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Creative Collaboration: A Look into Canva Manila’s New Office

Words by Troy Barrios

Two years ago, Canva Manila operated from a coworking space with a team of eight. The online graphic design company first opened in 2012, in Sydney,with the release of an app that allows users to create their own design needs, from posters and presentations to blog graphics. The Manila office opened in 2014 to tap the Filipino’s natural flair for design, says Kei San Pablo, country manager of Canva Manila. Today, the team has grown to over 250 people, spread across the two cities. 

“We’re not a huge fan of walls,” explains San Pablo. The open plan, flexible workspace is designed to embrace Canva’s culture of embracing diversity and inclusivity. “We want everyone to be able to freely approach everyone else: the newbies and old timers, the creative and the logicians, the introverts and extroverts,” says San Pablo. Glass partitions achieve a high level of visibility and let in natural light. On the other hand, quiet nooks are available for people more comfortable working in their own space. Architects Shamal Singh and Emma Averlon, who collaborated on both the Sydney and Manila offices, made sure to incorporate accessibility features designed for PWDs, too.


Essentially, the Canva office has places for gathering and spaces for creative retreat. It’s a mixed space that contributes to developing individuality and building community. Industrial elements and the use of humble materials are for functionality and to emphasize the space, which has to accommodate a constantly growing team. 

The main workspace, an open plan, flexible area, is respectful of every individual and the way they want to work. “The office space was created with an awareness that our environment has the capacity to shape people who use it—how we interact, how we work, how we live. We spend a lot of our time in the office, and it should therefore be able to accommodate how we want to use that space, and be comfortable in it.”

Expansive meeting rooms to connect with global team members.

In addition to the main workspace, Canva Manila features three important features: an expansive event space, meeting rooms and its kitchens. “One of our values at Canva is to set crazy big goals and make them happen—and when we achieve our goals, we have these amazing, extraordinary celebrations together! We have beautiful event spaces dedicated to these pursuits,” says San Pablo. It’s also the perfect venue for sponsoring and supporting events for the tech and startup ecosystem in the Philippines.  

The meeting rooms are another important feature. As a global platform, there’s constant need for team members to connect from different parts of the world, to collaborate on strategy, execution, and sometimes just to brainstorm and check up on how the team is doing as a whole. These rooms meet these purposes—designed to be private, with soundproofing for uninterrupted communication. Comfort is essential, so most of them feature couches or beanbags. And they’re functional, with monitors for presentations and glass panes that can double as whiteboards.

Canva Manila has a kitchen manned by an in-house chef to provide for meals for the entire team.

And finally, the kitchen is an expansive space on the top floor manned by an in-house chef that provides meals for the whole team. San Pablo says it’s really important thing for the team culture to have lunch together. “From the very beginning, our small team shared meals right from our CEO Melanie Perkins’ living room table. We’ve continued having lunch together as a team ever since, which we find has been amazing for our culture. It helps to foster an environment of inclusion and also helps everyone on the team to get to know others they might not work together on a day-to-day basis. Having lunch together doesn’t need to be lavish or expensive, but it has huge wins,” he says.

Some of the perks in the office are possible because of the its unique physical features —for example, the delicious healthy food available from the kitchen. The event spaces and couch rooms have encouraged team spirit, which led to clubs for people in the office who share special interests—currently, there’s a board game club, cooking club, pet club. Sharing non-job related interests and activities only make the team stronger.

Murals and designs created by local artists complement the office’s beautiful, industrial interiors.

And for all its utility, the space is also beautiful. Murals and designs created by local artists like Archie Oclos add character and energy, complementing the beautiful functionality of the industrial interiors.

“Our space contributes to a healthy culture, which is fundamental to a business’s growth. Happy team members take ownership of their role, work harder and bring their best to their tasks each day, and their creativity to the bigger vision.”

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