You ever that feeling when you’re really craving a specific food or flavor, and you might spend hours or even days trying to find it? And when you do, you’re super excited only to find that it falls just short of what you were looking for? That disappointment – The feeling of being so close but just not good enough? We’ve all been there at least once.
That’s how Canva feels for me. Ultimately, the app is great for non-or-new-designers looking for a quick and easy way get a project customized and out. For trained designers, the lack of basic functions and limited manipulation makes it more frustrating to work with.
I’ve been working on design and digital art for over 10 years. I’ve seen the industry, hardware, and applications evolve dramatically in this last decade – the landscape is totally different from the days of my pre-intel 2004 iMac.
But when the world of design and art is going increasingly digital, you’d expect a little more from your apps.
I was tipped off to Canva via another artistic co-worker earlier in the year – before I had my iPad. At the time, the app didn’t exist and was a fully web-based service. The jist is Canva offers hundreds of free, pre-designed templates that you can change and manipulate to make your own. It offers thousands of shapes, images, and other design elements that can be customized and moved around. It focuses on simplicity and is actually extremely great for inspiration or getting a quick design out – internal blasts for instance.
I didn’t spend much time on the site, but I remember thinking it was pretty fun and enjoying my short time experimenting.
Not long after the developers came out with an iPad app that I was sure was going to change everything, now that I had one. When I actually had an opportunity to spend a lot of time trying to do real design work, however, I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with it.
It started when I realized I couldn’t edit a stroke’s thickness. It increased when I realized most of the shapes could not be re-sized freely: I had to scroll down several pages to find a square I could reshape to a rectangle. And I reached my peak when I realized the exported files were low quality.
Along the way, the user experience frustrated me greatly as well. Trying to select text to move around will usually result in opening up the full text editing interface. The search function is very rudimentary – images aren’t always relevant, and the previews are sometimes warped. There’s no rhyme or reason to the sorting, either. I can’t zoom out or in for fine tuning.
Where Canva does shine, though, is in its very robust offerings of free templates and elements. You can import your own images, the font selection is small but very diverse, and you can pay for credits for more options. And it IS fun overall. It’s great, as mentioned before, for quick designs. If you need to get out an invitation, a quick menu, business card, etc. you can customize one of the templates and get it out in under an hour.
But if you’re a professional designer looking for the real precision and control that you’re used to from the likes of InDesign, Canva may end up frustrating you more than helping.
Get Canva on the App Store here; I’d love to hear your thoughts!