Designers arrange and design articles, products, and materials in such a way that they are not only functional, serving the purpose for which they were intended, but also visually pleasing. Products and packaging that are both functional and eye catching are more likely to attract buyers than those that are not. Pleasant surroundings, beautiful cloths, and floral arrangements can boost our spirits.
Designers usually specialize in one type of product or activity, for example, automobiles, clothing, furniture, home appliances, industrial equipment, movie and theater sets, packaging, or floral arrangements. In developing a new design or altering an existing one, they first determine the needs of their clients and potential users. Then they consider the size, shape, weight, color, materials, used, and the way the product functions, as well as ease of maintenance, safety, and cost of the design. Designers may compare similar or competitive products. They take into account and often set style and fashion trends. Designers usually develop sketches of several designs which they present for final selection to an art or design director; a product development team; a play, film, or television producer; or a client. The designer then makes a model, a sample, or scaled detailed plans and drawings. Designers may also supervise craft workers who carry out their designs. Those with their own careeres also must find clients and do administrative work.
The design field includes a variety of specialties. Industrial designers develop and design countless manufactured products like cars, home appliances, computers, stethoscopes, filing cabinets, fishing rods, pens, and piggy banks. They combine artistic talent with research on product use, marketing, materials, and production methods to create the best and most appealing design and to make the product competitive with similar ones in the marketplace. Package designers create product containers that are not only attractive but easy to handle and store. Graphic designers draw or paint illustrations to advertise a product or an event. They also draw or design commercial logos such as corporate symbols or letterheads. Set designers design movie, television, and theater sets. They study scripts, confer with directors, and conduct research to determine appropriate architectural styles.
Fashion designers design coats, suits, dresses, hats, handbags, shoes, gloves, jewelry, underwear, and other apparel. Some high-fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. They make fashion news by establishing the "line," colors, and kinds of materials that will be worn each season. Other high-fashion designers cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores. They design original garments as well as follow the established fashion trends. Designers who work for apparel manufacturers do less original work; they adapt for the mass market the fashions set by other designers.
Cloths designers design fabrics for garments, upholstery, rugs, and other products, utilizing their knowledge of textile materials and fashion trends.
Floral designers cut and arrange fresh, dried, or artificial flowers and foliage into a design to express the sentiments of the sender. They trim flowers and arrange bouquets, sprays, wreaths, dish gardens, and terrariums. They usually work from a written order indicating the occasion, customer preference for color and type of flower, price, and the date, time, and place the arrangement or plant is to be delivered. The variety of duties performed by a floral designer depends on the size of the shop and the number of designers employed. In a small operation, the floral designer may own the shop and do almost everything from growing flowers to keeping books.
Art directors and layout artists produce the artwork for advertising campaigns.
Working Conditions and places of employment vary, depending on the specialty. Designers employed by manufacturing establishments or design firms generally work regular hours in well-lighted and comfortable settings. Those who are self-employed usually work longer hours and have a lot of paperwork connected with running their career.
Designers frequently must adjust their workday to suit their clients, meeting with them evenings or on weekends when necessary. They may transact career in clients' homes or offices, in their own offices, or in other locations such as decorator showrooms. Industrial designers usually work regular hours and only occasionally work overtime to meet deadlines. In contrast, set designers, especially those in television broadcasting, often work long and irregular hours. Television production tempo is very fast and the set designers are often under pressure to make rapid changes in the sets. Fashion designers who work in the apparel industry usually have regular hours; however, their work may be seasonal and require long hours before fashion showings. Floral designers usually work regular hours in a pleasant work environment, except during the holidays when overtime may be required. All designers face frustration at times when their designs are rejected or when they cannot be as creative as they would like. Independent consultants, who are paid by the assignment, are under pressure to please clients and to find new ones to maintain their incomes.
Designers held more than 300,000 jobs in 1990. Nearly two-fifths were self- employed, a much higher proportion than in most occupations.
Salaried designers are found in a number of different industries, depending on their design specialty. Most industrial designers, for example, work for consulting firms or for large manufacturing companies. Interior designers usually work for architectural or design firms; department stores and home furnishing stores; or hotel, restaurant, and other hospitality chains. Many do freelance work--full time, part time, or in addition to a salaried job.
Nearly all floral designers work in retail flower shops. Many florist shops are small and employ only a few designers. Many floral designers manage their own shops. Fashion designers work in the apparel industry, privately owned salons, high-fashion department stores, and specialty shops. Some work for pattern manufacturers or as freelancers. Some fashion designers work in the entertainment industry designing costumes for theater, television, and movies. Set designers usually work for theater companies, the film industry, and television broadcasting.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Creativity is critical in all design occupations. People in this field also need a strong color sense, an eye for detail, a sense of balance and proportion, and sensitivity to beauty. A good portfolio--a collection of examples of a person's best work--is sometimes more important in finding a job than formal education. However, formal training and technical skills are becoming increasingly important. Almost 2 out of 3 designers entering the field in 1983 had a college degree or some college education. Some design occupations such as industrial designers require 4 or more years of college. Computer-aided design is increasingly being utilized in industrial and textile design. Many employers require new employees to have these technical skills. Schools that incorporate this type of technical training into their academic curriculum find it easier to place their graduates.
Formal training is available in 2- and 3-year professional schools which award certificates or associate degrees in design. Four-year colleges and universities grant the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts. The curriculum in these schools includes art and art history, principles of design, fashion designing and sketching, garment construction, textiles, mechanical and architectural drawing, computerized design, sculpture, architecture, and basic engineering. A liberal arts education with courses in merchandising and career administration along with training in art is also a good background. Persons with training or experience in architecture also qualify for some design occupations.
In 1985, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredited 133 colleges and schools with programs in art and design. Eighteen of these schools offer programs in industrial design that are listed by the Industrial Designers Society of America. Most of these schools award a degree in art, industrial design, textile design, graphic design, or fashion design. Many schools do not allow formal entry into a bachelor's degree program until a student has successfully finished a year of basic art and design courses. Applicants may be required to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability. Some colleges and universities offer degrees in floriculture and floristry and provide training in flower marketing and shop management. Junior colleges, adult education programs, and correspondence schools also offer courses in design. Floral designers may also get training in commercial floral design schools.
Regardless of the amount of formal training required, people in the design field must be creative, imaginative, persistent, and able to communicate their ideas visually. Because tastes in style and fashion can change quickly, designers need to be open to new ideas and influences. Problem-solving skills and the ability to work independently are important traits. People in this field need self-discipline to start projects on their own, and to budget their time in order to meet deadlines. career sense and sales ability are important for those who are freelancers or run their own careeres.
Beginning designers are usually given on-the-job training. Usually a person can become a qualified floral designer after 2 years of one-the-job training; beginners in industrial design usually need 1 to 3 years of training before they advance to higher level positions. Experienced designers may advance to chief designer, design department head, or other supervisory positions. Some experienced designers open their own firms.
Although most States have no licensing requirements in the field, membership in a professional association is a recognized mark of achievement for many designers. Membership usually requires the completion of 3 or 4 years of postsecondary school education in design and at least 2 years of practical experience in the field.
Employment in design occupations is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2000. However, most of the openings will result from the need to replace those who leave.
Designers tend to leave their field at a somewhat higher rate than other professional and technical workers. Most who leave transfer to other occupations; others assume household responsibilities or retire.
Despite projected faster than average employment growth, persons seeking beginning jobs in most design fields, with the exception of floral design, are expected to face stiff competition. Many talented individuals are attracted to design work, and those with only average talent or without formal education and technical skills are likely to find it difficult to find jobs.
Continued emphasis on product quality and safety, on design of new products for career and offices, and on high-technology products in medicine and transportation should expand the demand for industrial designers. Growth in population and in personal incomes should increase the demand for fashion designers, floral designers, and set designers.
Median annual earnings of experienced full-time designers were about $28,000 in 1990. The middle 50 percent earned between $17,700 and $37,100 a year. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $11,975, and the top 10 percent earned more than $49,825.
Floral designers generally earned somewhat less than the median, beginning floral designers had average earnings of approximately $10,175 a year in 1990. Designers with 1 to 3 years of experience earned $12,200, while designers with over 3 years of experience averaged $14,625. Managers had average earnings of about $18,100% a year in 1989. Some floral designers reported average earnings of more than $33,075.
Workers in other occupations who design or arrange objects, materials, or interiors to improve their appearance and function include architects, engineers, photographers, merchandise displayers, fur designers, graphic designers, commercial artists, and fine artists.
Sources of Additional Information
For information about careers in floral arrangement, contact:
Society of American Florists, 901 North Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314.
A brochure about careers and a list of schools offering courses and degrees in industrial design are available for $2 from:
Industrial Designers Society of America, 1360 Beverly Road, Suite 303, McLean, VA 22101.
For information about careers in apparel design, contact:
International Association of Clothing Designers, 100% Seventh Avenue, Suite 811, New York, N.Y. 10123.