Ever since we started our Shoppable Room series, we've gotten a lot of questions on what program we use to create those graphics. That sparked this post outlining all of the programs that we use on a daily basis to run this design business. Some of these are specific to interior design, but there are quite a few that any business owner could benefit from using! Have a look through if you're looking for tools that will streamline the business side of design.
As a disclaimer, we do have a few affiliate links included in this post, which means we could earn a small commission if you do sign up through those links, but you'll also receive a discount!
First up, our favorite design tools:
SketchUp is where we do all of our 3D modeling, and we do every single project in 3D. We have found that it really helps clients figure out what they truly want since they can see the space. It's also easy to do renderings for them using this process!
Since we do use the Pro version, we use the partner program Layout to do construction documents, which is different than a lot of designers who use AutoCAD. Since we do all of our design work in SketchUp, and design updates throughout the process, we found that using Layout is more of a seamless process since we don't have to convert 3D models into AutoCAD after every update!
Material Bank has been a God-send, especially during Covid delays when we couldn't really go to showrooms quite as often. Material samples can be overnighted from tons of different vendors (fabrics, tiles, paints, plumbing finishes -- all the things). Seriously - GOD-SEND.
Keynote is the Apple version of Powerpoint that comes with all Apple laptops, and we use this to create our design boards. We start with the design concept presentation and inspiration images, and once the design process starts, room plans and concepts are added one by one. As we get down to details, we also add slides for different hardware options for the kitchen, for example, and the file grows and grows to well over 100 slides by the time the project is complete. All slides are branded with our logo, project name, and room and used as a template for each subsequent client.
Photoshop is for more detail oriented tasks when we're creating our design boards. Keynote is great because it's very easy to move images around and it's very simple to remove the white background on images. There are designers who use Photoshop completely, but I've never been an expert at it, and it's slower to me and Keynote is just a lot more intuitive. Photoshop is a little bit more time consuming, but for instances where the images don't necessarily have a white background or you need to skew the perspective of a rug so that it looks a little bit more realistic, we drop those rug images into Photoshop, skew the image, and then bring it back into Keynote.
Harvest time tracking is a lifesaver. I used to be horrible at time tracking! You probably heard that in last week's post, and I'm not exaggerating. In my first couple of years in business, I probably lost so much money by not properly and consistently tracking time. I am very careful about not overcharging clients, so I always under charged for my time.
Harvest has a mobile app and a desktop tracker in the upper right corner of our screens that we can use to track time in the moment and choose which project we're working on. Harvest also imports into our project management software Ivy, where we do all of our invoicing. This app isn't only for designers either - anyone who needs to keep track of time and likes to have it on the desktop and easily accessible can use it!
IVY proJECT MANAGEMENT
Ivy is a popular project management software that we have used for years now. We build everything from invoices to design retainers, track every piece of furniture, and create proposals through Ivy currently. They have recently been acquired by Houzz and are right in the middle of transitioning to the Houzz platform, so functionality has been a little tricky.
Big disclaimer: we may soon be shopping for a new project management software, but our workload is currently too heavy to try and make a switch to a new platform. It's a good reminder that there are always places to improve within your design or client workflow based on your needs, no matter how far you've come in your business.
We've tried a lot of different task list software over the years, and Monday.com has been a great experience as we started adding team members. This is where we can create different boards per project with all of our tasks color coded and noted with progress or where someone needs help.
It allows you to have everything in there by room per project, and we also have a board that's just all business related tasks. If I need the team to record their time or send me their hours for payroll, I set it to automatically tell them every two weeks to make sure those are all in and done.
Dubsado is hands down my favorite thing I did for my business last year!! Dubsado is a magical software that automates the client inquiries side of the business. I had gotten to a point where I was getting so busy and getting so many inquiries that I would spend at least a full day out of every week just responding to inquiries, and some were still falling through the cracks. I absolutely hated that someone was taking the time to reach out and I wasn't able to make sure everyone got a response in a timely manner. I want everyone to feel just as important no matter what size their budget is or whatever their project is, but it wasn't happening.
I knew how much time it would take to incorporate a new system into the business, and since I was already having trouble finding enough time to reply to inquiries, I hired Caitlyn of Systems and Strategy to help me get all set up from the beginning.
Even still, there was a learning curve once everything was set up. Now, our inquiry form on the website feeds straight into Dubsado, and automatically sends an investment guide and allows them to schedule a phone call without having to email back and forth to schedule a time. Contracts and initial design proposals are handled here, and once clients go through this stage, they transition into Ivy to manage their project. Once invoicing for the project has wrapped up, they go back into a Dubsado workflow that provides them with care guides for furniture, offboarding protocol to officially close the project, and a form to leave reviews for their time with us.
We use Canva for social media content creation and various other graphics that we utilize for blog content as well. We've used the Adobe programs for years so this is a somewhat new introduction, but it's been a seamless add-on as the team has grown and some are remote. Canva allows you to collaborate from anywhere in the world without having to transfer files from a file saving system like Google Drive or Dropbox.
When we started, we were taking notes at job sites using actual notebooks. But as we added team members, we needed to be able to access everyone's notes in one place. Instead of writing out notes and then typing them up after the job site trip, we switched to using the GoodNotes app on our iPads.
We also import design presentations onto the iPads during client presentations, and our design assistant Tara will mark up the presentation with in-the-moment notes so we can remember exactly what the client liked about that certain chair or what exact fabric they chose of their options. This has saved a lot of time and hassle with every project so far!
Whew - that was a doozy of a post! Thank you for reading through, and please let us know if you have any ideas or things you'd like to know from our perspective.