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Tiffany Tai, GM Enterprise and Head of BizOps at Canva

Communicating With Images In Uncertain Times

Today's Guest Tiffany Tai, Canva

On today’s episode, I’m joined by the Head of Business Operations at Canva, Tiffany Tai. She’s a particularly prescient guest to have on during this COVID-19 climate because Tiffany’s entire life revolves around digital communication, something she very much sees as on the rise.

Our conversation covers the rapid shift to online work, the interplay between social distancing and creativity, the vitality of digital communication, and much more.

What You're Going to Learn


*  How the W.H.O. and the Government of France Are Using Canva During Covid-19

*  Design & Do Good – Canva’s Core Values Shine Through During Covid-19

*  How Canva Makes Visual Communication Accessible to Everyone

*  Social Distancing Might Be Increasing Creativity

*  Covid-19 Is Creating a Paradigm Shift to Working Online

*  The Importance of Digital Communication across Multiple Media Channels

*  Seize the Opportunity to Learn Something New During Covid-19

*  Canva’s Magic Helps You Communicate across All Social Media Channels

*  Why More People Are Using Canva During Covid-19

*  And much more!

Listen To or Watch the Full Podcast Here

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Show Highlights

How the W.H.O. and the Government of France Are Using CanvaDuring Covid-19

Tiffany: For us, we basically just dropped everything over the course of the last couple weeks or so to really help us think through how we can be as helpful as possible during this crisis. And so it's something, where for us, like we've been really helping out all the different public health organizations right now to see how they can actually utilize Canva in a way where they can get out the message. And so, for example, the WHO is actually using Canva right now in a way to spread information about COVID-19 to help us understand, hey, like what do you have to do in this particular crisis? You know, basic things around staying home. What does that actually mean? What is social distancing really mean? Basic kind of public health precautions as well, just to make sure that you stay healthy as well as just really being able to describe, well, what exactly is going on with COVID-19 so folks don't completely overreact and make sure that, hey, they're really hyper focused on what is actually happening today. So, it's also just helping out different other organizations, too, in this crisis as they kind of respond to everything that's taking place.

So, whether it's teachers and helping them set up some type of digital learning environment and to create the content that still continues to engage their students to, again, doctors too, in a similar fashion around how they can can continue on their social networks, be able to spread the correct information around what's happening with the virus, to working with different governments. We've been working with the French government, for example, around how they disseminate public health information and what's happening with government protocols across all of the different, different subunit subsidiaries of the government within France itself and then all the way over into industry too. For example, one of the major airlines that we work with has also been able to utilize Canva in a fashion to help roll out a lot of the changes that they've been making over the last few days in response to COVID-19. So it's kind of all over the map in terms of helping out at every possible level. What we can do is just making sure that we're spending time on what's the most important thing for us, helping people in any way that we can.

Design & Do Good – Canva’s Core Values Shine Through During Covid-19

Tiffany: The people, the folks at Canva, they keep really showing their true colors and, you know, it speaks to the mission that we have. Right? The first piece is  around empowering everybody to design but part two, which you know for us. Mel loves to keep it easy. It's a two step plan. Part one, help enable everybody to be able to design. And then part two, is then be able to do good in their world. And so, that's something that's really core to our day-to-day here, at Canva, and it's really important that, you know, we're thinking about holistically and it's not just about building a business, things like that.

How Canva Makes Visual Communication Accessible to Everyone

Adam: What is it about design that helps messaging? That's what I'm looking at. What is it about design that does that?

Tiffany: Absolutely. I think, at the end of day, you want to able to connect with people, right? And so, what is it about the experience that you can create for them and that, at the end of the day, is what comes back to design. And so, what can really generate that type of, any type of response, you know, whether it's emotional or logical, however, you know, whatever type of person you are that you react to. And so, for us, you know, what we want to make possible is have everybody have that ability. You know, I'm not, I'm personally not a designer,  and so when I see a lot of the tools that you think of immediately when you think design, it's, you know, Photoshop and, you know, Figma, and a bunch of these other tools right now that are really difficult to learn because, you know, at the end of the day, they're designed specifically for designers. And so you get that level of granularity that any regular person walking down the street may not necessarily understand or have learned or spent the time to really dig deep into and be able to become a power user.

Tiffany: And so Canva really helps to simplify what all of that is. So anybody, you know, whether it's a kid, 5 year old kid, up to someone, who is, for me personally, at least the first way I found out about Canva was my friend's mom's in Oklahoma, who told me first  that they were using Canva and so something that for me was like, oh, I wasn't expecting like that particular tool to be what, you know, what you were using on a day to day basis. And so it's pretty incredible the reach that we've been able to achieve and the different types of people from all facets of life who utilize it in whether it's in their personal life, for birthday cards, wedding invites to what they do at work in terms of creating a sales deck or, you know, just even the internal poster advertising that's hey, happy hour is on Friday.

Social Distancing Might Be Increasing Creativity

Adam: I want to suggest that maybe what's changed is that people are now at home. Right?  I mean, I'm fortunate enough to have spent the last five years sitting right where you're looking at me. Basically, I also have an office in an incubator, so I'm not completely homebound. But I set up this little studio and so this is where I work and really enjoy it. So for me, this is quite normal. But suddenly, tens, if not hundreds of millions of people have migrated from the office and now are working out of their houses. So that's one thing that's happened. The other thing that's happened is suddenly there's this, frankly, panic. Everyone's panicking all over the world. So two major things have happened. Right?  Everyone's at home and they're all panicked, for the most part, except for people like me who are just completely loopy and just looking for a way to thrive in this time right? Just trying to find the bright spot. Right? What are we going to learn from this? How will we move forward? So my question to you is, is there a connect? What do you think the connection is between this migration to the house and tow working actually in an isolated place and this uptick that you're seeing that people have for creativity, which is what it is when you go on Canva.

Tiffany: I mean, absolutely. It's about how you're able to express what you were, you know..previously, you were always constantly surrounded by people or you could go out at any point in time to be able to meet the folks that you wanted to meet and be able to then express in person what that creativity you've been holding in is.  And so I see, you know, Canva probably likely in this case, is that outlet for a lot of folks where they're able to continue to be able to hold what they're doing on a day-to-day with folks and be able to make it, articulate it really clearly and then thus also still be able to share and continue to have those conversations that they have. And so, trying to recreate a lot of what takes place in your day-to-day, except, of course, now you're in a completely different situation. And so it's all taking place over these digital channels because at the end of day, you know, that's the one thing that's not actually affected because a virus can't take down at least directly.

Adam: Not this kind of virus. The other kind of virus can take you right. You've just  got to watch your e-mail.

Covid-19 Is Creating a Paradigm Shift to Working Online

Adam: I think that there, it is accelerating a shift to the digital world. You know, I voluntarily embarked on this path five years ago when we moved out into the middle of nowhere, basically. And I realized the only way I'm going to communicate with anybody is online. And then I discovered that I can have a conversation with you. I can tell you something interesting. But if I record that, and distribute it, that means suddenly, you watching me say something like give a lesson or a training or something.  If I'm sitting here directly in front of you in real time, it's actually no different than if you watched a video of it. And so I started to amplify my voice online. And I think that people, I just have this sense that there will be a shift. People who are now involuntarily forced to do what I did voluntarily will come to realize it ain't that bad, in fact, there's an elegance and a liberty, actually, it's kind of liberating, right, that suddenly you can express yourself, in a way, without being subject to chit chat in the office or whatever.

Tiffany: Yeah, I think that's definitely coming at some point in time, or at least so many, there's so many new avenues that make it really easy for you to be able to express yourself digitally and have that basically be the same experience as if you're doing it online. And so, I mean, I think we see all of those trends right now in terms of, you know, even the social networks themselves are getting faster and faster in some elements. And so, with, you know, the shorter videos with Tick-Tock or just a continuous stream, as an example of that. And for us, here at Canva, I think is, hey, how do you actually create content faster and how are able to then disseminate it across multiple different channels as quickly as you can. And so, kind of really being able to move across multiple different directions with people, people gradually moving into this online space and realizing that it's an even bigger kind of audience that you can actually reach, by going digital.

The Importance of Digital Communication across Multiple Media Channels

Adam: For somebody who is sitting at home, possibly listening to this, that is, like I was, not that long ago with this device, this phone that I'm holding up right? A total troglodyte. I had no idea. And here they are, listening to this podcast and they don't use social. They struggle with any kind of tech except you know, maybe Microsoft Word, for example and e-mail. And they're hearing you say things like, the importance and I'm quoting you now, back at you, because I took a note, "importance of spreading content across multiple channels". Why is that important? Let's tell those folk who have never really thought about doing so today.

Tiffany: So I think it comes back to, who do you want to reach as well as what's the type of message you want toget across with folks and also just being able to again, kind of express yourself in a way that demonstrates the full kind of expression and feeling of the idea that you're looking to, kind of convey over to folks, and so the elements of digital or a platform like Canva kind of combine all of that where it gives you that ability to express yourself that you maybe couldn't figure out with other, you know, other older tools that folks are used to using and so helps you kind of break it down into this, you know, step by step chunks that you need, whether it's a super easy grid pattern or what are some different types of colors or like fonts you can play with and then elements on top of that around stickers or gifts and just help you really express very simply in a way that many people are going to really resonate with.

And then, you know, the next step is just then be able to click, one-step click and then be able to send it out to whoever you really want to send it out to. And then you also have the option of being able to tap into those channels. I can send it off to anybody else if you would actually like more people to be exposed to it. So I think it's really giving you a lot of that choice and I think is really attractive to folks who may not have necessarily used it before, where you can decide how many people really want to be able to have that exposure. And if you want to be able to continue to learn more from other folks, or you know, solicit more ideas and opinions or just find out what other people think about your idea at the end of day and using digital is one of the fastest ways to get a response. A really, really fast response.



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Seize the Opportunity to Learn Something New During Covid-19

Adam: We're talking about what Canva is, is the ability to express yourself using pictures and colors and art.  It's a very, very, creative way of doing that. Now you also mentioned that people use, you mentioned using Canva instead of older tools.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Adam: The other implication, right? The other implication and I said PowerPoints. I'm actually embarrassed to say that I actually did a pretty good job with PowerPoint until I discovered Canva and then I don't know how. I even sent templates in PowerPoint to my team and they kind of, I think they, they're all remote. I think they kind of laughed at me, when I first said like, do you mind if we use Canva? No. Not sure. What is that? So I've been converted. But the other implication that I'm getting at, like what's the world that we're in right now, right now, today, and this uptick that you are experiencing and seeing is, do you think that there is an element of wanting to learn something new? Right? To take, this is you know, what I think that the way to survive this whole strange thing is to look for ways to thrive, right, not just survive it. You want to come out the other side of it, a better person. You want to learn something now and take something from this wacky experience in the best way to do that, is to learn something. So in your case, do you think that that's what's happening? People are saying, well, what is this thing? How do I learn how to use something new?

Tiffany: Yeah, so I mean with Canva, for example, if you just think about our template and our content library that we have. You can explore that to see, hey, what are multiple different ways that people think about this particular topic. You know, just searching for it, or if you wanted to, you know, just pull it up and scroll through to see what's the latest and greatest that different creators are utilizing the Canva platform for and uploading in and, you know, that's something that's opt in, of course, to share with others. That's something where you can just generate different ideas just based off of using, just logging into Canva and checking out the home page and, or searching through our different libraries. And so that's something definitely where, you know, what's that spark of inspiration that you need to really start being creative and moving into our editor and creating what you're actually looking for yourself. I think that element of the, you know, most brainstorm possible type of searching for inspiration that you can do. There's other elements, too, within Canva, you know, it's a lot of what we have isn't necessarily completely brand new and so it's very familiar, relative to other tools too as well that people have used,

Tiffany: So there is some, you know, we are, to some extent, being able to use that familiarity as a way to introduce additional options that help with reducing the amount of clicks that you have to make. So that drag and drop that I mentioned earlier, that's so simple as, you have a picture that you found that you really want to use. You want to put it into a different size, shape, and so if you drag and drop it in, then it'll just fit it automatically into that shape and so you don't have to figure out, oh how do I resize the store? How do I crop it appropriately? How do I remove certain elements of it that I don't want.  It just does that automatically and so I think that's something where it's a nice little aha moment, once you see it, in our tutorials, if you're not trying it out yourself or if you're kind of just brainstorming and playing around with it, you'll be able to find fairly quickly.

Canva’s Magic Helps You Communicate across All Social Media Channels

Adam: Completely immersed as you are in Canva, in your own technology, you forget that some people don't know that you actually might need to change the size of something. Right? You change the size because, you know, this took me a while to figure out. So why isn't my beautiful PowerPoint picture working on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, or on Instagram. I'm getting error messages every time I want to upload the damn thing. What's going on? Right.


Tiffany: Yeah. That's actually something super interesting that, so I probably am a little bit behind my generation in terms of fully understanding how to utilize all social networks which Canva's really helped me understand too as well. You know like, every single one of those mediums has their own type of template and their own type of template size, and so, as a result of that, If you weren't using something like Canva, then you would have to create something for each platform individually and then be able to post, it one at a time, across each of those platforms. And so, you know, Instagram is a different size. Facebook has a different size image. LinkedIn has something that's different too as well. So, with Canva, you have what we call is, "magic resize" which I think is intuitive in this context that we're talking about and allows you to be able to, you create one design and then you can automatically recreate it across every single one of those channels that you're looking to post and so that way it just resizes your design and makes it perfect for Instagram and another button makes it perfect for Facebook and so you actually don't even need to know what the dimensions are. You just need to be able to, you just need to know what channels or what mediums you want to be able to spread your spread your creativity on.

Why More People Are Using CanvaDuring Covid-19

Adam: And then now, have you seen a spike in usage in the last couple of weeks?

Tiffany: Yeah, so it's been something I think that's been or we're still continuing to monitor in terms of what usage is beginning to look like because I think similar to every possible other platform, I think, there's probably a little bit of a dip as people reacted really quickly to the change in their day to day lives. However we've seen a lot of that come back and go beyond what was initially expected, especially in activity. And so that's been something that has been really interesting. It's still very early trends wise. If we think about our usage in China, for example, that's actually come up beyond what we used to have, pre-crisis too, as well, and so that's been something that's been pretty interesting to follow as that's probably a leading indicator of what the rest of the world sees it will look like.

Adam: All right. So tell me, what do you think is happening? Why is that ticking up?

Tiffany: It's happening, yes. I think that this is just me speculation, is that folks are finding right Canva in terms of how easy it is to use and its ability to create that story that folks are looking to be able to tell really simply and be able to also then, you know, publish it and proliferate across the different channels that you have for communicating with the world. And so, you know, it can be as simple as, you know, an Instagram story or as simple as a one-page poster that you want to share with the world. And so all of those things, you know, it's only a couple of clicks and, you know, you can edit the text or drag and drop the image or sticker that you're looking for. And that's something that you can relate to with almost anybody really fast in a visual medium instantly across all the digital channels that you have. And so it's pretty incredible in terms of how fast people can learn how to use the platform and then be able to produce the type of content that they're looking to create.



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