Furniture designers produce designs for items of furniture and other related products. Designs may be for mass production, in small batches, or as one-offs, and designers may just be involved in this aspect of the work, or may be designer/makers, producing items from their own designs.
Designers may first carry out research and look at other products to help them develop their own ideas. They will need to consider how the item will look and how practical or functional it will be, taking into consideration areas such as the cost and availability of materials, the manufacturing process, the needs of the client or intended end-user, and safety implications. They may work to a brief agreed with a client or, in the case of manufacturing companies, may originate new designs or improve existing ones.
Designers prepare sketches of their initial ideas, by hand or with the aid of computer software, often in liaison with other professionals such as production managers, marketing staff and design engineers.
Designers will develop their ideas using models, prototypes and computer-aided design (CAD). They may prepare their own more detailed designs for themselves or manufacturing specialists to work from, or in larger companies these may be worked up in detail by specialised draughtsmen/women.
Self-employment will include involvement in marketing, financial and business activities.
Working conditions and hours of work vary. Designers spend much of their time in a studio; those employed by companies may work as part of a design team, whereas self-employed designers may have their own workshop or studio, or may share premises to reduce costs.
Designers working for organisations such as large manufacturers or design companies are more likely to work regular hours, but extra hours during the week are common when there are deadlines to meet. Self employed designers are more likely to work irregular hours, including weekends.
Some travel may be necessary, for example to carry out research, meet clients or visit factories, therefore a driving licence is useful.
To be a furniture designer you need:
Furniture designers may be self-employed as designer/makers, or may be employed by large manufacturing companies, retailers, design studios and consultancy practices.
Self employed designers will need to find premises. The Crafts Council (see Further Information section) or crafts officer of local regional arts boards (contact details through the Arts Councils - see Further Information) may be able to advise on studio availability and possible sources of funding.
Experienced designers may progress to more senior positions, or into specialised areas. They may also move to positions such as furniture buyer. Some designers may move into the ergonomics field by completing a postgraduate qualification. See the Ergonomist profile for information.
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Creative and Cultural Skills
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