The global online design platform Canva is on a mission to help empower everyone to design anything. Inspired by the idea that people can overcome steep learning curves with the right tools, co-founders Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams believe the future of design should be more collaborative and easy to use, and exist online.
Before Slack, the early days at Canva involved face-to-face standups with a team you could count on two hands. “As the company grew, the way we collaborated had to change accordingly,” says Liz McKenzie, Canva’s global head of PR and communications. “Everybody was wearing so many different hats. We needed to bring on the right tools to help transition the team into a more efficient working group.”
With over 40 million monthly active users in more than 190 countries, Canva’s growing user base includes small-business owners, social media influencers, nonprofits, enterprise employees, teachers and students. Since the company’s public launch in 2013, more than 3 billion designs have been created—equivalent to 80 designs per second.
Canva has been using Slack since 2016. The secure channel-based messaging platform helps a globally distributed team that now spans Australia, the Philippines, China, and the U.S. do their best work.
More than 1,000 Canva employees use Slack channels to share messages and files and to collaborate on projects. Channels also help distribute companywide communications and onboard new team members (nicknamed “Canvanauts”).
Solving error incidents faster with Slack channels
Canva’s Internal Infrastructure team, who create bespoke workplace technology solutions, rely on Slack to keep their work moving forward efficiently. The Sentry integration keeps track of error incidents, helping them discover incidents within a minute of happening. “Getting error notifications delivered into our team Slack channel feels much more like a livestream of updates and less spammy than emails,” says Lawrence Law, an infrastructure engineer.
“Getting error notifications delivered into our team Slack channel feels much more like a livestream of updates and less spammy than emails.”
To unlock developer productivity, custom Slack bots are a nifty way to run code and automate tasks. Canva’s internal applications and systems operations team use bots to:
- Automate Jira ticket requests via keyword detection
- Simplify communication with their China office via translation bots
- Triage tech support requests with chatbots
At Canva, employee onboarding is a company wide responsibility. “We also use Slack reminders for cross-functional team task syncs,” says infrastructure engineer Caly Yang. “For example, we can set a reminder for People Operations to update the onboarding list, or alert Tech Support to prepare hardware for newbies.”
Keeping everyone connected throughout the company helps set incoming hires up for success with the right systems, tools and Slack channels—no matter the office location.
Strengthening external partner relationships with Slack Connect
Your company’s success often depends on people outside your walls who have specialized skills to make quick-turnaround projects happen. With Slack Connect, Canva can work faster with its external partners in a way that feels as straightforward and fluid as collaborating with its in-house teams.
In 2019 Canva launched a seasonal campaign, “Pasko” (the Tagalog word for Christmas), that invited people to design an online greeting card for their loved ones. The company and its external agencies relied on Slack Connect from the initial planning stages to campaign launch. Says McKenzie,”Because the campaign was based on a single ‘big reveal’ moment where we needed to capture the experience of family members being reunited, we relied on Slack to make sure that everyone was included across the latest updates.”
“The aim was to bring joy, get people excited by seeing their own designs, and create a new way for people to see their family,” she says. “The grand finale involved us sending a Filipino family based in Melbourne back to their family in the Philipines.”
“There’s that sense of belonging and just really being in the loop of a lot of things, thanks to everyone sharing updates on Slack.”
Slack Connect helped Canva build trust and rapport quickly with external partners. By enabling Canva to work faster with agency partners in a channel, the team could easily address changing priorities, feedback requests and important campaign details.
People from up to 20 different organizations can join a channel. For the Pasko campaign, Canva’s Slack Connect channel included Canva’s in-house PR and communications teams, who helped pitch the idea to Havas, Canva’s PR agency in the Philippines, which steered on-the-ground logistics. There was also an internal brand studio that looked after creative assets and a community team who facilitated the family’s real-life surprise moment.
The results? “It came together beautifully,” says McKenzie. “We decided to continue working with the PR agency, and we brought them in on a retainer.”
Boosting transparency, employee engagement and onboarding
“Canva is all about collaboration and empowering teams,” McKenzie says. “And I think it’s natural to us that we would also steer toward a communication tool like Slack that facilitates teamwork.”
She credits transparency and asynchronous communication as crucial factors in making key stakeholders feel involved when a new product or campaign launches: “If you have an update, loop people in. They don’t have to respond, necessarily, but they know what’s going on.”
The company has thousands of Slack channels for teams, groups, projects, office locations, and discussions. Different teams also use channels for rollouts, general support questions and cross-functional team collaboration.
“Canva is all about collaboration and empowering teams. And I think it’s natural to us that we would also steer toward a communication tool like Slack that also facilitates collaboration and teamwork.”
“There’s that sense of belonging and just really being in the loop with a lot of things because of Slack,” McKenzie says. Emoji can also help make channel-based messaging more expressive and productive. “For example, you could say, ‘This campaign is ready!’ Then add an emoji reaction to acknowledge your colleague: a checkmark or thumbs-up. You immediately know who’s doing what.”
When new employees onboard, they can join many Slack channels straight away. Some of these channels include:
#kudosto call out companywide acts of awesomeness that anyone encounters at Canva
#polygotsto offer help in 50+ languages spoken by the global team
#internal-infra-teamfor anyone who needs to reach out via a public channel to Canva’s Internal Infrastructure team
#teamfor companywide communications and notices
#sydneyfor companywide announcements impacting only the Sydney office
#karaokeclub(plus 360 other social channels) to help people join clubs and bond over shared interests
Supporting the Canvanauts culture with Slack emoji
Ranked as one of Australia’s best places to work, Canva uses Slack to bring its supportive, diverse and unapologetically quirky company culture to life.
Recognizing work well done is another team ritual made possible with Disco, an online culture platform for distributed teams. The app integrates with Slack and lets employees give a well-earned shoutout to their colleagues.
Canva takes it one step further with an extra layer of customization. “Every time you give someone kudos, the app comes up with our six values that we can attribute their great work to,” McKenzie explains.
As a companywide tool of choice used by Canva’s founders, coaches, managers, team leads, and individual contributors, Slack helps the company bring its core values to life every day, including “Make complex things simple.”
“A tool like Slack only works if everybody uses it and the whole company embraces it,” McKenzie says. “It becomes part of who we are at work: giving kudos, acknowledging our colleagues.”