If you’re looking for the best CAD software for Interior Design studies, I may be able to help.
When I got accepted for my Interior Design course at KLC, one of the first things I did was start researching CAD programs. I didn’t want to just pick whatever I came across first. If I was going to commit the next few months to learning a new software, I wanted to make sure it ticked a few important boxes.
What I need from a CAD software
- Industry-regarded – If I decide to work at an Interior Design agency, I want to be advanced at using the software that’s widely used, professionally. It’s a competitive business so I need to get every edge that I can.
- Affordability – Although I have access to free student versions of some of the best CAD software for Interior Design as part of my course, it’s important that the software I learn is affordable. I want to be able to licence it afterwards and use it for my own work and private clients in future.
- Functionality – I want to use a software that is compatible with as many file types as possible, so even if someone else works with a different software, I can use my own. I also need it to do all the things that a CAD software for Interior Design needs to do. Mostly 2D planning/drawing and 3D rendering. Unlike architects, Interior Designers don’t need a lot of the extras which, thankfully, simplifies things a bit.
What’s the best CAD software for Interior Design studies?
I’ll start by mentioning that there are a LOT of CAD options for Interior Designers. And new software keeps coming onto the market as technology progresses too. There’s AutoCad, Vectorworks, Blender, SketchUp, Foyr and Revit, just to name a few. After doing a solid day’s worth of research, I narrowed it down to 3 main contenders:
All of the above are extremely well-regarded by professionals in the industry and are used all over the world. So how did I decide which was the best CAD software for me to learn?
Comparison – Reputation & Functionality
AutoCAD seems to be the most widely-used program on the market. Not only for interior designers and architects, it’s also used by professions like graphic designers, fashion designers, real-estate agents, engineers and game animators. I shortlisted AutoCAD because having experience in this software feels like it would be the most useful if looking to work at an agency.
Vectorworks is one of the leading CAD programs used in the Interior Design industry today. That’s because it’s relatively fast to learn and produces professional results, quickly. While it’s not as popular as AutoCAD – it is compatible with the same file types and also gives you a great base for learning other CAD programs in future. So mastering VectorWorks will probably make it much easier to pick up AutoCAD down the line.
SketchUp is a software created previously owned by Google. So as you’d expect, it also has the reputation of being the easiest software to learn – fast. It’s really user-friendly and is also one of the most popular 3D modelling tools available. Since 3D modelling is the key feature, SketchUp is often used side-by-side with AutoCAD or Vectorworks.
So now that I narrowed it down to 3 of the best CAD software options for Interior Design, the last thing to look at was the price difference. Since I want the option to work for myself after my course, I need to make sure the software I choose is also affordable.
Here’s a breakdown of costs (as at April 2020):
Monthly – £234 Annual – £1,890
Designer Subscription – £158 p/month or £1,580 billed annually Designer Perpetual (own forever) – £3,145
Free – A web-only 3D modelling tool with basic functions
Pro – $299 USD p/year (that’s about £240 as of 29/04/2020)
And the winner is…
Based on the price, functionality and reputation, I’ve decided to go with not one but two options *gasp*. I think learning how to master both Vectorworks and SketchUp with be an invaluable skill.
While I was originally more drawn to AutoCAD based on its industry-wide recognition, Vectorworks’ price is more competitive. It also has the reputation of being much faster to learn. Hopefully once I’ve learnt Vectorworks, learning AutoCAD (if ever needed) will be a much easier task.
Meanwhile, SketchUp feels like a tool that’s important to learn in addition to other CAD software. They have so many plugins available that the possibilities are endless. Think along the lines of 3D printing and using VR headsets for Virtual tours. Learning SketchUp seems like the most future-proof thing to do.