Inspiration never looked this good — and, if you’re like the early adopters who had the opportunity to test a revolutionary new solution, Design Tools, you’ll likely find that sourcing it has never been this seamless, either. First of all, what is it? The Inspiration Library, StudioCapture for Inspirations, and the Inspiration Library Add-In for PowerPoint, taken together, comprise the newest innovation to reach Studio Designer users: Design Tools for Studio Designer. The platform provides a singular space for designers and their teams to collaborate during the most integral part of their work: the ideation and inspiration phases of a project, allowing for alignment and focus. 

But what does that mean, from a practical point of view? Design Tools is a hub for uploading, storing, and editing inspirational images, enabling a searchable library that doesn’t just stimulate creativity, but also provides a standard of organization and all-in-one-place ethos during a phase of work that is, for many design teams, often quite disorganized. Designers can track inspirations from a variety of sources, share them with their teams, and build presentations and mood boards from that content; perhaps most handy, though, is Design Tools’ integration with Studio Designer, letting inspiration become reality during the procurement phase.

Sarah Sanders, Product Manager at Studio Designer, is the product lead  behind the newly debuting solution. The innovation started with — as so many forward-thinking ideas do — a deep curiosity. She and her team met with real customers to identify pain points and areas for improvement, with a focus on improving idea generation, client meetings, and, of course, the end product: beautiful design work.

It began with some key questions. “We had conversations with them where we [asked], ‘What do you like about your current information process – whether it’s the mood board piece of information, whether it’s the idea selection, whether it’s the sourcing, whatever the term is that you use within your design firm?’” she shares in a recent webinar. “We’ve really honed in our efforts on that piece of the design process. So when you’re ideating, and you’ve met with your client, and you’re ready to move on and start to build this beautiful design for them, what are we doing in those stages of the process? And what do we love about what we’re doing today? And what do we hate about what we’re doing today? Where are there areas of opportunity?”

Sarah and her team discovered four themes during their initial investigation: Data Entry; Data Tracking; Collaboration; and Creative Control:

  • Data Entry: As any designer knows, the sheer amount of information a design firm is required to process daily is staggering — part of the Design Tools team’s job was to streamline and simplify.  “We know that there’s a lot of data that is required to support item creation in Studio Designer; all of this data is extremely pertinent when this item is ready to go through the procurement process. However, some of this data might not be necessary early on in the process where you’re just iterating. So we needed to make sure that the amount of data entry to create an inspiration was applicable,” explains Sarah.
  • Data Tracking: Tracking inspirational items and products isn’t just the task of a design team; so is tracking the status of that inspiration. “Do we love it? [H]ave we showed it to the customer? [Where] are we sourcing this information from?” shares Sarah. 
  • Collaboration: As Sarah puts it, “data tracking and collaboration go hand in hand.” Many Studio Designer clients work in teams, with, for example, the principal sourcing specific products and sharing them with the rest of the team. “They’re saying, hey, you know these are the 17 sofas … for this project or four lighting options that I like, here, [and] some of the additional accessories that I’m thinking of for the room.” Then another designer may address those suggestions, adding further details visible only to the team as the room design begins to evolve, “because you’re not going to want to potentially put something in front of the client that either doesn’t fit in the room.” By enabling data sharing and collaboration early, Design Tools allows users to have a singular conversation around product suggestions. “We wanted to make sure that the collaboration is happening in Studio Designer — a nice, central location which is also linking out specifically to that [product or inspiration] on the internet.”
  • Creative Control: By keeping design firms’ own branding front and center, the fourth pillar Sarah and her team considered means that the software is easily integrated into design firms’ processes — and their aesthetic vision. “We wanted to make sure that when you’re putting a design presentation or a budget presentation or a mood board in front of a customer, that you are following your brand-specific guidelines,” explains Sarah.

That initial “discovery phase” focused on identifying pain points. “Then we had to go through and figure out how are we going to build this thing, right?” shares Sarah. “So we really distilled it down into three key features that are flexible and authentically the core of what we’re building.” Those three features? The ability to upload, to view, and to add details to an individual inspiration; for “that inspiration to fit perfectly within your flow,” and integration with both Studio Capture and with the PowerPoint. “We wanted to make sure that once you go through the process of building your inspiration library, you have flawless integration into your PowerPoint add-in to build your presentation for your clients,” says Sarah. 

The end result is Design Tools, a veritable suite of functions that both seamlessly captures inspiration and makes it accessible for collaboration and creative iteration, and integrates with the other tools designers use daily. “I had an absolutely fantastic team that was extremely creative and took this journey with me,” notes Sarah. “It was a really, really great opportunity for us to bring to our designers something that we know… you have been asking for so many years, and for us to be able to do that.”

Not yet using Studio Designer and are interested in learning more about Design Tools, along with our fully integrated suite of project management and accounting features? Let’s set up a time to connect!

Already on Studio Designer and interested in gaining access to Design ToolsReach out to the team!

Studio Designer is the leading digital platform for interior designers managing and growing their design businesses, featuring fully integrated project management, time billing, product sourcing, and accounting solutions.

Want to learn how Studio Designer can work for your design firm? Schedule a call with our team:

We can’t wait to connect.