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Job Description: Textile Designer.

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Textile designers create designs for knitted, printed and woven textiles. These designs often feature repeating patterns.
 

Job Description, salaries and benefits

Textile designers create designs for knitted, printed and woven textiles. These designs often feature repeating patterns.

Textile design can include designing:

  • textiles for clothing and accessories
  • fabrics and furnishings
  • printed, paper-based products
  • for the technical market, for example, clothing for oil rig workers.

Textile designers need to discuss, understand and interpret the needs, ideas and requirements of their customers accurately. They must consider how the textile will be used and therefore which properties it needs, before producing design ideas, sketches and samples for presentation to customers.

Textile designers usually work normal office hours, from Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines. Part-time work may be available. Designers are usually based in an office or studio and may spend a large part of their working day sitting in front of a computer screen.

Salaries usually range from around £13,000 to £40,000 a year.

A textile designer should:

  • be artistic, creative and able to draw
  • have an eye for colour, texture and pattern and have good attention to detail
  • understand the properties of different materials and dyes and the production processes of textiles
  • have knowledge of the market and be able to predict new trends.

Employers include companies that produce clothing, soft furnishings and other textile-based products, design studios and consultancies. There is intense competition for vacancies. People looking for work usually need to undertake relevant paid or unpaid work experience and build up a list of contacts in the industry. Many textile designers work on a freelance basis.

There are no formal entry requirements to become a textile designer. However, most people enter through one of two main routes. Some begin as a machinist or cutter and progress to textile designer. More usually, entry is after completing a relevant HNC/HND or degree in design. Postgraduate qualifications are also available. Course admissions tutors and employers expect to see a portfolio of design work.

Most training is carried out on the job. Designers may attend short courses to update computing, technical and creative skills. Non-graduates can also work towards NVQ Level 3 in Design or the City & Guilds Certificate in Design and Crafts at Level 3.

With experience, junior textile designers may be promoted to designer and then to senior designer. Designers working in smaller companies may need to change employer to gain promotion.

 

What is the work like?

Textile design can include designing:

  • textiles for clothing and accessories
  • fabrics for furnishings
  • printed, paper-based products.

Textile designers need to discuss, understand and interpret the needs, ideas and requirements of their customers accurately. They must consider how the textile will be used and therefore which properties it needs. They must consider, for example, the weight, strength, performance and flammability of the material used.

Once textile designers have selected the type of textile, they then produce design ideas, sketches and samples for presentation to customers.

As the world market for textiles becomes increasingly competitive, many UK-based textile designers are applying their skills to the design of textiles for specialist markets, such as protective clothing for oil rig workers. The UK is a world leader in technical textiles.

The work of a textile designer may involve:

  • liaising with customers and interpreting their ideas and needs accurately
  • liaising with marketing, buying and technical staff as well as design colleagues
  • considering how the textile will be used and what properties it needs
  • researching the properties of materials used in specialist and industrial textiles
  • undertaking research for ideas and inspiration
  • experimenting with colour and texture
  • producing design ideas, sketches and samples to present to customers
  • producing designs using computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • checking and approving samples of completed items
  • working to deadlines and within a budget
  • keeping up to date with new fashions and trends, and design and production techniques
  • attending trade shows.

A self-employed textile designer also needs to spend time marketing their work and keeping up to date with finances and general administration.

Some designs are created on machines in large quantities, others use traditional techniques like embroidery, block printing or hand painting to produce short lengths of textiles for the luxury market.

Textile designers starting out may earn between £13,000 and £20,000 a year.

 

Hours and environment

Textile designers usually work normal office hours, from Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines. Part-time work may be available. Freelance and self-employed designers may work from home and set their own hours.

Designers are usually based in an office or studio which is warm and well lit. They may spend a large part of their working day sitting in front of a computer screen. Designers might spend time on the factory floor, checking their designs during production. They may also visit customers or trade shows. Overseas travel is relatively common.

 

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Newly-qualified textile designers may earn between £13,000 and £20,000 a year.
  • Experienced/junior designers may earn between £20,000 and £28,000.
  • Design directors may earn between £28,000 and £40,000 a year.

Freelance designers are usually paid a fee for each commission they undertake. Those who use an agent to help them find work pay the agent a percentage of each fee as commission.

 

Skills and personal qualities

A textile designer should:

  • be artistic, creative and able to draw
  • have an eye for colour, texture and pattern
  • have good attention to detail
  • understand the properties of different materials and dyes and the production processes of textiles
  • have knowledge of the market and be able to predict new trends
  • have good communication skills
  • be good at problem solving
  • have good organisational ability and be able to work to deadlines and within budget
  • have good CAD skills
  • have good business skills.

 

Interests

It is important to:

  • be interested in craft, design and technology subjects
  • be interested in fashion, textiles and design
  • enjoy working with a range of different styles and techniques.

 

Getting in

Typical employers include companies that produce clothing, soft furnishings and other textile-based products, large fashion and clothing retailers, design studios and consultancies. There may also be opportunities with exclusive design houses or interior designers.

There are around 12,000 textile designers in paid employment in the UK and competition for vacancies is strong, with more applicants than vacancies. People looking for work usually need to undertake relevant paid or unpaid work experience and build up a list of contacts in the industry.

Companies employing textile designers are found all over the UK, although there is a higher concentration in London, the North West, the East Midlands and Scotland.

Many textile designers work on a freelance basis. At first, they may need to supplement their income with other work.

Entry for young people

There are no formal entry requirements to become a textile designer. However, most people enter through one of two main routes. Some begin as a machinist or cutter and progress to textile designer. More usually, entry is after completing a relevant HNC/HND or degree in design.

  • To join an HNC/HND course, applicants need a minimum of one A level/two H grades, or the equivalent, in art and design subjects.
  • Entry to a degree course is usually with a minimum of two A levels/three H grades, plus five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), or the equivalent.
  • In England and Wales, students may complete a year's foundation course in art and design, in which students gain a broad experience of art and design areas before specialising and commencing degrees. In Scotland, degree courses last four years and include a general year, so a foundation course is not necessary. Candidates who have completed a foundation course may be able to start in the second year.

Design courses are offered by universities and art colleges throughout the UK. Some are aimed specifically at textile design and others include modules on fashion, soft furnishings, fabrics, carpets or surface pattern. Some clothing technology courses also offer a design element. Some degree and HND courses focus more on the technical and business management aspects of design. Course admissions tutors and employers expect to see a portfolio of design work.

A range of postgraduate qualifications relating to textile design is also available. Applicants need a good honours degree in a relevant subject. The Textile Institute offers a range of courses and membership levels are determined by qualification status; designers can apply for membership at Fellow, Associate and Licentiate levels.

Entry for adults

Normal entry qualifications may be relaxed for adult applicants to art and design courses, especially if they have relevant experience. Adults may prepare for application to a degree by taking an Access course.

 

Training

Most training is carried out on the job. There may be opportunities to attend short courses to update computing, technical and creative skills.

The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) offers a range of seminars as part of their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme. Each seminar attracts CPD points, which can result in the award of a Professional Practice Certificate

Those without a relevant degree can also work towards qualifications such as the NVQ Level 3 in Design or the City & Guilds Certificate in Design and Crafts at Level 3, which is studied part time over two years and has a textiles option. Successful students could progress to the Level 3 Diploma in Design and Crafts.

Freelance designers may find it useful to train in business-related skills such as marketing and finance.

 

Getting on

With experience, junior textile designers may be promoted to designer and then to senior designer. Opportunities may be limited in smaller organisations and designers may need to change employers to gain promotion.

Freelance work and self-employment are common.

There may be opportunities to work overseas, particularly in Italy, France or the USA.

Some textile designers may move to related careers in textile manufacturing or buying.

 

Further information

  • Chartered Society of Designers (CSD), 1 Cedar Court, Royal Oak Yard, Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3GA. 020 7357 8088.
  • Crafts Council, 44A Pentonville Road, Islington, London N1 9BY. 020 7278 7700.
  • Design Council, 34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL. 020 7420 5200.
  • Skillfast-UK, Richmond House, Lawnswood Business Park, Redvers Close, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS16 6RD. 0113 2399 600.
  • The Textile Institute, 1st Floor, St James's Buildings, Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6FQ. 0161 237 1188.
  • UK Fashion Exports (including the Register of Apparel and Textile Designers), 5 Portland Place, London W1B 1PW. 020 7636 5577.

 

Further reading

  • Working in art & design - Connexions
  • Working in fashion & clothing - Connexions

 

Magazines/journals

  • Crafts Magazine
  • Drapers Magazine
  • Fashion Business International
  • Textile Horizons
  • Textiles

 

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