Australian cloud-based design unicorn Canva has extended its reach into the world of custom printing, leveraging a partnership with Australia-wide print-services giant Snap Print & Design to link its online design services with Snap’s network of customised printing offerings.

The new hybrid service, called Snap Print-Online, positions Canva’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering alongside more conventional design options – including uploading custom designs or working with the firm’s inhouse human designers – to let customers conceptualise and create new brochures, business cards, posters, and anything else that needs printing.

It stems from a partnership between the two firms that was first announced in February – and, Snap chief growth officer Sonia Shwabsky said at the time, partnered “Snap’s national network of printing experts with the best design software in the world”.

Integrating Canva’s digital design tools with Snap’s network of 132 stores reflects growing recognition that even one of the world’s fastest-growing digital firms – an Australian success story whose value shot towards $20b after an April capital raising – had not yet made print completely irrelevant.

Early talks with Snap demonstrated “vision and a willingness to invest in a modern e-commerce platform that would be best in class globally,” Canva global partnership lead Aaron Day noted.

“Through combining the Canva platform with this vision, what they have delivered is beyond our expectations and we expect massive growth from the Snap/Canva partnership into a premium print marketplace.”

Not quite dead yet

Day’s optimism is significant given that the tech industry’s luminaries were arguing a decade ago that then-newly introduced tablet computers would herald the death of print communication within, as MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte declared, five years.

Prognosticators have sounded the death knell for all kinds of analogue technologies as digital equivalents emerged, but history has shown that old favourites often find new life by pivoting into new niche sectors.

Sales of vinyl records, for example, plummeted with the music industry’s shift to CDs but recent years have seen vinyl post a significant resurgence: last year, Australian sales of vinyl records were even pegged to surpass those of CDs and the feat was matched in the UK and US – where vinyl outsold CDs for the first time since 1986.

While the digital era saw the end of multinational bookstore chains like Borders, smaller local bookshops continue to thrive – and, despite Australians’ addiction to smartphones, ongoing demand for print products is still so strong that Amazon in May announced it would begin offering on-demand printing of paperbacks at its Western Sydney Fulfilment Centre.

The local Print on Demand facility will allow the company “to get millions of paperback titles to customers faster than ever before,” Amazon Australia category lead for media and books Matt Benham said as the new capability began operating out of the company’s Western Sydney Fulfilment Centre.

Leveraging Amazon’s global Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service, customers can order paperback versions of digital e-books as well as self-publishing their own books – enabling faster delivery to their readers and lower warehousing costs for Amazon.

KDP adds another option to the range of integrated print workflows that are increasingly linking online design and offline output into one seamless process.

The partnership between Canva and Snap will put the firms into direct competition against the likes of VistaPrint – a global custom-printing giant that prints a range of products from a facility in Melbourne’s west – and DesignCrowd, an Australian startup that has streamlined the process of sourcing graphical work from human designers around the world.

Backing from Canva is also a lifeline for the 132 small-business owners of Snap stores, who will benefit from a hybrid digital convergence strategy.

“Our customers today have access to a world-leading digital design product as well as local expert advice when they need it,” Shwabsky said.

“When you use Snap Print-Online, you are not buying your business cards or marketing material from a faceless overseas entity you cannot speak with, you are buying it from a locally-based small business.”