Melanie Perkins – CEO and Co-founder of Canva

Melanie Perkins is CEO and co-founder of Canva, an online platform which makes graphic design simple for everyone. Since launching 14 months ago, Canva has grown to 1 million users who have created more than 7 million designs. In her spare time, Melanie loves to travel and has backpacked around the world.

The most important thing you can do is to solve a real problem. If you solve a problem that lots of people care about deeply, you’ll be able to figure out the rest.

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Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

When I was at university, I was teaching design programs such as Photoshop and InDesign. These were really difficult for students to learn and complex to use. It would take a whole semester for students just to learn the basics. I realised that in the future design would be entirely different, that it would be online, simple, and collaborative.

Canva makes graphic design simple for everyone by bringing together a drag and drop design tool with a library of more than 1 million stock photographs, graphic elements and illustrations. It’s particularly popular with marketers, bloggers, graphic designers and small businesses who need to create lots of visual content.

There are lots of preset design types you can choose from, such as Facebook Covers, Blog Graphics, Presentations, Business Cards, Social Media Posts and even Facebook Ads. Or you can choose your own dimensions.

It has been designed to be very simple to use and learn, so it is suitable for everyone from complete beginners to professional graphic designers.

Please explain your business model

Canva is free to use. To use premium stock photography, users only need to pay $1 per image.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?

The vision for Canva is to make it possible for everyone to take an idea and frictionlessly turn it into a design. We’ve only achieved a very small amount of our vision so far.

Just this year, we’ve launched our iPad app, public profiles so people can share and connect with others, a Canva Button which makes it possible for third parties to integrate and our marketplace for professional designers to contribute layouts and elements, and earn money when they are used.

How do you make ideas happen?

The most important thing is persistence. At every step along the way, there are new challenges that come up, and things you need to learn.

What does your typical day look like?

My days and weeks vary dramatically depending on what we have going on. However, there are a couple of things we do every week which gives a little structure to our week and are a lot of fun.

On Mondays every team meets and comes up with a plan of attack for the week. On Fridays we have a full team ‘stand up’ – where each team creates a Canva design about what they have been up to that week and presents it to the rest of the company. Stand up is a great opportunity for people to share what they have been doing and also to ensure everyone is in the loop about what is going on. This is particularly important considering that everything at Canva is moving so quickly.

We have just started having an amazing yoga instructor come into our office on Friday mornings to take a class. Each day we have family style lunches where we have a chef come in to cook delicious, healthy food. We have had lunches together as a team since our very early days and have found it to be a really nice way to get to know everyone else on the team.


What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

Our largest market is already the US, however our team is very happily located in Sydney, Australia. Many of our investors are from the US, which has given us great connections over there.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

If you’re looking to start a company, start with the future. Imagine what things will be like in 10 years, not what they’re like now.

The most important thing you can do is to solve a real problem. If you solve a problem that lots of people care about deeply, you’ll be able to figure out the rest.

Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?

One organisation I think does amazing work is Samahope

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.

  1. — for anyone wanting to create their own designs
  2. — great resource on growing a startup
  3. — It’s a great resource when you are trying to perfect the emotional journey of a user. Watching a user use your site for the first time gives you incredible insights.

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

We’re on the lookout for talented designers to contribute to Canva’s pro design marketplace. They can contribute their own layouts and elements to Canva and earn a royalty every time they get used.

Here’s some more information:

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

Currently, it’d have to be Yulli’s in Surry Hills. It has the most amazing Vegetarian food!

Learn from over 100 Australians making ideas happen.

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