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Labeled as one of Australia’s hottest start-ups, Australian graphic design company, Canva was founded in 2012 by Melanie Perkins, Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams. Last year, the design platform reported a $3.2 billion valuation with over 20 million users across 190 countries.
Creative content lead at Canva, Elle Hughes, chatted to The Millennial Source, sharing insight into her day-to-day activities and what keeps her going.
Describe the culture of Canva in one word
Inclusive (Also: Empowering. Fun. Kind.)
Describe your role at Canva?
I head up the Photo Content team at Canva – we create, source and curate photography for our content library, with a focus on aligning campaigns with our company values (namely: being a force for good).
What does a typical day at Canva look like?
Each day is different, depending on what campaigns and projects we’re working on at the time. We seek out photo collections that fulfil the needs of our template designers, users and what’s trending in the world (International Women’s Day, COVID-19 educational photos etc). More often than not, we’ll create the photos we need, either in-house or via our pool of talented freelance photographers from all around the world.
In-house shoots are a lot of fun. We have a studio in our Manila office where team members produce all sorts of photo content, especially the more design-focused flatlays and thematic scene shoots (think Christmas, New Years, back to school etc.).
For the shoots we produce in Sydney, the focus is on showcasing our amazing and diverse team. The Canva office space is beautiful, and perfect for shoots – loads of natural light, modern, and full of plants and artwork with some of the best views of Sydney possible. Our cafe/bar/kitchen area provides lots of variety too!
It also wouldn’t be a typical day at Canva without our amazing breakfast and lunch prepared by our team of in-house chefs, our barista-made coffees and various fun club activities or fitness sessions before and after work!
You now look after a team of content specialists who are working on a variety of great projects to challenge societal and gender stereotypes. This is pretty ambitious, what keeps you going?
I think this is one of the most exciting parts of what I do. It’s not often you’re in a position to change the way that groups of people are portrayed in the media. By that, I mean that stock photos are widely used in all sorts of publications and posts you see in the media and by providing stock photography that is diverse and inclusive (as we’re striving to do), we’re nipping the stereotype issue in the bud, right at the source.
Personally, I find myself hyper-aware of how certain groups of people are portrayed in the media – women in particular. To play a part in making the world a little more accepting of people, exactly as they are, even if they don’t fit into a bucket pre-defined by society, I think that’s cool. And challenging. But mostly cool.
How do you keep your team motivated?
We’re all motivated by the same goal – to make a difference to traditional stock photography. It’s a creative space to work in, which is always quite motivating in itself.
How did you end up working at one of the world’s currently hottest startups?
I started over 3 years ago and was initially hired to work on the Design School blog which taught our users how to get the most out of Canva. My background is actually in marketing, but as Canva grew, I moved across into the content space (Canva’s ‘marketplace’) and loved it.
Melanie Perkins is described as one of the most down to earth entrepreneurs. What is she like?
Melanie is such a beautiful human. I’ve never met someone with such a strong vision, not only for the company but also how to make the world a better place.
Describe your mind using three words
(Extremely) active. Creative. Unconventional.
What are three words you would use to describe your character/ you as a person?
Driven. Thoughtful. Adventurous.
What’s something you’re currently working on achieving?
Professionally, I’m making the most of being surrounded by some of the most talented people in their field, to help develop my skills as a project manager. We have an internal coaching program in place at Canva, which supports growth, so I’m working with my coach on this.
Personally, I’m working on creating a wine app. Stay tuned.
What’s your spirit animal? And why?
A dolphin. They’re social creatures and seem to really enjoy life.
What’s one critical moment that has shaped your life?
Growing up, I travelled a lot. I went to seven different primary schools, and lived in some of Australia’s most remote towns. I believe that constantly navigating new surroundings and interacting with some pretty diverse communities helped me develop compassion and adaptability. And I think these things have gotten me to where I am today.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Develop good habits early on, especially related to your physical and mental health. Start meditating on a daily basis and keep your internal voice in check.
I’ve learned how important it is to be kind to yourself and others, and enjoy life as much as you can.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be David Attenborough.
My name’s Elle Hughes, and I head up the Photo Content team here at Canva. I’m on a mission to create one of the world’s most diverse and inclusive stock photo libraries and provide all users with everything they need to create their designs.