(Notes: All opinions are my own. I am not affiliated with Canva in any way)
Canva is a very popular design platform that I thought I would never use to create the deliverable for a Data Visualization project. I usually work in Tableau, which is more flexible, complete, and a surefire 360 degree visualization software, with all the perks of mostly being a drag-and-drop solution.
Why would you then ever use Canva instead of something like Tableau? Can Canva even be considered “data visualization software”?
A recent project, which ended with the deliverable of a Canva infographic which received great feedback from the client, made me reconsider the above question, and got me to think about the advantages of Canva as an alternative medium through which to convey a visual data story.
In this brief article, I highlight the 4 main benefits of the tool and speak about the occasions in which you might want to choose Canva over different data visualization software.
Light solution that requires zero prep-work
There are some occasion in which “less is more”, and that counts also for data visualization projects. Canva has the main advantage of requiring zero overhead and saves precious setup time either you or the client have to dedicate to share and interact with your viz in a meaningful way.
You only focus on the design and the presentation of your insights in a simple, cohesive and neat format.
No time is thus dedicated to sharing dashboards on dedicated Tableau Online pages, handling occasional version compatibility issues, administering user privileges and keeping track of frequent changes across the above. And after the project’s deadline has passed, maintainability is not even an issue.
With Canva, especially if you are on a tight deadline and your project requires a quick turnaround, you can just focus on the output.
Easy report integration
The tool is also ideal if your client does not want to access and share your visualization as a standalone product but also has the goal of integrating it into presentations and PDF reports.
If what you need is a static view of your data story and you do not want to spend time translating the interactivity of your Tableau/Dash/D3/PowerBI /etc.. dashboard into several screenshot-like views, you can just lift Canva to deliver a single infographic piece of data visualization which contains the end-to-end view of your data story.
This is a great advantage in settings in which the client/end user needs to make a static use of your data visualization, as they might be in need to submit it to a third-party which requires a standard document reporting format.
Dynamic and rich dashboards are great most of the time, but sometimes clients want the full story in one go, in one static page. Canva allows you to do just that.
Forces you to focus on the absolute essential of your data story
With Canva, there is no fiddling around. The infographic format and its “fixed” nature force the creator to prioritize key messages to be conveyed into powerful visualizations for which there is no shortage of data charts and graph options.
And if you are ever in need of something slightly more complex, you can always code it up in the backend and upload it into the tool.
I found this to be very beneficial as sometimes fancier charts take away readability and interpretability, even though at first glance they may seem beautiful to the eye
Overall, being able to focus on the bare minimum by using a tool which gives you fewer options is a great plus for data projects in which the the takeaways from a particular visualization needs to be crystal clear.
Oh, and did I mention the tool is absolutely free? You can always sign up for a Pro Version, but you can definitely manage to deliver a powerful infographic for your project without ever subscribing to the Paid version.
Tip: If you are short on time, consider signing up to the Pro Version with a 1-month free trial, deliver on your project, and then unsubscribe before its deadline.
Although Canva does not compete, and does not even aim to compete with more structured and flexible business intelligence and data visualization software tools, it can be a great alternative solution for the data visualization designer who:
- Wants to focus merely on output and get rid of software overhead
- Needs a static and easy-to-integrate format
- Needs to convey few key messages in a visually powerful way
- Is on a tight software license (and time) budget
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