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  • Tausif Mulla

How to Find and Address Unmet Needs: Lessons from Canva

Designers are always on the lookout for new ways to improve their workflow and Canva has become a popular tool among them. What makes Canva so special is that it focuses on addressing the unmet needs of its customers. In this blog post, we will explore how Canva was able to find and serve the needs of its users, and what other businesses can learn from its success.

Learning to be a graphic designer takes time, dedication, and study. To be successful in this highly competitive business, you must understand the complex tools that designers use.

But what if you don't have the time or money to go all the way and become a designer? What if you need the ability to produce high-quality designs without any formal education? That's where Canva comes in.

Design templates available in Canva
Template gallery

Source: Canva

In 2012, founder Melanie Perkins had a revelation: there are millions of people throughout the world who wish to be able to create but don't have the tools or knowledge. Canva is a free, simple-to-use design platform that allows anybody and everyone with an internet connection to access the world of graphic designing. It provides a straightforward and easy-to-use interface that allows users to create high-quality, aesthetically appealing designs.

Canva was able to create an empowering product that addressed a genuine problem of a previously neglected audience — people interested in design but without formal training. So, how did Canva grow to have over 60 million users, achieve exponential growth, and become profitable in less than ten years?

This blog post will investigate their strategy for growth and the recipe for success in depth.


Perkins' inspiration for Canva came while she was studying at the University of Western Australia. She was struck by how difficult and complicated design software is when instructing pupils on its use. “It might take a whole term to master the fundamentals,” Perkins stated. “Even basic activities like exporting a high-quality PDF file may require 22 clicks.”

So, what's the answer? A less complex design tool.

Melanie Perkins founder of Canva
Founder & CEO

Source: Startup Talky

Perkins and her partner, Cliff Obrecht, branched out and launched Fusion Books, an internet design program that allowed students to produce their own yearbooks more quickly. When they became convinced that their invention might be applied to a much larger audience, they partnered with tech expert Cameron Adams, and Canva was officially formed.


Perkins, Obrecht, and Adams launched the initial version of Canva in 2013 — but it was only available to a select group of professionals. It worked out well for them. They were able to get the ball rolling, obtain feedback from their chosen users, and then use any acquired insights to improve the product before putting it out into the world.

They also used the method of starting with a niche and then expanding. They began with Fusion Books (a more specialized product) and then evolved it into Canva (a considerably more broad-applicable tool). Perkins discovered that by starting small, they were able to gain a more comprehensive knowledge of their target audience — their issues, requirements, and desires. Moreover, they were able to create a solution for their target audience's problems once they realized what those issues were. They also needed to finalize their brand objective and messaging before releasing Canva to the public. This meant determining their company's brand goals and values.

The objective of Canva, according to Perkins, is "to make it possible for everyone in the world to design." In a nutshell, Canva makes the complicated simple and allows non-designers to create. It also delivers real, practical value to customers. With a solid brand vision, clear messaging, and an innovative product, Canva was ready to take things up a notch.

Guy Kawasaki as 'Chief Evangelist of Canva'

In January of 2014, Canva went public and quickly amassed 150,000 users. At this early stage, Perkins and Obrecht made the crucial choice to collaborate with tech influencer Guy Kawasaki (the author of the bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad), who helped them triple their users in just two months. But more significantly, Kawasaki became the "Chief Evangelist of Canva," sharing his enthusiasm and guidance with his millions of followers on social media.

Guy Kawasaki joined Canva as Chief Evangelist Officer

Source: Santacruz Works

Canva was able to quickly attract and convert thousands of new users by partnering with a reputable and respected technology influencer. Kawasaki himself expresses Canva's attractiveness, as he has said:

“I believe that Apple democratized computers, and Google optimized information, and now Canva is doing the same with design.”

Route to profitability

Canva became profitable in 2017 and by June 2020, it had received $60 million in funding at a valuation of $6 billion. At this point, it was used in 170 countries around the world thanks to roughly 294,000 paying customers. As of February 2022, they now have over 70 million monthly active users, with over one billion designs submitted.

Using Social Proof Over Paid Advertising

This was a hit-or-miss strategy — a significant risk. While many businesses use paid advertising, such as search and social media, to ensure that as many new users as possible see their product, Canva took a different approach. In their early days, they relied on their early adopters to spread the word, share their designs, and, essentially, become brand advocates. And it worked!

Canva's social media strategy

Source: Twitter

Early users began sharing their designs and experiences with coworkers and friends, which helped to boost its visibility. Word of mouth spread like wildfire, from articles on well-known publications such as Tech Crunch to congratulatory tweets from investors and Twitter & YouTube influencers. While any business may purchase ads promoting their advantages and amazing products, there's nothing quite as powerful as good social proof. Canva took a different strategy, and as a result, did not have to spend too much of their precious cash on high-cost sponsored content.

Concluding thoughts

Canva is an astonishing success story. However, not every startup or small business can hope to replicate their immense growth and utilize the same tactics. While it may seem intimidating to have a successful marketing campaign without these resources, there are still some great tips that smaller companies can take away from this article.

1. Identify your target audience and understand their needs and wants.

It's one thing to have a general feel for who you think your product and services are best suited for. It's another thing entirely to truly grasp their needs, challenges, and interests.

To obtain this sort of data, start by conducting preliminary research on your target audience. Businesses that truly know their target audiences will have a better shot at connecting with them and gaining their support if they conduct market research, consumer insights, and other types of research.

2. Work on earning social proof from real users

It's wonderful to have encouraging users, but obtaining support from key influencers in your field may take you to the next level.

A single video/tweet from a well-known and reputable influencer in your sector may reach thousands — if not millions — of people. Hiring an official "Evangelist" as Canva did might be a wonderful method for your business to engage with new consumers through a respected voice.

3. Provide true value and empower users

There's a distinction to be made between the brand value you believe your consumers want and the value they truly desire. That is why it's critical that you continue to conduct consumer research in order to figure out what people want.

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