Just like Magic: We talk to Canva about its massive AI upgrade

Canva's Magic Studio and AI tools
(Image credit: Canva)

Canva has long been a popular tool for those who need professional visual assets fast. 

But not content with being one of the best graphic design software apps out there, the company is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a host of new AI tools aimed at democratizing design for those without design training. 

To celebrate the launch of the expansive Magic Studio toolset, Duncan Clark, Europe Lead at Canva, reveals the secrets behind the company's latest update, the importance of visual communication for modern businesses, and how AI is changing workflows for designers and non-designers alike.

Headshot of Duncan Clark, Canva's Europe Lead

Pictured: Duncan Clark, Europe Lead at Canva. (Image credit: Canva)
  • Canva has had an incredible growth story over the past ten years. What mindset and values have you adopted to make this possible? And what is the bigger vision you’re working towards? 

Canva has always been mission-driven. As the company has grown, so has proof of our belief that it is possible to build a company and deliver a great product while also having a positive impact on the world. 

We recently celebrated Canva’s ten-year anniversary – an important opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come while setting our sights on the chapter ahead. As we look to the next decade, our mission remains the same – to empower the whole world to design. We’ve made great strides over the last decade but have more to do when we think about every internet user being empowered to unlock their creativity and achieve their goals with Canva. 

With both visual communication and generative AI rapidly increasing, we’re excited to double down on bringing Canva to every team and workplace around the world as we introduce Magic Studio – the most comprehensive design AI offering created to empower the 99% of the office without design training to create great content. 

  • The idea of using AI to empower people who haven’t had design training sounds particularly exciting - what will this look like in practice? 

AI is the game changing innovation of our generation and is something Canva embraced long before it really took off earlier this year. We’ve acquired various companies over the years, including AI platform Kaleido back in 2021 and have invested heavily in AI since as early as 2017. Today, our AI products have already been used more than three billion times. 

Using AI to empower the 99% of the office without complex design training is at the core of Magic Studio – and Canva as a whole: our mission is to empower the world to design, no matter your level of expertise. This means providing a simple and easy to use platform integrated with AI at every step of the journey. 

Magic Studio acts as a one stop shop for all the various AI powered tools needed to help enhance designs, translate content into different languages, and transform basic imagery or videos into professional and realistic visuals with just a few clicks. 

  • Design companies are increasingly deploying AI-powered tools. How does Canva differentiate itself in this market? 

Our focus is on the 99%: those who do not have complex design training or haven’t attended design school. We’ve been doing this for the last decade, and with Magic Studio, we’re focused on building products that supercharge workflows and help save time for everyone – not just professional designers. 

Beyond that, Magic Studio also introduces the most comprehensive suite of design AI tools on the market with more than 10 new products created to help anyone unlock their creativity and achieve their goals. 

Canva's Magic Studio and AI tools

Pictured: The 6 GHz band (Image credit: Canva)
  • A lot of creative professionals are cautious about bringing AI into their workflows - is this a challenge Canva has come up against and how are you tackling it? 

We view AI as a partner in the creative process, but human creativity is always going to be critical – AI can help generate new ideas, kickstart a first draft or turn tedious tasks into quick actions, freeing up more time for the complex creative work that only humans can do. Ultimately, Magic Studio will help our community bring their ideas to life in a more efficient, time-saving way. 

  • Marketing and design teams will already be familiar with Canva’s capabilities. What are some use cases for teams who have traditionally relied less on visual communication? 

Enterprises are emerging as generative AI power users. Business leaders are increasingly recognising the benefit of investing in AI to accelerate productivity and creativity. However, rapid acceleration of adopting AI has led to fragmentation; there are already too many AI tools and it’s quickly becoming overwhelming and difficult to manage. Business leaders want less complexity and tools to manage, and more productivity and efficiency for their employees. 

Our first decade saw Canva focus mostly on individual users and small businesses. As we celebrate a decade and enter this next chapter, we’re now seeing the demand from enterprise companies and have created Magic Studio as an extension of the Visual Suite we launched last year to serve companies of all sizes. And this demand is growing: there are over 110,000 teams in companies with more than 1,000 employees using Canva, and we’ve seen an 80% increase year on year. Companies such as Salesforce and PayPal are using our Visual Suite and will now also benefit from the efficiency unlocked by Magic Studio. 

  • How will the new tools you’re introducing help to make design more accessible for a total beginner? 

Magic Studio helps unblock the fear of starting from a blank page or empty draft. The advancement of AI has presented an extraordinary opportunity for individuals and organizations to unleash their creativity, but many of these tools are highly complex and sit within a fragmented market – it’s almost impossible for someone without a design background to understand where to even begin, and with which tool. Magic Studio caters for those needs and enables workers who need to create – be it a presentation, social media post or translate a document – with simple tools on one easy-to-use platform. 

  • When it comes to visual communication, what are some of the mistakes you see people making? How can design apps like Canva help them fix it? 

As organizations grow, it can be difficult to maintain the correct brand guidelines. More hires means more content created and shared externally; it can be hard to oversee every piece of material and time is wasted sifting through various files to find the right image or logo. Canva acts as a home for every brand. 

The Brand Hub tool allows companies to integrate their brand guidelines, such as font, logo and color palette, into the platform so all employees can easily adopt the correct designs. It’s simple to use and results in thousands of employees creating approved and ready-to-use content. 

  • With 50 million new users in the last year alone, Canva is being employed across a very diverse range of industries and spaces. Have any of your users managed to surprise you, or use Canva in ways that you didn’t expect? 

Canva started out to support small businesses and creators – now, 85% of Fortune 500 companies are using our platform. This is remarkable. Enterprise companies, such as Zoom, FedEx and Starbucks, are becoming reliant on Canva. From data-lead infographics to local translations, event signage to marketing campaigns, large organizations are seeing the benefits first-hand of having a simplified platform in place for their employees to create their best work.

  • What do you think is the future for AI, in the creative design space and beyond? 

The demand for large amounts of visual and written content to be created quickly has coincided with the rise of AI. We saw the potential of AI early on and have invested heavily in the technology: from developing our own models on the foundation of Kaleido, to being one of the first design platforms to introduce native AI tools. Magic Studio is a culmination of the demand for AI, and our dedication to the technology. 

The fast pace of adoption from large enterprise companies of our product proves that AI is a fundamental tool for the future of work – be it a creative or corporate workspace. Business leaders are recognising the efficiency, productivity and time saved from AI tools, and we believe this demand will only increase. 

  • What’s your personal favorite Canva tool, new or old - and why? 

Magic Switch converts any design into a completely different format, be it from decks to blog posts, or lengthy summaries into snapshots. The speed at which the tool adapts your design is highly impressive – with a click of a button a task that was once long and laborious is completed in seconds, allowing time to be reallocated to important priorities and streamline people’s workflows. 

Magic Switch can even instantly translate a design into a different language – a growing need as Canva continues to scale rapidly across large companies that have a global reach. 

Allowing employees to leave tedious tasks behind and focus on the more meaningful aspects of their role can have a profound impact on their job satisfaction. In a recent survey by Canva, we found that 65% of British business leaders said that AI is saving their teams at least 2-3 hours of work each week – resulting in higher employee satisfaction and productivity.

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Steve Clark
B2B Editor - Creative & Hardware

Steve is TechRadar Pro’s B2B Editor for Creative & Hardware. He explores the apps and devices for individuals and organizations that thrive on design and innovation. A former journalist at Web User magazine, he's covered software and hardware news, reviews, features, and guides. He's previously worked on content for Microsoft, Sony, and countless SaaS & product design firms. Once upon a time, he wrote commercials and movie trailers. Relentless champion of the Oxford comma.