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Why design literacy is emerging as a critical skill

As the need for design literacy sweeps the workplace, we share how business leaders can foster a creative and collaborative environment.

We recently spoke with 1,600 global business leaders, including People and HR directors, to understand how the rise of visual communication is impacting their organizations.

These insights informed Canva’s inaugural Visual Economy Report(opens in a new tab or window) revealing that 95% of business leaders expect employees to possess design skills and knowledge. In an increasingly visual world, the ability to build engaging presentations, social media posts, visual documents, and more is becoming table stakes for an increasing number of roles.

It’s clear that design is no longer only the purview of designers. What was once considered a specialized skill has become foundational for millions of everyday professionals worldwide. Whether you’re a marketer building a strategy deck, a Talent team creating onboarding materials, or even a financial analyst compiling quarterly reports, these findings demonstrate compelling visuals are now the status quo.

Make every employee a designer

In a world of information overload where a wall of text is the quickest way to lose someone’s attention, the ability to create visually compelling content allows everyday professionals to communicate their ideas more effectively.

Business leaders have sat up and taken notice, with 63% providing visual design training to those in non-design roles. The return on this education is starting to show, with 90% stating employees understand what’s expected of them from a design perspective, and know where to turn for design help.

Graph showing how as visual communication becomes table stakes, business leaders are providing design training for employees in non-design roles.

At Canva, we promote design literacy in our day-to-day work, but also throughout the recruitment process. For most of our roles, we ask candidates to respond to a ‘challenge’ brief where they present their ideas back to us using their favorite Canva medium (for example a video(opens in a new tab or window), a presentation(opens in a new tab or window), or a website(opens in a new tab or window)) to help them develop an understanding of the platform and how we communicate.

If candidates are successful (we’ve already welcomed around 600 new starters this year), they then also complete our internal Design School(opens in a new tab or window) boot camp as part of onboarding which empowers all Newbies (our affectionate term for new hires) with the foundations of design literacy and visual communication. This includes everything from frameworks for design thinking to practical design tips and tricks – like how to access our Brand Kit or use AI-powered features like Magic Resize(opens in a new tab or window) or one-click Background Remover(opens in a new tab or window) to speed up otherwise tedious work.

We’ve had many folks join with minimal design skills and go on to create professional-looking documents and presentations full of interactive graphics and videos in no time. Our goal is to fuel creative confidence from the get-go so that communicating visually becomes second nature in how our team thinks, works, and collaborates.

Appeal to the creative and collaborative needs of Gen Z

With college graduation ceremonies starting to take place around the world, workplaces are preparing for an influx of Gen Z talent. By 2025, it's estimated 27% of the workforce* in OECD countries will be Gen Z. These digital natives have grown up with smartphones and social media. From memes to videos and digital whiteboards to GIFs, the currency in which Gen Z likes to communicate, both personally and professionally, is visual.

A man in a blue hoodie and woman in a plaid shirt smile as they face a laptop

As Talent teams vie for the best and brightest minds, visual communication can be a powerful way to make your employer brand stand out. From candidate pitch decks to hiring manager Talking Presentations and onboarding collateral, visuals can help cut through the noise and make the candidate experience memorable.

A gif showing a talking onboarding presentation

This emerging demographic is truly the visual generation, so it was no surprise that 93% of Gen Z respondents agree that communicating visually helps them articulate ideas better. By prioritizing design literacy, business leaders can appeal to the inherent creative capabilities of this demographic, giving themselves an edge in the market for talent.

Graphs showing that Gen Z is more agile and creative and recognizes the power of visual communication more than other generations

By also providing access to the latest visual communication tools, business leaders can empower Gen Z to maximize their productivity and creativity – as well as promote a sense of workplace inclusion. 94% of Gen Z respondents are prioritizing cross-team collaboration when evaluating visual communication platforms.

Tools like digital whiteboards, interactive presentations, and collaborative documents allow them to visually present their ideas and brainstorm together. Creating genuine engagement can be difficult, especially with teams more distributed than ever before. This is where the power of visual communication and collaborative tools can inspire and unite.

Selecting a collaborative brainstorm template in Canva | enabling design literacy

With the world becoming an increasingly digital and visual place, developing the skills to communicate visually has never been more important. Business leaders who prioritize design literacy will ensure their teams are equipped with the skills needed to succeed in today's visual economy.

To learn more about how you can get ahead in an increasingly visual world, dive into The Visual Economy Report.(opens in a new tab or window)

*World Economic Forum

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