Expanding a market opportunity and serving a growing need in the industry
The residential and commercial construction boom of the past five years has been a boon to the interior-design industry, increasing demand for designers proficient in AutoCAD who can do structural planning. That, combined with the rise of e-Design—which allows designers to work from anywhere with any client who has an Internet connection—has made it all the more valuable to have an AutoCAD portfolio as a differentiator. Alika Design is the one-woman interior-design firm of Kelsey Crandall, who is among the industry’s growing number of business owners using AutoCAD skills to serve clients and other interior designers alike.
Crandall has always had an eye for design and a head for business. “I got my degree in interior design because it has always been the thing that really felt right,” Crandall says. “It’s a career you can start on your own after earning a degree and enjoy from home with a family. That was always appealing to me.” She started acting on her intent to run her own business—Alika Design—before graduating, launching a website and an Instagram account to attract clientele through digital word-of-mouth.
Crandall shows a client some of her design inspiration. Courtesy of Jordi Jerea Photography.
As for the unique company name, it’s rooted in Africa, where both Crandall and her husband, who lived in Africa, have close connections. “I wanted it to have meaning behind it and really showcase why I do it and why I love it,” Crandall says. Alika is a Nigerian word meaning “most beautiful.” “That is my goal, to create the most beautiful designs for my clients, no matter how big or small it is, or how much they’re changing or adding to their spaces,” Crandall explains.
And changes are a common occurrence, often from the initial drawing if clients change their minds on a certain style, paint color, location of furniture, or size of any given design element. Without AutoCAD for Mac, Crandall would have to go back to the drawing board—literally—to re-sketch. “AutoCAD is a better way to adjust and add to a design and be able to show possibilities quickly and efficiently,” she says.
For clients, during the initial drawing phase, seeing is believing. “I can say, ‘It’s going to be fine and look beautiful,’ but they want to see my vision come to life,” Crandall says. “So, using AutoCAD to see the plans to scale, a furniture layout, or a cabinet elevation is a game changer. Most often it takes a visual for my clients to grasp the concept.”
Room design in AutoCAD. Courtesy of Alika Design.
When Crandall isn’t redlining floor plans or elevations supplied to her from an architect or contractor, she’s drawing them herself and planning space for furniture layouts with full control of her design. “It costs a lot to hire someone to produce drawings in AutoCAD, so the fact that I’m able to do it myself saves me money. I’m not having to rely on other people—I can take it in my own hands to make adjustments.”
When back-and-forth is involved, AutoCAD proves to be a really nice-to-have. “With builders I’ve worked with, sometimes they almost get too excited, where they’ll say, ‘Will you just draw this, or will you just come up with a concept or just throw it in AutoCAD?’” Crandall says. “Because typically they’re the ones having to come up with the structural planning, so it really helps validate that contractors need designers and that we’re able to work together.”
Kitchen design by Alika Design. Courtesy of Alika Design.
Ultimately, with AutoCAD, Crandall is able to share a common visual language between herself, contractors, and her clients. “We are understanding each other’s roles and communicating what is possible and what is not. Being able to explain to a client the reasoning behind each design is crucial.”
Crandall has been using AutoCAD for five years and describes it as “One of the best things I learned going to school.” Her education continues to serve her well, turning competition in to new business. “I get asked by other designers to use my AutoCAD skills to create and draw plans and their concepts for their clients,” she says.
In designing interiors one-on-one for clients from a blank slate, Crandall most enjoys using AutoCAD blocks and how easy they are to download from the Autodesk website. “Being able to show a little more dimension or shape—so it looks more realistic rather than just basic shapes—is a huge help in selling my designs and making things come to life,” Crandall says. She also likes using hatches. “For example, if I want to show an elevation of a house that is going to be brick, I use the hatch to fill the area with the corresponding pattern.”
Crandall puts the finishing touches on the design of a bedroom. Courtesy of Jordi Jerea Photography.
For designers looking to add AutoCAD into their professional skillset to grow their business, Crandall has some advice learned from experience. “Find what is going to make your work be more efficient and just memorize the keys and the commands that you need to use, rather than trying to memorize every little thing that AutoCAD can do, because there’s so much you can do in it.”
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