0 to 1 to Ethical AI: building a content marketplace

The problem

Users were selling Canva templates on 3rd party sites—and having to take on the burden of customer service and technical support for all of Canva itself in the process


1.5 years


Group Product Design Lead: Sally
4 x Product Designers
33 x Eng
3 x PMs

My role

Design Lead
Consultation on ethical AI approach
Developing review and quality principles


The solution

An intuitive program to sell templates and graphics within Canva—called Canva Creators, where our users could earn more with less hassle. Canva Creators can also choose to supply their data to train AI—and get paid for it in a world-first program to fund the creation of an ethical AI design model.


Grew Creator content revenue from 0 to $290 million


ROI of content increased 100% in last 12 months 


The process

We’d known for some time there was a large paid market for Canva templates outside Canva. Many enterprising freelancers had built their businesses on providing niche or high-quality local content.
Our exploratory research told us that because these Creators were on 3rd party sites, getting the purchased templates from those sites into the hands of Canva users was a massive hassle. Customer service was one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of their job. 
We saw an opportunity to provide these designers an easier way to earn a living, and to power the explosion of growth in global content that our users wanted—by growing a marketplace for designers to sell their content within Canva.



We wanted to start with a small group of popular designers who would be happy to share their insights with us as we built, and collaborate on creating the perfect marketplace for creatives to sell their work. 
We mapped out the full flow for the end-to-end experience—covering onboarding, getting inspiration to create, designing and publishing, with automated checks to help Creators implement the best template UX. We also considered the flow to allow reviewers to check the designs for suitability and usability.
Our initial user flow mapping
Creators end to end flow
We worked with our engineers and PMs to define our bare-bones MVP, and wireframed, prototyped, and tested the flow to ensure that we’d simplified the process and made it easy for Creators to publish their content.
Onboarding was tested, but cut from MVP in favour of a manual process
Prototype testing for Canva Creators
We then built out the MVP. The onboarding remained manual, but we built features to assist in publishing templates, managing published templates, and a review flow to allow reviewers to reject inappropriate content. We road-tested and refine our payment model, and began to learn how to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with our Creators.
We also learned a lot about the impact of content quality. An early experiment in relaxing our aesthetic quality guidelines showed degradation in search success over time—proving that an investment in aspirational content was critical for our users.
The MVP was a success, proving we could leverage Creators to supply a high quality and diverse range of content that was hugely popular with users.
Some of our favourite Creators from the MVP


From MVP to fully fledged

With the MVP a success, and showing promising growth in monetising content, we added more features to scale our Creator community and their impact. We started with features that would have the highest return for users and Creators combined, including:

  • – Automated emails to inform Creators why their content had been rejected by our review team
  • – An inspiration hub to teach Creators about the best opportunities they could pursue for creation
  • – A dashboard showing Creators how much they had earned, from which templates.

    Creators email feedback
    Creators inspiration and education hub
    Creator earnings hub

    These features lowered the rate of problematic submissions; spotlit areas where templates were most needed; and allowed Creators to develop trust in the program as they could see their earnings growing over time.
    While sending automated feedback on template errors via email was good as a first step, we hypothesised that stopping errors before they even reached our reviewers would supercharge the speed of our review process—so we then built an automated tool to check templates and help to resolve errors before they were published.
    This tool was later also adapted to provide information to help our users avoid printing errors when designing for Canva Print.

    We discovered a strong use case via research for providing an individual profile page for each Creator, which functioned as a portfolio to display all their work. This had the added benefit of attracting more users to Canva via SEO, and allowing users who found a Creator they loved to follow them and see more of their work in the future.

    Creators profile page
    Creators profile page
    Creator earnings hub

    These tools helped Creators to help our users, building a virtuous cycle of benefit. SEO brought new users to the platform via Creator profiles; which helped new users to find Canva via the content they needed; earning money for Creators whose content they used, encouraging our Creators to create more content to bring in more users… and so on.

    Building partnership

    We also welcomed top brands onto the platform as Creators, developing partnerships to power more growth for the program. We offered each brand their own Creator account, and they created content to share with our users. This allowed us to share unique collections like Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, and Care Bears for our educational users.
    Creator Profile Pages
    Our partners loved being able to have ownership and control over the content they made public on our platform, while raising their profile with our millions of users.

    Ethical AI

    The program continues to grow, and we’re now collaborating with our Creators to build AI features within Canva. Our Creators have the option to allow us to use their data for AI training, and we have supplied a $200M fund to compensate our Creators fairly for their data and help. We believe that human creativity will always be a part of AI design generation, and we’re setting up for a long relationship with our community, building together.


    Within the EU Commission, Council, and the European Parliament, Canva’s $200M creators payment fund has received an overwhelmingly positive reception, highlighting our leadership in ethical AI practices. Our model for compensating creators is seen as a benchmark for the industry.

    By building our community, we’ve grown 6400 Creators in 112 countries creating 2 million templates, and powered some exciting revenue growth.

    Grew Creator content revenue from 0 to $290 million


    ROI of content increased 100% in last 12 months