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Job Description: Visual Merchandiser / Display Designer.

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Display designers and visual merchandisers use their design skills to help promote the image, products and services of businesses and other organisations.

To some extent the roles of display designers and visual merchandisers may overlap, but display designers usually focus on designing displays, stands and panels which are used at exhibitions, conferences and other events. They also produce point-of-sale displays, which are stock containers that are usually mass-produced and installed in hundreds of retail outlets. Visual merchandisers create window and in-store displays of goods for retail shops and department stores.

Job Description, salaries and benefits

  • Display designers and visual merchandisers use their design skills to promote the image, products and services of businesses and other organisations.
  • Display designers focus on designing displays, stands and panels for exhibitions, conferences and other events. They also produce point-of-sale displays, which are installed in hundreds of retail outlets.
  • Visual merchandisers create window and in-store displays of goods for retail shops and department stores.
  • The work involves researching to get an understanding of what is needed, and coming up with design ideas. Visual merchandisers also source elements such as lighting, props and accessories.
  • It is important to make the most of the space available, work within a budget and meet deadlines. Installing and dismantling displays may also be part of the job description.

Normal working hours are between 35 and 40 hours a week, but additional hours may be needed to meet deadlines. Part-time work may be available and freelance work is common. Work environments include design studios, company head offices or design departments, or retail stores. The work often involves some travelling.

Salaries may range from £14,500 to £50,000 or more.

A display designer or visual merchandiser should:

  • have a flair for design and colour
  • be creative, imaginative and energetic
  • have good communication skills
  • be able to concentrate well
  • be interested in art and design.

Display designers and visual merchandisers are employed by the design departments of large organisations, design consultancies, display companies, printers, exhibition contractors and retailers. There are jobs in large towns and cities throughout the UK.

There are no specific requirements to begin this career, but most employers look for candidates with relevant qualifications. There are a number of full and part-time courses, from Level 1 to degree level. Some people start though Apprenticeships. There is no maximum age to begin this career, and previous experience in design or retail is an advantage.

Training can combine on-the-job training with long or short courses. It may be possible to work towards work-related qualifications.

Depending on the size of the employer's business there may be opportunities to progress to supervisor, head designer or merchandiser, or department manager. People working for multinational companies may have the opportunity to work overseas.

Experienced display designers and visual merchandisers sometimes move into self-employment.

 

What is the work like?

A display designer aims to promote their client's products, brand and image by creating an eye-catching display using visual and graphic elements. Depending on their client's business, the display may be taken to a wide range of locations, from trade exhibitions to shopping malls. The work involves:

  • making presentations to potential clients to win contracts
  • discussing the brief with the client and identifying the key messages they wish to convey
  • gaining an in-depth understanding of the client's organisation, products, image and target market
  • considering factors such as the space available for the display, any special features it should incorporate (such as chairs, models and computers) and the client's budget
  • coming up with design ideas, images and graphics incorporating the client's logo and corporate colours, and discussing these with the client
  • researching costs and working within a budget
  • revising designs according to feedback from clients and other members of the design team
  • overseeing the production of the chosen design, checking the quality and making sure the project is completed to schedule.

Producing a display usually involves working with printers, exhibition contractors, plastics manufacturers and metal fabricators. The job could also involve arranging for the display to be transported to and from exhibitions, installed, dismantled and stored when not in use. Designers may liaise with suppliers of lighting, furniture, flower arrangements and other accessories.

Visual merchandisers create imaginative, eye-catching displays of goods in retail stores. They aim to attract the attention of customers and encourage them to buy. Their tasks can include:

  • researching lifestyle and design trends and making sure designs will appeal to the target audience
  • working with other members of the design, marketing and buying team to develop themes and colour schemes for displays - for example Christmas, Valentine's day, sales and special promotions
  • sketching designs and developing floor plans, making the most of the space available
  • taking direction from head office on corporate schemes when appropriate
  • sourcing materials such as props and lighting
  • installing and dismantling displays
  • preparing visual merchandising packs, including plans and photographs, for other stores in the chain, to make sure all displays present a consistent image
  • visiting branches to train and brief staff on arranging displays.

Salaries start at around £14,500 a year.

 

Hours and environment

Display designers and visual merchandisers usually work between 35 and 40 hours a week. Additional hours may be required as deadlines approach. Part-time work may be available, and freelance work is common.

They could be based in design studios, at company head offices or design departments or in retail stores.

Designing and arranging displays can involve standing, lifting, carrying and using ladders.

Travel to other branches of the company, suppliers' premises, exhibition halls and conference centres may be necessary so a driving licence will be useful and, in some cases, essential.

 

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.

  • Salaries may start at around £14,500 a year.
  • With experience this could rise to £24,000.
  • People in senior positions in large companies could earn £50,000 or more.

 

Skills and personal qualities

A display designer or visual merchandiser should:

  • have a flair for design and colour
  • be creative, imaginative and energetic
  • understand a company's target markets and know how to appeal to them
  • be aware of current trends and activities in design, fashion and culture
  • have good communication skills to present ideas to others
  • be able to concentrate and work to tight deadlines
  • be able to use large and small spaces effectively
  • be self-motivated and practical
  • have technical drawing skills and, for some jobs, be able to use computer-aided design packages.

 

Interests

It is important to:

  • enjoy working creatively in a fast-moving environment
  • be interested in art and design.

 

Getting in

Employers include the design departments of large organisations, design consultancies, display companies, printers, exhibition contractors and retailers. Freelance work is common. There are jobs in large towns and cities throughout the UK.

Vacancies may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, in specialist publications such as Design Week, The Designer, Draper's Record, The Grocer, local and national newspapers, on general retail job websites such as www.inretail.com, and on the websites of individual employers. See the Design Council's website for links to organisations that may employ display designers and visual merchandisers.

Entry for young people

There are no specific qualifications to begin this career, but most employers look for a qualification in an art and design-related subject. Useful qualifications include:

  • the British Display Society General Certificate in Display - one year, full time
  • the British Display Society General Certificate, Higher Level - one year, full time
  • the British Display Society Certificate course in Visual Merchandising and Merchandising Handling Skills at Levels 1 and 2 (each level takes 60 hours of study)
  • the British Display Society Advanced Diploma in Exhibition Design - two years, full time
  • the British Display Society Advanced Diploma in Retail Display Design - two years, full time
  • the British Display Society Advanced Diploma in Point-of-sale Design - two years, full time
  • the Fashion Retail Academy Diploma in Fashion Retail at Levels 1 and 2 (each level takes one year of full-time study)
  • ABC Level 3 Diploma in Display Design
  • ABC Level 3 Award in Merchandising Display and Presentation
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Award in Visual Merchandising
  • ABC Level 3 Certificate in Visual Merchandising for Retail
  • Foundation degree in Visual Merchandising and Promotional Design - two years, full time at the University of Central Lancashire
  • Degree in Art, Design and Practices of Display - three years, full time at Southampton Solent University
  • Degree in Display Design - three years, full time at the University of Central London.

For a degree course, applicants usually need at least two A levels/H grades and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent qualifications. For Foundation degrees they need one A level/H grade and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent qualifications. The requirements for other courses vary, and candidates are advised to contact course providers for full details.

Some people enter this career though Apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships which may be available in England are Young Apprenticeships, Pre-Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships. To find out which one is most appropriate log onto www.apprenticeships.org.uk or contact your local Connexions Partnership.

It is important to bear in mind that pay rates for Apprenticeships do vary from area to area and between industry sectors.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For further information contact Careers Scotland, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact COIU.

Entry for adults

There is no maximum age to begin this career. Previous experience in design or retail will be an advantage.

Full or part-time Access courses may available for candidates who do not have the qualifications for degree courses.

 

Training

Training depends on the employer and can combine on-the-job training with long or short internal or external courses.

It may be possible to work towards qualifications, including the visual merchandising units of an NVQ/SVQ in Retail Skills at Level 2 or 3.

The Chartered Society of Designers offers a Continuing Professional Development scheme to help members keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

Freelance display designers or visual merchandisers have to fund their own training and development.

 

Getting on

Promotion opportunities depend on the size of the employer's business, but there may be opportunities to progress to supervisor, head designer or merchandiser, and sometimes to department manager.

Working overseas is a possibility for people working for multinational companies.

Experienced display designers and visual merchandisers may become self-employed by moving into freelance work or setting up their own business. They progress by increasing their client base and building their businesses.

 

Further information

 

Further reading

  • Working in art & design - Connexions
  • Working in retail & customer services - Connexions

 

Magazines/journals

  • Creative Review
  • Design Week
  • The Designer - Chartered Society of Designers
  • Drapers
  • The Grocer
  • Retail Therapy - Skillsmart Retail Ltd

 

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