Who is Canva?

Canva is an ambitious Aussie start-up changing the landscape for small business owners and bloggers. Created in Surry Hills by founders: Cliff Obrecht, CEO Melanie Perkins, and Cameron Adams. This (not so) little start-up is reaching great heights, securing 3.6 million in its second round of funding and growing to over 600,000 members as of July 2014.

What is Canva?

Canva is a simple design tool making Graphic Design accessible to all. Canva allows you to create everything from newsletters to blog graphics to a Facebook Cover; using drag and drop functionality with stylish and on trend templates.

How much will it cost me?

Well this is the best part about Canva… It’s free! That’s right for standard templates and images there is no cost. Premium fonts, templates and images are charged at $1 each – an affordable expense if needed.

So how do you get started?

Head to www.canva.com, enter in your email, follow the prompts and away you go!

Once logged in you’ll find a user friendly interface with drag and drop functionality to simplify the design process.

Select a new design template. Note* Canva takes all the guess work out for you. If you’re creating a Social Media post it will default to the dimensions required for each social network; a nice little touch.

On the left hand side you’ll find everything you need to get designing. Fonts, backgrounds, layouts, design elements and the upload tab for your own images and logos.

 

 

 

What do I do next?

Once you’ve familiarised yourself with it’s dashboard I recommend heading on over to the Canva Blog & YouTube channel

Canva has a support base for the amateur like you wouldn’t believe. Need help choosing fonts, colour matching or creating an eye catching title? Canva has you sorted! Head to the blog first and learn the basics. Next up visit their YouTube channel and then head over and actually DO their Mini Challenges. Mini Challenges will have you designing like a pro in no time.

 My Hot Design Tip!

K.I.S.S – Keep it simple stupid!

Think clean. Crisp. Fresh. Chant these three words as you design. Oh I’m serious! This little mantra will remind you that simplicity really is best.

 

Manuela Crescenzi

Manuela is a Social Media expert and Editor of SheBlogger.com.au – Australia’s newest ‘go to’ source for the She Blogger.

 


Leaders in Heels is expanding our Tech section to Tech+Design! Our first article in the Design section is an interview with Anupam Pathak, founder of Lift Labs.

Lift Labs designs technologies to assist people with Essential Tremor and Parkinson’s Disease. Their main product is the Liftware Stabilizer, a spoon designed with active tremor cancellation, enabling sufferers to feed themselves – a feat that can be nearly impossible for some. Read on to see what inspires him, the design process for the Liftware Stabilizer, and the advice he has for aspiring industrial designers.

What inspired you to found Lift Labs?

The first time I saw the technology work by helping someone feed themselves I was floored.I’ve been really passionate about using technology to create social change and benefit. I had spent some time working on motion stabilization systems, but a few years ago made the decision to concentrate these efforts on helping people with Essential Tremor. It used to be called “Benign Essential Tremor”, but most patients will attest that it is not benign at all, and often leads to severe degradation in quality of life.

The first time we saw somebody with Essential Tremor eat soup (a previously impossible task) with one of our prototypes was amazing. I still remember that day — it was such an emotional experience seeing something that we had built with our hands helping someone in such a fundamental way. I was floored. I knew I wanted to keep working in this area, and the validation from our users only encourages me to keep doing more.

 How did you come up with the initial design for the Liftware Stabilizer? Was it very different to the final design we see today?

The initial design was a proof-of-concept, and it looked totally different than the final design. It was a plastic picnic spoon connected to wires and electronics that didn’t work nearly as well as our final version. It certainly came a long way in a short time.

Can you tell us about the general process you went through when designing the Liftware?

It took many, many iterations. On the controller side, probably hundreds — on the hardware maybe 15-20. A large focus was placed on getting feedback from patients. Most of the hardware iterations happened after having people try out a prototype and give us their feedback. The controller was tested and optimized in the laboratory using mechanical test equipment.

Which elements of the Liftware were hardest to design, or gave you the most trouble?

The most time-consuming part definitely was the engineering.It is actually a very complicated system!  The electronics and control system were the most difficult to get right and then work properly with our mechanical parts. A lot of care went into making sure the device is robust and can handle daily use, so that also took a lot of effort. The most time-consuming part definitely was the engineering. A lot of effort was placed in not only ensuring that our parts functional but reliable, standing up to our rigorous cyclic testing.

The testing was done both with users with Essential Tremor and in the lab. Most of our moving parts we tested by machine to make sure that they could undergo daily use.

How did you take it from the laboratory to the mass production stage?

It took several months of design for manufacture where each part was carefully redesigned to make sure it could be in quantity. We then partnered with a contract manufacturer here in the bay area (California) to set up our assembly line. The entire process took about three years from start to finish. lot of effort was placed in not only ensuring that our parts functional but reliable, standing up to our rigorous cyclic testing.

 

Any words of advice that you’d like to give the aspiring industrial designers out there?

This is a most important thing – to truly understand their problems before coming up with solutions.Connect with and befriend your users. This is a most important thing – to truly understand their problems before coming up with solutions. It also will bring personal motivations to your work, which I believe is extremely important.
The Liftware Stabiliser ($295 USD) is available directly from the Lift Labs website. Shipping is $45 USD to Australia, and free within the United States and Canada.

Most businesses these days have a website, or a basic online presence. Even people pursuing hobbies will make a website at some point to share what they’re doing. How your website is perceived will have a huge influence on how your business is perceived. But what makes some websites look professional, and others hacked together in a rush?
Here are four fundamental design principles that will help you improve your website.  In fact, not only websites, but posters, reports and even presentation slides can be greatly improved if you follow these simple guidelines.

1. Contrast

Make sure there is enough contrast between your elements so they stand out from one another. In particular, be careful with colour. For example, if there isn’t enough contrast between the text and background, it might be hard to read the text.

2. Alignment

If you have more than one element in your design, make sure you pay attention to how they are aligned. Aligning the elements in your design will make your design look cohesive and well organised. If your elements aren’t aligned, they will look scattered and your design will appear messy.

3. Proximity

If you have elements that are related to each other, put them close together. By having the elements next to each other, it will create unity in your design and increase organisation and comprehension. In contrast, if they aren’t related, make sure there is space between them to make it clear they are separate ideas.

4. Consistency/Repetition

The one golden rule of them all is to be consistent. Don’t go crazy with the colours or font choice – try to stick with a maximum of three colours or fonts. Keep to the same colour for the background or highlights. Use the same font for your headings and body text. The consistency and repeated use of the same elements will tie your design together and make it look more professional.
Do you have any tips of your own for a great-looking website? Share with us in the comments!
Peggy Kuo is a programmer who has developed the mobile game Mr. Tiddles, and is working on another. She’s an avid student of design, and you can see what she’s up to at her website.

Featured photo: Xelcise


As more and more women work from home, it makes sense to make it a place where you feel inspired and relaxed. Today I am going to tell you a little bit about the latest technology I use in my home – the technology transforming the way I live in 2014.

1. XBox One

xbox-one

I’m not much of a gamer, but I’ve found that the XBox One is much more than just a gaming console (AU$598). The XBox One connects with the TV, and it’s opened a whole new world for me through the internet. I was previously limited to video sessions on my notebook, but now I can watch Ted Talks with my partner or entertain guests with my personal YouTube playlist streamed onto my TV.

With its built-in camera and motion tracker, Kinect, it recognises me and welcomes me by name. Voice and gesture recognition make it a breeze to control the XBox One while I’m flopped on the couch after work and completely out of energy. It also helps keep me fit and healthy–there’s a free XBox Fitness app that provides me with instant feedback, precision tracking on my workout, and even measures my heart rate.

But my favourite feature has to be it’s connectivity with Skype. It helps me stay connected to my family, who don’t live in the same city. With the XBox One connected to my TV, they can see the entire house while I am walking around. The Kinect’s sensor follows me, zooming in and out. It’s as if I have a personal camera crew in my home!

2. Sonos  – Wireless music system

Sonos Play 1

Life is good when you’re surrounded with good music, but it’s even better if crisp, clean music literally surrounds you from every part of your home. My Sonos speakers link to my home wireless network via bridge, give me audio anywhere within range of the wireless router.

I started with Sonos Play 1,  the smallest speaker within the range though powerful enough to fill my big lounge room with good quality music ($AU299 + free bridge). As everything connects wirelessly you can build the sound system gradually by upgrading more rooms in time. Once you have added extra speakers you can then group them into “rooms” to play the same music or program simultaneously from two speakers in a room for stereo. I usually access music online (Pandora, Spotify, iTunes etc), stream hundreds of free radio stations (check Tunein) or play music from my own library, computer or phone.  Unfortunately it doesn’t connect to YouTube. With the controller app for a mobile phone I can now change the music without leaving my bed or, uh, bath. (As Sonos play 1 features humidity resistance, it  makes it suitable for use even in bathrooms!)

3. StickR TrackR – Find Lost Items

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I don’t know about you, but I’m always losing things around the house. My purse, my wallet, my phone… and let’s not even talk about the remote controls. The StickR TrackR is made for these situations. It connects to your phone using Bluetooth, and as long as it’s in range, the app will tell you just how close the TrackR is. It comes with a double-sided sticker and a loop of string, so you can attach it to most things. Mine sits in my purse, and it’s already saved me time a few times–I’ll wander around my apartment, phone in hand, playing a game of Hot and Cold as the app tells me I’m far, getting closer, close. It’s much better than spending half an hour tearing up my place and wondering where on earth I put my purse last night.

The other thing I like is that I can press the button on the TrackR, and my phone will ring. So if I have my purse but not my phone, it works the other way as well! (Editor’s note: This does not work with Android phones.) The TrackR, or your phone, can only be “called” from  Bluetooth range. Once disconnected, I can’t ring the tracker.  The app does, however, have a GPS locater which identifies the last place your phone was connected to the TrackR. Also note that if you use Android with a version less than 4.4, the app may be unstable, and can only connect to one StickR TrackR at a time.

Kasia Gospos

Kasia is the founder of Leaders in Heels. The XBox One was provided courtesy of the Microsoft Connection Program, and the StickR TrackR courtesy of Phone Halo.


This is a series of posts that will be appearing on Leaders in Heels throughout 2014 as part of our site’s involvement in the Microsoft Connections Program. All hardware and services reviewed were provided courtesy of Microsoft.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a Windows Phone released in Australia last September. Its main selling point? It has a beast of a camera. With a much larger sensor than most other phone cameras (all the better to let more light in) and a resolution of up to 41 megapixels (MP), it’s little wonder that the photos it takes are comparable to a dedicated point-and-shoot camera. I put it through its paces when I went on holidays recently, and it did not disappoint. Below are the various features that make it stand out from the rest of the smartphone camera crowd.

Zoom

Zoom-Comparison

I’m sure you’ve found that zooming in with a smartphone camera is never a good idea. Those photos tend to end up pixellated and blurry. The Lumia 1020, however, manages to set itself apart. Although it doesn’t have optical zoom like a standard point-and-click camera, what it does have is 41MP of detail that allows for a very clear, unblurry 5MP image when zoomed in. In the comparison photo above, you can see the normal and fully zoomed-in pictures of the items on my desk.

Versatility

Shutter-Speed-Comparison

Cameras usually have very limited settings to play with. White balance, ISO, and focus type (macro, standard, infinite) are about all that’s available in the settings. The Nokia Pro Camera app on the Lumia 1020, however, has far more to play with. There’s the standard three features above–though it’s worth noting that the ISO and focus settings are far more fine-grained. Then there’s other features such as shutter speed, a setting only seen in higher-end point-and-shoot cameras, and contrast.

All of these settings are easy to modify–a small “dial” on the touchscreen pulls out from the main photo button, which you drag up and down to adjust. This was especially useful during night shots, where the auto mode tended to make the photos overly bright. I simply adjusted the ISO and the shutter speed, and I could have the photo looking exactly how I wanted.

Sensor Size

Detail-Comp

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I won’t bore you with all the technical details of why a large sensor is much better (and really, should be what you look at over the number of megapixels a camera has). From a practical, day-to-day use standpoint, however, I can say that it means you get stunning detail, and much better low-light pictures as it’s able to take in more light. I’ve provided two examples above to show the detail and the low-light performance. Note that this is a low-resolution picture, due to site limitations.The link to the high-resolution picture will be provided in the comments.

Optical Stabilisation

Stabilisation

Optical stabilisation is a physical element in the lens that shifts it to compensate for shaky hands (a crime of which I am terribly guilty). Nokia uses the phone’s in-built gyroscope to determine movement and adjusts the camera accordingly. I actually managed to take decent night shots with relatively long shutter speeds, which is impressive as I usually have trouble on normal point-and-click cameras. The brightness of the picture attests to the long shutter speed–but the image is relatively unblurred. Note that these are low-resolution pictures, due to site limitations. The link to the high-resolution pictures will be provided in the comments.

So what do you think of the Lumia 1020’s camera? Impressed? Unimpressed? Indifferent? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments!


For quite a while, I have been a ‘gadget girl’. I love researching all the latest gadgets I could use in my daily life. This is most evident by the number of cooking appliances I have in my laundry cupboard (they wouldn’t fit in the kitchen). From personal experience, I’ve found that there are a few must-have gadgets for women on the go.

Charge your device via your handbag

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This is a fantastic Australian invention called the Hustle Bag, devised by the husband and wife team of Lisa and John Winters. They are specially designed bags and wallets with a built-in power pack that can charge a smartphone up to 4 times (a must when working from early morning till late at night). It is fitted with a Micro USB connector (for most smartphones except iPhones), as well as connectors for iPhone 4 and 5. The bag itself is charged via a charge pad (that comes with the Hustle Bag), which is AC powered.

Find lost items

Photographer

There are gadgets on the market that help you keep track of your items (or pets). Usually a small sticker or piece of plastic, they simply attach to (or slip into) whatever you want to track. They’re great for those who always are losing their keys, phones, wallets or simply need reminding of where their car is parked. Another useful application is for travellers to put them in their luggage, as some of the products will alert you on your mobile phone when they are near.

StickNFind is one product and  Tile is another (due to ship in the Australian Autumn 2014). Both sync with mobile apps, which are used for tracking.

Broadcast your music

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photo credit: Theen …

I own two Bluetooth popup speakers, the MOSHI Double Bass Burger and AirBeatz Portable Wireless Speaker. These are brilliant for listening to music on the go, as I simply need to turn them on and connect my phone via Bluetooth – no annoying cables required. These are small and can easily slip into a handbag. There are also larger bluetooth speakers (see here for reviews).

Listen to your music

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Retrograde headphones are back (not just the ear buds) and I must admit they are vital on any flight especially when you have important work to get done or even just read a book in peace. In my view, it is essential to have noise-cancelling headphones for travelling (there are ear bud versions as well).

Popular brands such as BOSE, Sony, Beats, all produce these headphones, and CNET has just updated their review of these brands. They aren’t particularly cheap, but anything that lasts a long time and delivers outstanding sound is well worth it. I have owned a pair of BOSE Quiet Comfort 15 since 2007, and they are amazing at removing noise, especially on crowded trains. They are also exceedingly comfortable.

Track your fitness

fitbit flex

Ever wanted to know how many steps you have walked or calories you have burned? The FitBit Force is the latest to come out in the range of FitBit products.  I had a FitBit Flex and loved using it, as it gave me motivation to hit those 10,000 steps every day. The FitBit Force is due on in Jan 2014 in Australia. Check out the latest review by PC Mag on this new product.

(Editor’s note: We’ve done a round-up of fitness devices previously, if you’re curious about other options).

Transport your gadgets in style

A must for any businesswoman or entrepreneur is to have a stylish laptop handbag whether for your PC/Mac and iPad. I find it so much easier to go to a business meeting with clients with my laptop handbag rather than a backpack. I love the Zafino range for both laptop handbags and rolling laptop bags as they are both stylish and extremely practical, with lots of pockets – a must in any laptop handbag. I also love that it is an Australian brand developed by Mindi Chisholm from Sydney.

There are many more gadgets out there worth looking into, but these are the ones I own and use on a regular basis. They have, without a doubt, made my working life (and life in general) much easier.

What items do you find invaluable when travelling on business? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Featured Image: LoKan SardariOther photos kindly provided by the companies.

Megan Iemma

Technology Coach and “IT” girl Megan Iemma is a thought leader in the world of technology and its uses. An educator and techno geek, Megan combined her passions for education and technology and founded Tech Coach HQ  working with businesses and their teams to improve processes and embrace the productivity technology has to offer.