| Jul 2, 2014 |
Four design business management software systems decoded
Boh staff
By Staff

Aside from client management and mood boards, interior designers must consider many [more tedious] factors when growing a business such as bookkeeping, budgeting, order management and payroll. Over the years, various business management software systems tailored specifically to the interior design profession have made those tasks easier.

Editor at Large has analyzed four organizational tools—Design Manager, Studio Webware, Design Smart and Specsources—that help keep a design office in shipshape. This reporter has distilled the vitals of these sites to determine their effectiveness including the number of designers who use them, the annual cost and their unique properties.

Design Manager

"Design Manager is extremely user-friendly. I've worked with other design programs, and find Design Manager much easier to use. The customer service is top-notch."—Carrie Kravetz of Nathan Turner Antiques and Interiors

Number of designers who purchase it: Between 300-400 new firms each year. Design firms include Libby Langdon Interior Design, Barbara Scavullo Design, Huniford Design Studio, Stacey Cohen Interiors, DLH Design Studio and Club Design Group, Inc.

Residential or contract: Tailored to residential

Price: Design Manager Cloud: $375 per user per year or $35 per month; Design Manager Desktop: $995 includes 1 user plus $450 per additional user; Design Manager Pro Cloud: $510 per user per year or $48 per month; DM Pro Desktop: $3895 includes 1 user plus $1525 per additional user.

Computer or cloud based: Both

How it works: The cloud based software designers can access from any device with an Internet connection whereas the desktop software they install on computers.

Unique properties:

• Fast response times and detailed answers

• Software is created specifically for the design industry

• Project management and accounting in one

• Accounting system follows the GAAP rules

• Total cloud business solutions: Cloud file storage, cloud email hosting and Microsoft office

Studio Webware

“Not only do I use Studio Webware as an integral part of my design business, but I also highly recommend it in all of my design events and to my business consulting clients as an important part of their toolbox.”—Tobi Fairley

Number of designers who purchase it: Approximately 200 new firms each month. Design firms on board include Amanda Nisbet Designs, Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design, Timothy Corrigan Inc., Cullman & Kravis and Drake Design Associates.

Price: Studio Designer Basic, $25 per month; Studio Designer Professional, $35 per month; Read Only User, $15 per month;100,000 records of data storage, $7.50 per month.

Residential or contract: Tailored to residential

Computer or cloud based: Both

How it works: Studio Webware allows designers to manage projects, firm activity, accounting and inventory on any device. Designers can share information with clients, capture items while shopping and keep track of orders.

Unique properties:

• Keep track of requests for quotes, proposals, purchase orders, invoices and receipts.

• Schedule meetings, keep a calendar with reminders, track phone messages, track timing and profit analysis.

• Studio Webware can be linked to Wecora, Pinterest, Dropbox and more to share design items.

• Designers can access free detailed classes to help them to understand and use the software. Personalized training sessions are also available.

Design Smart

Number of designers who purchase it: Hundreds of designer firms with 10+ employees. Designers on board include Martha O'Hara Interiors, Susan Fredman Design Group, Wimberly Interiors, Thiel and Thiel, and Michelle Meredith & Associates.

Residential or contract: Tailored to contract

Price: Pricing starts at $699. A 12-month lease plan is available for qualified firms.

Computer or cloud based: Both

How it works: The software runs on PCs, Mac and iPads. Most clients host their data files on Design Smart East and West Coast servers. This makes it cloud based and well suited for firms with multiple offices or that work with remote designers.

Unique properties:

• Integrated with QuickBooks. (While QuickBooks by itself is not a good fit for most firms, the combination of DesignSmart and QuickBooks is, according to Design Smart.)

• Highly customizable so it can be tailored to meet a client's specific work flow requirements

• Offers a variety of optional add-on modules from which clients can select

• Gives a designer's clients web access to their design concepts

• PresentSmart for iPad allows designers to make presentations on an iPad

• SmartHospitality is for firms that work in hospitality

• Other modules are available for inventory, point-of-sale, and credit card processing


Number of designers who purchase it: Number of total licenses is in the hundreds. Design firms on board include Hirsch Bedner, Perkins & Will and Earl Swennson.

Residential or contract: Tailored to contract

Price: $895 per license. Discounts at five or more purchased.

Computer or cloud based: Both

How it works: It's a client/server based application that can also be implemented on the cloud. Specsources uses SQL Server or SQL Express as its database which is much more robust than Access based systems. All users can work on the same project(s) at the same time.

Unique properties:

• Integrates with Revit and AutoCAD, which allows the user to pass over furniture information from the model into the spec book

• SQL Server or SQL Express are used as the database

• When creating spec sheets, users have the option to upload PDFs, images from their machine, old projects or drag-n-drop from the web

• Images are automatically resized when uploaded

• Specsources manages COMs and COLs and track all qtys

• Developed hand in hand with some of the largest design firms in the country

• Mandarin language capability

• Admin and non-admin access levels available

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