How Canva uses Canva

Design tips and tricks from the ultimate Canva pros: Canva employees themselves.

Canva logo pointing to a chalk board

Employees use Canva to build the internal weekly “Canvazine,” product vision decks, team swag and more.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Ever wondered how the companies behind your favorite tech use their own products? We’ve told you how Spotify uses Spotify, How Slack uses Slack and how Meta uses its workplace tools. We talked to Canva employees about the creative ways they use the design tool.

The thing about Canva is that it's ridiculously easy to use. Anyone, regardless of skill level, can open up the app and produce a visually appealing presentation, infographic or video. The 10-year-old company has become synonymous with DIY design, serving as the preferred Instagram infographic app for the social justice “girlies.” Still, the app has plenty of overlooked features that Canvanauts (Canva’s word for its employees) use every day.

“Eighty percent of my job is done in Canva at this point,” said Jen Thompson, product marketing manager at Canva. “It has a massive impact on the way that we work together.“

Individual users on Canva’s free plan make up a large portion of its customer base, but Canva’s been focusing more on the enterprise in recent years. It’s solidifying itself as a workplace tool, particularly when it comes to company presentations, an area ripe for innovation. Canva’s chief marketing officer Zach Kitschke says the ability to communicate well via visuals has become critical at every organization. Naturally, Canva has made visual communication ubiquitous inside the company.

Canva the tool is baked into pretty much every process at Canva the company. Employees use Canva to build the internal weekly “Canvazine,” product vision decks, team swag and more. Protocol sat down with a handful of Canva employees to learn more about their mastery of Canva.

Your first day as a Canvanaut

Each employee’s first rite of passage is the Canva boot camp. The program runs for two weeks and has all the typical onboarding presentations from leaders at the company. But it also schools people on best practices for using Canva. The new employees participate in a half-hour, basic Canva rundown session early on in the boot camp. “Design literacy has become really important for everyone,” Kitschke said. “It’s something that obviously is really important to us and people joining the team.”

The boot camp culminates in a “newbie presentation.” New employees create get-to-know-me presentations using whatever Canva medium they like best. Thompson, who joined Canva in 2021, decided to make a video for her newbie presentation, a somewhat bold move considering the product had just come out. “The product was very rudimentary, and I had never edited video before,” Thompson said. “I was very nervous, but it was super easy.”

New hires are also encouraged to participate in the company’s weekly Canva Challenge. The challenges are posted publicly for Canva’s customers as well. Grace Langford, a communications coordinator at Canva, said one of her challenges was to prepare a short creative writing piece. The prompt was, if you could relive a day in your life, which day would you choose? Langford said she would go back to a normal day in her childhood, filled with school and a lunch box packed by her mom.

“[The challenge] is designed to obviously encourage the use of Canva,” Langford said. “But also to be able to see their creativity, which is something we really value.”

Keyboard shortcuts for the win

Using Canva’s keyboard shortcuts saves users and employees time throughout the day. For example, if you type “R” while building a presentation slide, you get a rectangle. “C” equals circle, “L” equals line, “T” equals text box and so on. Typing “/” on your keyboard opens up the “magic” keyboard shortcuts where you can search for anything you need to add to the presentation. Want to include a picture of a lizard? Just look up “lizard” and you can choose from a photo library of animated lizards, or a 20-second video of a lizard sitting on a branch, if that’s more your speed.

“This is a really hidden one, but it’s so handy and saves so much time,” Thompson said.

You can also use fun keyboard shortcuts while presenting. If you press “D” in presenter mode, you get a drum roll. “M” reveals a mic drop animation; “Q” prompts a giant shushing emoji; “C” leads to confetti; “O” creates bubbles; “B” blurs the screen; and “U” unveils a giant curtain closing on the screen.

Thompson’s other favorite features include the ability to match the slide color to any color in a given photo and the ability to change the font of slide headings all at once rather than going through the headings one at a time. She also uses the “present and record” feature quite a bit, as asynchronous video has taken the working world by storm during the pandemic.

Defaulting to visual communication has been a welcome change for Thompson, she said. Everyone’s on the same page design-wise, using the standardized Canva templates and branding colors. Thompson said this helps people stay on the same page culturally as well.

“It changes the culture a little bit because it makes things really simple, really beautiful,” Thompson said. “There’s no walls of texts, there’s no archaic processes.”


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