IDSA-San Francisco: Designer Toolkit Survey

Feb 7 2021 - 10:54am


Purpose of the survey: 

While designers start with similar skillsets early in the career, we adapt and grow based on the job need, and we may become professionals in a different niche. This survey was gathered to be a piece of helpful information and a resource for our professional community and young designers. 


Nearly 100 people responded to our survey. Nearly 70% were industrial designers, while the rest identified as CMF, Automotive, and Soft Goods Designers, or founders of design consultancies and design management teams. Thanks to all the designers who participated!

To summarize:

  • #1 tool to CAD for Industrial Designers is SolidWorks
  • #1 tool to render is Keyshot
  • #1 go-to sketching tool is Hand Sketching
  • The majority voted for Pinterest as their main source of inspiration
  • Other popular software to design or collaborate: Miro, Blender, and Procreate 

We asked participants the following questions: 


1. What is your role?

  • Industrial Designer (69.5%)
  • *Other (12.6%)
  • CMF Designer (7.4%)
  • Soft Goods Designer (7.4%)
  • Automotive Designer (3.2%)

*Other: Founders of design consultancies and leaders of design management teams

2. What is your #1 software to CAD?

  • Solidworks (48.1%)
  • Fusion 360 (15.6%)
  • Rhinoceros (23.4%)
  • *Other (6.5%)
  • Alias (5.2%)
  • OnShape (1.3%)

*Other: Shark FX Pro V12, Cero

3. What is your #1 software to render?

  • Keyshot (75.3%)
  • *Other (10.4%)
  • Adobe Photoshop (9.1%)
  • Blender (3.9%)
  • 3D Studio Max - V-Ray (1.3%)

*Other: Adobe Photoshop and Ai, Octane, Cinema4D, Redshift, Solidworks Visualize

4. Your go-to sketching tool to ideate?

Interestingly enough in a digital age, the majority of answers to this question were "Hand Sketching." 

  • Hand Sketching (68.5%)
  • Digital Sketching (29.3%)
  • *Other (2.2%)

*Other: Medium VR, Prototyping

5. Your source of inspiration?

A great, wide variety of answers that spark creativity in designers! Next time you feel like you're stuck, take a look at this list: 

  • Pinterest (38%)
  • *Other (31%)
  • LeManoosh (17.8%)
  • Tumblr (7.8%)
  • WGSN (5.4%)

*Other: Work and life experience, the world/nature, travel, books, exhibitions/art shows, museums, e-newsletters, ​Dribbble, Google search,, Instagram, Behance, TechCrunch,, Stylus, Science News, Core77, exploring the city, store visits 

6. Share any other software/tools you use frequently in your profession.

Other than what software designers use to deliver the work, there are other tools that help us to communicate better and faster. Here is the list of responses (bold items were mentioned by a lot of participants):

Design: Maya, Grasshopper, InDesign, Figma, Blender, Octane, Procreate, After Effects, Sketchbook Pro, ZBrush, Houdini, Canva, Substance Designer, Vectary, Lightroom, Corona, Marvelous, Cero, Milanote, Material Library, CNC, foam prototypes 

Interpersonal Skills/Project Management and Communications: Zoom, Miro, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Basecamp, G-Suite, GoodNotes, Asana, MeisterTask, Toggl, Milanote

This survey was conducted by the IDSA-San Francisco Chapter. The current Chapter Board includes Valentina Anania, IDSA as Chair, Elaheh Tassavor, IDSA as Vice Chair, and Chris Kim, IDSA as Secretary/Treasurer.