Design Wars: Microsoft Designer vs Canva

Interestingly, soon after the launch of Microsoft’s Designer, Canva launched an AI image generator which uses Stable Diffusion
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In October, 2022, Microsoft introduced Microsoft Designer, a graphic image design tool that enables users to generate signs, invitations, logos, social media posts, website banners, and much more with simple text prompts. The tool, powered by OpenAI’s DALLE.2, is currently available for free preview through a waitlist and allows users to utilise their own images or leverage the Designer’s “start from scratch” feature to generate a completely original design using text prompts. The program is modelled after Microsoft’s PowerPoint and also provides users the ability to make presentations.

Once the app becomes generally available, Microsoft will maintain a free tier, along with a premium version for those with Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family subscriptions, officials said.

With Designer, you can initiate a project by outlining your idea and then delegate all the tedious tasks to the AI. The app is powered by AI throughout all its functions. As a user, you work alongside Designer to ensure that the designs remain consistent, aligned, appropriately scaled, and visually appealing, regardless of your design expertise. 

Canva vs Microsoft Designer 

Microsoft Designer is seen as a direct competitor to Sydney-based design app Canva. Interestingly, soon after the launch of Microsoft’s Designer, Canva launched an AI image generator which uses Stable Diffusion. While DALL.E 2 (used by Microsoft Designer) can create pretty much anything, it uses a method called unCLIP, which is sophisticated enough to create indefinable images. It still has its limitations. 

Microsoft is aiming its Designer graphic design app at consumers at first, but if it perceives sufficient interest, the company would move the focus to enterprises, where it gets more business. Since DALL.E 2 is trained on millions of stock images, the output it creates is much more sophisticated and best suited for corporate use. 

Stable Diffusion’s creator, Emad Mostaque also maintains that, “Inpainting is the best feature of DALL.E 2, but by default, it is random and best used for ideation and more corporate usage, hence it’s clear training on licensed stock images”

In contrast, DALL-E 2 and Midjourney have not embraced complete open-source functionality. Stable Diffusion asserts that its model is entirely open source and accessible to all. Mostaque declares, “Code is already available as is the dataset. So everyone will improve and build on it.”

Stable Diffusion demonstrates a strong grasp of contemporary artistic illustration, resulting in the creation of highly detailed artworks. Nevertheless, it struggles with the interpretation of intricate original prompts, a task that even a small image generator like Craiyon (previously DALL-E mini) can accomplish. While Stable Diffusion excels at generating intricate artistic illustrations, it falls short in producing generic images such as logos.

Some have also noted that Stable Diffusion’s lack of limitations has resulted in its utilisation to produce images of models in the nude, military conflicts, and depictions of political or religious figures in inappropriate contexts, unlike Midjourney or DALLE.2.

Stable Diffusion, however, represents a significant achievement in the text-to-image generation industry, as it is an open-source technology that provides developers with access to its code on GitHub, enabling them to create more advanced tools in the future. Whether DALL.E 2’s lifelike images are superior to Stable Diffusion’s unimpeded usage, each AI model has its strengths and weaknesses, and the ideal option varies depending on the user’s needs. Ultimately, it all comes down to the requirements of the end-users.

Locking Horns in Public

The collision became more evident as Microsoft and Canva officials started sparring publicly.

“People can draw on templates to come up with social media posts in Designer,” Microsoft corporate vice president, Liat Ben-Zur, wrote in a blog post. To which, Cliff Obrecht, the startup’s co-founder and operating chief, in an interview said, “Social media is also probably the most popular medium for which people design on Canva”. But Obrecht insisted that Canva is “not competing against Microsoft”. Its primary competitor is Adobe, he said. 

However, the rivalry between Canva and Microsoft intensified when Canva began targeting significant aspects of Microsoft Office. In 2021, Canva introduced a substitute to PowerPoint for creating slides, and in September, it launched a tool for editing documents, competing against Word. Canva claims that its software has been adopted by 55,000 paid teams, including large corporations such as Amazon, FedEx, PepsiCo, Pfizer, and Salesforce.

​​The launch of Designer could also result in Microsoft competing with Adobe’s free Adobe Express tool, which offers templates and stock images. Despite this, Microsoft has a strong partnership with Adobe, with over 30 product integrations. According to a CNBC report, a Microsoft representative stated that Adobe remains their primary strategic partner and that the launch of Designer does not alter their relationship with Adobe in any way.

At a Bank of America event held in January, Jonathan Vaas, Adobe’s vice president of investor relations, stated that Canva is “where beginners get started before they come to Adobe”.

It will be intriguing to see the outcome of the competition between Canva and Microsoft Designer once Designer releases its product for public use. 

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