what tools do I need?

below you'll find all of my favorite tools and services, but if you want to know what will be best for where you're at in your interior design career, click on the option below that describes you best.

I'm still a student

Still in design school, but wanting to get to grips with the right tools at the start?

i'm getting started

Setting out on your own or establishing your expertise at the start of your career?

I'm a pro but still learning

Already established but looking to improve your skills or your systems?

Affiliate Disclaimer

These are my top recommendations for software, supplies, etc. that I have found helpful to interior designers and interior design students. Some of these links are affiliate links, meaning I earn an affiliate commission if you decide to purchase (*indicates affiliate links). However, I recommend these tools no matter what.

interior design software

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AutoCAD LT*

Computer Aided Drafting

AutoCAD LT 1 month Recurring

Yes, AutoCAD. It’s been around forever, and for good reason. It works. You can create tidy, accurate, precise, and complex drawings with this software. Also, if you’re an interior designer who plans to even occasionally work with architects and engineers, knowing how to use AutoCAD will be a lifesaver. You’ll be able to work with the drawing files they send you directly. No awkward requests for a different file type. No constant need to check information with the architect as you work from the PDF. If you know AutoCAD all the incredible information that gets stored in that file is yours. AutoCAD LT is more budget friendly and gives you all the options you’d need as an interior designer. 

*This is an affiliate link.

revit

Revit LT*

BIM software

AutoCAD Revit LT Suite 1 month Recurring

Now for interior designers wanting to dive more into the commercial sector – think hotels, offices, etc. – I typically recommend they take some time to learn Revit. It’s made by the same company as AutoCAD, but it is a completely different beast. While it might require a bit of a shift in terms of how you work and how you think about using the software, it can be incredibly powerful in communicating and coordinating complex projects. Even on small simple projects, the coordination of drawings and details can very easily be managed by a single person.

*This is an affiliate link.

1-1 services sketchup

Sketchup Pro

Digital modelling

SketchUp Pro really gives you all the tools you need to fully model your ideas. You can create the complex shape of the bespoke piece of furniture you’ve sketched out, you can create the detailed architecture of the space you’re designing. It’s really a powerful program that gives you the opportunity to digitally visualize even your most unique and inspired ideas. Layout is the program that comes with Sketchup Pro and gives you the option to create scaled drawings from your model.

General design software

1-1 services photoshop

Adobe Photoshop*

Advanced photo editing

Adobe Photoshop is really helpful in how you can take your rendered visuals to the next level, but it’s also just an incredibly helpful software to know your way around for many other reasons, creating logos, social graphics, editing project photos, etc. Photoshop gives you a lot of options; the key to remember is that you’re using the software as an interior designer not as a photographer. 

*This is an affiliate link.

1-1 services indesign

Adobe InDesign*

advanced document design

Interior designers can use InDesign really effectively to create polished and professional presentation documents. Things like proposals, letterheads, brochures, presentations, project manuals, etc. can suddenly look like the work of a professional graphic designer when an interior designer understands how to use InDesign. See this blog post to see how easy you can make a mood board with InDesign. 

*This is an affiliate link.

canva

Canva Pro*

Easy graphics

Now not every graphic you make needs the power of Photoshop or InDesign. This is when a program like Canva or their paid version, Canva Pro, can come in incredibly handy. Social media graphics, quick stylised brochures, etc. become super quick tasks with Canva’s incredible range of stylish templates. 

*This is an affiliate link. 

DIGITAL TOOLS

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Webhosting

Kinsta

My website has been going for a few years now, and I’ve dealt with a couple of webhosts in that time. It’s definitely worth investing in a host who will ensure your site is always up and running. Free sites are great to get you started with an online portfolio as a student, but when you reach that pro-status, you want to make sure you’re investing in your own spot on the internet. Kinsta has been amazing and quick with support. When I switched to Kinsta, I was able to spend a couple of months working on the re-design of my website, without having to take my life website offline.

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Website Builder

elementor*

We’re designers right? So we really love having control over how things look and work together. That’s why I use a website builder. I’ve experimented with others and older versions of my site were built with other themes, but now I whole-heartedly recommend Elementor. It’s incredibly easy to install for WordPress and it’s so easy to get to grips how to drag and drop and style your website exactly how you want without relying on an expensive developer to do it for you. Basically, I’m in love with Elementor. 

*This is an affiliate link.

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Email Client

google workspace*

Now, I love Microsoft Office. I’m a spreadsheet nerd at heart. But when it comes to email, I’m afraid I definitely prefer Google to Outlook. With the right system in place, Google and its connected apps can make email and inbox management pretty hassle-free. Also, it’s Google so it’s pretty rare that it will ever let you down. Use the promo code 939NDKWYXFNPTEY for 10% off the first year of Google Workspace Business Starter. 🙂

*This is a referral link.

Interior designers should definitely have an email newsletter. This is such a great opportunity to turn people who might just be passing fans of your work into paying clients. Mailchimp is what I still use for my email newsletter. The first 2,000 subscribers are free, and the templates and set up is pretty straightforward. Also, it’s widely used, so if you’re ever unsure of how to do something , there’s a lot of information online to help you figure it out. 

*This is a referral link.

project management

Project Management software is one of those things that there’s some amazing things about each of them. And almost any project management software is better than no project management software. The ones below are the ones I’ve used, trialled, and/or loved. Ultimately, which one you choose will depend on how you work and what you need it for. That being said, when you’ve chosen a project management software, I recommend sticking with it. At least for a year. Because you lose any productivity gains if you keep switching up your systems. 

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Notion

project management

Notion is pretty damn amazing. Again, for the designer who likes a lot of control (particularly in appearance) Notion gives you that and then some. You can make client-facing pages, databases, calendars, information repositories, and more all within the framework of Notion. It can take a little getting used to at first, but once you’ve got the basics, you can really make it your own. For individuals, Notion has a very generous free plan, which makes it popular among students and freelancers.

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ClickUp*

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Compared to some project management software, ClickUp is pretty new on the scene having just started in 2017. But boy, has it had an impact! ClickUp combines a lot of the various features of other project management softwares into one tidy (and colorful!) platform. Even for teams, they have a very generous Free plan. But if you need expanded features, including more storage or adding guests and the likes, the paid plan is pretty reasonable. 

*This is an affiliate link.

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Asana

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

While ClickUp is new on the scene, Asana has been around forever in internet years. (It hurts that 2008 is old in internet time, but it definitely shows that Asana has withstood the test of internet time). Asana does a lot of great things. I personally have loved just switching back and forth between board views and list views. Because a board view is great when you’re planning, but a list view is great when you just need to get stuff done. Again, they have a really nice free plan, that could work for small teams. But it could certainly grow to handle a much larger organization. 

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DesignFiles*

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

It would be strange if I didn’t include an interior design specific project management software right? Well, I’ve been really impressed with DesignFiles. If you’re using a project management software primarily for residential client projects, Design Files gives you a great platform to keep all of that sourcing and financial stuff organized. You can even make design boards within the platform, send invoices, etc. So it can definitely help you streamline your design processes. 

*This is an affiliate link.

EQUIPMENT & tools

HP 27" Monitor*

Computer Equipment

This may feel like a silly recommendation, but I promise it’s a whole-hearted one. For those of you working on your own and if you have the space, invest in a bigger monitor (or 2!). Design is a visual practice, so give your eyes some room to breath on the screen where it’s not all on one tiny screen. At the moment, I have both a 27″ HP monitor and an older 22″ Lenovo monitor connected. Having an expanded desktop means I can have multilple windows and programs open to better work between files and projects.

*This is an affiliate link.

download

Tailwind*

pinterest scheduling

Most of my readers have found me via Pinterest. (I’m guessing you have?) Pinterest as a marketing platform is definitely an untapped resource. (It’s not all about Instagram people!) That being said, as much as we’d like, we can’t spend all day on Pinterest. Tailwind makes it so easy to maintain an active Pinterest account. With their Chrome Extension, you can even schedule pins directly from your website. It’s such a nice and way to make sure your work gets out there.

*This is an affiliate link.

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Later*

instagram scheduling

While it’s not all about Instagram in terms of marketing, I don’t know many interior designers without an active Instagram account. To help you maintain your account, Later is such an easy to use scheduler. It helps you work within Instagram’s best practices with hashtags but also gives you a visual preview of your feed when you’re deciding what posts to schedule. A designer’s dream. For someone only scheduling 30 posts a month, the free plan from Later is such a great fit.

*This is a referral link. 

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Screencast-o-matic

screen recording

I obviously use screen recording a lot in software tutorials, but in our increasingly virtual world, screen recording has so much promise in helping people streamline client interactions, give you more polished presentations, and provide the all important record of the presentation. Screencast-o-matic is the simplest web-based screen recorder I’ve found, and it makes recording and editing videos to show and say exactly what you want.

*This is a referral link.

education & books

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Skillshare*

practical and fun online courses

I am a teacher now, but I’ll always be a student at heart. I happily keep my Skillshare subscription going because there’s always something new I’m wanting to learn and explore. Right now I’m learning Procreate for iPad, which has made me beyond excited for the possibilities for digital sketching. One of my favorite classess is Email Productivity: Work Smarter with Your Inbox. The instructor is great in explaining some adaptable ways of organizing your inbox. Skillshare also has a 1 month free trial that gives you loads of time to explore the courses they offer. 

*This is an affiliate link. 

Interior Design Illustrated*

Design reference book

This is the book I recommend most to self-taught designers. Basically, any Francis DK Ching book will be a helpful reference, but this gives such a helpful overview of how interior designers think and communicate their ideas. The ‘illustrated’ part of the title also makes all the content easy to understand and refer back to again and again. 

*This is an affiliate link.

Spatial Strategies for Interior Design*

DESIGN REFERENCE BOOK

I’m a planning nerd. Good planning can save a project so much more than good sourcing. This is why I love this book from Ian Higgins. It helps you work strategically through the planning process instead of working intuitively. It helps you get back to basics and think about a planning obstacle logically. 

*This is an affiliate link.

The BIID Interior Design Job Book*

DESIGN REFERENCE BOOK

I bought this book when I first moved to the UK just to make sure I had a good understanding of any differences in terms of professional practice here vs in the US. It’s honestly such a helpful book for anyone working in this industry anywhere! I’m definitely hopeful that they’ll do an update on it soon, but even this older version that I keep on my desk is incredibly helpful in understanding the various processes and documents involved on the more administrative side of running a design project. Obviously, you’ll have to adapt these examples to fit your own practice and where/how you’re working, but it provides such a helpful starting point. 

*This is an affiliate link.

Autodesk, AutoCAD, and Revit are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries.  Adobe Photoshop and InDesign are registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. Sketchup, Sketchup Pro, and Layout are registered trademarks of Trimble, Inc.

Audrey Noakes is not affiliated with Trimble, Inc., Adobe, Inc., or Autodesk, Inc.

Copyright 2021.

Audrey Bardwell, practising as Audrey Noakes 

audrey@audreynoakes.com

International House, 64 Nile Street, London, N1 7SR, UK

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