The Tools + Programs We Use as Designers

From the outside looking in, the life of an interior designer might seem like all fun and games. But truthfully, the Instagram-worthy moments like sourcing trips and room styling only scratch the surface. Countless tasks make up our day-to-day behind the scenes, ranging from project management to bookkeeping and everything in between. Here at the studio, we receive a lot of questions about the programs that we use to manage our client work, so today we’re breaking from the usual design content to talk shop.

While this might be considered the less glamorous side of running a business, we wanted to give you a look at the software we use on a daily basis. It takes quite a few different programs to keep our work on track, and these are a few of the tools we can’t live without.

Photography: Amanda Marie Studio


If you’re not familiar with Canva, think of it as a graphic design platform like Photoshop without all the extra fuss. We use Canva to create our design mood boards, client guides, and presentations, just to name a few. Not only is Canva incredibly intuitive to use, but it’s also easy to create branded templates that work great every time. A few of the features we love most? Canva’s ability to add hyperlinks and remove image backgrounds with the pro version–which is so worth it, by the way.


I use Dubsado to run the backend side of our business. It’s my go-to tool for client proposals, design fees, contracts, workflow management, and communicating our design concepts with clients. Dubsado makes it so easy to obtain an electronic signature and also allows our clients to comment directly on each document. I’ve found the program to be super user-friendly, and I love that I’m able to fully brand every document, so it looks like it’s coming directly from my inbox. Every designer I connect with sings Dubsado’s praises, and quite honestly, I’m probably underutilizing all it has to offer! Just in case you’re interested, I’ve included our affiliate code to sign up and give it a try.


Every interior designer has their favorite project management platform, and our is Ivy. This software program was built specifically for interior designers and includes tons of flexible features that allow us to manage our client projects from start to finish. Using Ivy, we can invoice our clients, create product proposals, manage shipping schedules and even track our time for billable hours.

A photorealistic rendering of our project in Boulder, CO


We use Sketchup to create our renderings for our client projects. Sketchup is a great tool during the presentation to 'walk' through the spaces to give the client a sense of how everything will be laid out. We love the ability to change textures and colors on the spot and Laura is a pro at detailing the rendering so it looks as realistic as possible. We are experimenting with some plugins for Sketchup to get photorealistic renderings (like above!). We also use Sketchup to create a base for hand sketching for our renders for furnishing projects.


We use AutoCAD for all of our space planning, elevations, custom furniture creations and construction sets. AutoCAD allows us to create drawings for our clients that show all the details like tile pattern, custom cabinetry details etc. We then use AutoCAD to create our construction documents.

This is a combination of Sketchup + hand sketching for a project in St. Paul, MN


Our studio works with a bookkeeper who uses the program Quickbooks to keep the backend of our business on track. Quickbooks helps to ensure everything is reconciled and matching up what we have documented over in Ivy.


Our team is relatively new to the DesingSpec software, but so far, it’s been an absolute game-changer for our large-scale projects. DesingSpec allows us to make super professional spec books that are easy to navigate and update on a dime. Note: there’s a hefty monthly fee to use this program, but it's invaluable for communicating all those details to the trades in a really professional manner.


In a previous post I shared how we use Pinterest for all our client projects. It’s an invaluable (not to mention, FREE) tool to communicate ideas and gather inspiration. Once our clients give us feedback, we will remove them from the board and use it internally to keep track of items we love. We have a zillion secret boards with all our favorite items and vendors, so it’s handy to keep track of everything in one

pretty spot!


Oh, the mighty Insta. You know we use it regularly for fun and to tell the world all about our business. Early on, I decided to commit all-in on one social media platform, and Instagram easily won out. I love the “story” function for the behind the scenes peeks and the feed posts to document about our latest work, inspiration and design thoughts.

Photography: Amanda Marie Studio

So there you have it! These are the tools and programs that keep our business running on a day-to-day basis. If you’re a designer with a great online tool we should know about, leave us a comment. We’re always eager to add to the list!

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