The Visual Appeal of Canva

canva logoI don’t know why, but at some point, the majority of visual information provided to us online started to look like it came from the beginning of the last century.  Do an online search for “Infographics,” and you will see that most of the results have a similar new-retro style:  simple icons, a mix of bold and fancy text, and solid shapes of contrasting, slightly muted colors…  Likewise, this increasingly popular styling can be seen in other areas, like the logos and websites of actual, real, legitimate companies.  But don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great style.  Other than the ubiquitious use of ironic moustaches, it takes me back to those glorious times somewhere between radium toothpaste ads and Saul Bass movie posters.  They just look good, and their visual simplicity can help readers get lots of information in an efficient and enganing manner.

(if they are planned well, that is… read You Suck at Infographics for some tips)


Canva is a *free* new online media-creation tool that will let you tap into the appeal of these charmingly antiquated images to create not only your own infographics, but also documents, posters, photo collages, business cards, or presentation slides (among other options).  If you want a simple alternative to Microsoft Publisher that has some limited capabilities but similar outcomes, you should give it a try.

Watch an overview of Canva here, along with some additional how-to videos to get you started

Don’t like the hipster vibe in this trending retro fashion?  You can choose lots of other design options or upload your own images or clip art items instead of using theirs.  They do have a pretty adequate catalogue that is easily searchable by categories like, “Lines,” “Shapes,” “Banners,” “Animals,” and “Dress Ups.”  Plus, the upload option pretty much guarantees that you can create what you want to, in your own style.

Getting Started

As someone whose job it is to design training in a way that eases new users into early success with a tool, I really appreciate that the first thing greeting you when you open a new account (after requesting a username and waiting for them to verify that you are a person) is a Canva document titled “5 Starter Challenges,” which walks you through simple steps for learning the basics.  I like the simple method that their designers have created for letting the user uncover hints, if necessary (which is something that any instructor can do if they post PowerPoint slides for students).  There are also “5 Style Challenges” to help your creations have the most visual impact.   

In addition to the tutorial videos embedded above, their blog at includes tips on fonts, colors, layouts, and branding.  All of this helps make Canva worth a try, and something you might suggest to your students who want to liven up their visual projects or need a good, free tool to unleash their creativity.



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