, at a conference. Below is a review of what I discussed (download the one-pager here).

What is Canva?

Canva is an online graphic design tool created for both designers and non-designers. The company prides itself on its easy drag and drop features, with a significantly lower learning curve than traditional design programs. Canva is currently available on the web, iPhone, and iPad. And best of all, your graphics are kept private unless you choose to share them publicly.

How Does Canva Work?

Like most of the tools mentioned above, Canva operates through drag and drop features that can be customized to your liking. For example, you can upload images, insert icons, create charts, change colors and fonts, and move and resize visual elements.

Designs can be created using a simple four-part process:

  • Choose a design category
  • Select a template
  • Customize the visual elements
  • Share electronically or print the design

Check out this introductory video to see Canva in action!

What Can I Create?

There are many different template categories in Canva so you are sure to find something that will meet your needs. Templates that I use regularly include infographics, presentations, magazines, and social media images. Other options include posters, flyers, invitations, business cards, and resumes.

Once you create your design, you can share it on social media, embed it on a website, or send a link to collaborators to view or edit. You can also download the files in different formats (jpeg, png, pdf) to print or include in a PowerPoint presentation.

How Much Does Canva Cost?

The basic program is my favorite price – free! And unlike some programs, the free version is actually very comprehensive. If you are looking for more functionality you can purchase Canva for Work, which is still affordable at around $100/year. Canva at Work allows you to load and store your organization’s colors and fonts ready to be used with templates. You can also more easily resize designs, create folders to organize your designs, and collaborate with other team members. Nonprofits can access Canva for Work for free with proof of 501(c)3 status. Visit their website to compare the different options and prices.

So whether you consider yourself a seasoned designer or you are just starting out, there are many tools available for you to explore. I encourage and challenge you to explore one of the free tools mentioned above (Canva, Piktochart, Visme) to see which one you like the best. You don’t have to start out with anything too fancy. Create a birthday card for a friend or overlay a picture with your favorite quote. Good luck and happy designing!

Download my one-page handout about Canva: Intro to Canva Handout (Grim, 2017)