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Graphic, Interior & Fashion Design Careers, Jobs and Career Training Information

Design Career and Job Highlights

One of the chief benefits of being a designer is that a very large number, almost one third, of all designers are self-employed. That is almost five times the percentage of self-employed people in other fields. Also, many people are attracted to designing because of the high level of creativity it demands. Generally to be a designer you need at least a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree will be advantageous. The industry is showing signs of growth, but there is still very high competition for most projects, as there are many extremely talented and creative designers.

The Design profession

Designers are innately creative people. They then make use of their creativity, artistry, and knowledge of practical skills to turn their creative vision into plans for our Websites, clothes, advertisements, cars, media, and surroundings. Since designers are needed in so many industries they usually generalize, focusing on one specialized area like interior design, cars, company logos, newspapers, clothing, theatre sets, merchandise displays, medical equipment, or many others.

To be a good designer you have to take three things into account: 1) What your client needs and has the resources for, 2) The primary function of the design, and 3) How it will appeal to customers. Often the first step is solid research of the preferred design characteristics like cost, safety issues, availability of materials, size, etc.

The next step is to prepare a preliminary outline, such as a sketch, usually with the aid of a computer. You will then share your creative vision with the client or a product development team. Next comes a detailed plan of your design, including very detailed drawings or blueprints, simulations, or a to-scale model. More and more designers are using CAD (Computer-Aided Design) to increase efficiency, create a better model, and because computers make it easier to explore new possibilities and design permutations. Computers are becoming more popular because they allow for greater creativity while cutting costs. Industrial designers create designs and instructions that are readable by machines and that give directions to automated production tools using CAD’s sister tool, CAID (Computer-Aided Industrial Design).

Many designers are also involved in the business aspects of their job, not jut the creative. They often have assistants to supervise. Also, many designers own their own business and so they have to be involved in client development, networking, finding and renting space, ordering materials, reviewing industry publications, and many other administrative responsibilities. Furthermore, as technology in computers and communication advances, designers need to continually work to stay up-to-date and competitive. This is especially true for those designers involved in industrial or graphic design.
Computers have allowed for great advancements in the design industry. Advanced communications networks have increased the opportunities that were previously limited by geography. Designers can form international firms or taskforces and can work for clients all over the world. The Internet has increased the availability of information, making research easier and better, and designers have a much larger pool of supplies. This makes the logistics of being a self-employed designer much easier, as well.

Types of Designers

There are many types of designers who work in a wide range of industries. Some designers generalize and work in many different fields, while others concentrate on one specialty.

  • Commercial/Industrial Design: This area helps develop manufactured products, such has automobiles, airplanes, computers, kitchen appliances, medical equipment, automobile interiors, office materials, etc. In addition to their creativity and artistry, a successful commercial designer has to be able to assess the needs of user and have a working knowledge of marketing and means of production. All of these skills are necessary to create an effective, appealing product. Commercial and industrial designers tend to specialize in an area like home appliances or recreational equipment.
  • Fashion Design: This deals with designing apparel. Many are self-employed in the form of clothing labels, and many work for personal clients. Others work for particular boutiques or department stores. These fashion designers are very creative and innovative, while others stick to established trends for high-demand items. However, these small, self-employed designers are in the minority. The majority of fashion designers work for big clothing manufactures, making clothing and accessories for the mass market.
  • Floral Design: This is a very diverse area, with many working in large shops and others working for themselves in very small, specialized shops. All floral designers, however, are involved in arranging all types of flowers into designs. They make arrangements based on the customer’s order for all occasions, from wedding bouquets to holiday wreaths, from tabletop gardens to large terrariums. Aside from the artistic side of floral design, designers also have to be competent in assessing the customer’s needs, the type of occasion, the availability and cost of flowers according to season, materials of imitation flowers, and issues of time and delivery to make sure the flowers look their best. Also, in small flower shops many designers also have to do their own accounting and arrange supply and delivery, which requires business know-how. Many floral designers also grow their own flowers, which expands their responsibilities even further.
  • Graphic Design: This is an extremely large area of design. Basically, graphic designers resolve communication problems using visual solutions. By studying culture, context, and social issues they develop designs that will effectively communicate to meet the needs of their customer. They use a number of media, from print to computers to film, and so many graphic designers specialize in one area. Some have expertise in visual layout for magazines or computers, others create promotional displays, others design the credits for movies, and others design logos, others design signs for the government. There are many areas of specialization. Computers are instrumental in almost all areas of graphic design, however, especially in the ever-growing technological industry: designing Web pages and multimedia projects.
  • Interior Design: The perennial goal of interior designers is to combine from and function. They improve the quality of interior spaces by increasing efficiency, safety, and beauty. Interior designers can work on all types of projects, like residential homes, shopping malls, retail stores, hospitals, hotels, theaters, or restaurants. With such a wide range of work, most interior designers specialize, for example one designer might focus on businesses while another might focus on residences. Many specialize in even more specific areas, like airplane interiors or kitchens. A successful designer has to take many things into account, like the customer’s preferences, cost of materials, and functional efficiency. Also, there are many federal and local guidelines and building codes. Plus, if designing a public space, it is necessary to ensure that everything is accessible to the disabled and elderly. Keeping all those in mind, a designer then configures the interior structure, such as molding, windows, and built-in fixtures; furnishings, such as furniture and floor coverings; lighting that is economical and pleasing; and accents like rugs and wall-hangings. They coordinate colors, styles, and materials to create a visually pleasing and comfortable space. Computers are extremely useful to interior designers as they allow for exact and accurate models and also allow for easy adjustments to the whims of customers.
  • Visual Merchandise Design: Also called window-dressing, visual merchandize design is the art of merchandise display. Many designers work for large businesses, arranging merchandise in retail stores or designing window displays. Working for the interior of retail stores involves dressing mannequins, creating table displays, arranging props and accents, and organizing clothing placement by color group or style. To make promotions and styles uniform and to maintain the “look” of a store, most large retail chains employ designers at the corporate level in a central design department. The designs are distributed to individual stores, and individual managers or regional designers adapt the designs to meet individual needs.
  • Set Design: This area of design makes sets and exhibits for movie and television studios, theatre productions, or special exhibitions in museums or trade-shows. Designers who work with television or theatre need to study scripts and consult with writers and directors to ensure that their design is in line with their artistic vision. They also need to research make sure their design is historically accurate in architectural details and fashion. They then provide the models for the actual construction, making sure that it is feasible and functional. Designers of special exhibitions need to confer with museum curators or trade-show sponsors to make use of the available space, create an effective theme, and control flow of human traffic. Also, if working for a museum a designer may have to consult an art specialist to ensure preservation and security of museum objects.

Working Conditions

Designers face many pressures in their work. They are creative people by nature and so they often don’t have traditional office environments. They may work in their own home or in that of their client. They often travel to the location of their work, whether it is a showroom, a client’s house, or an office under construction. Many designers do not have fixed incomes but are paid by project, which creates pressures to finish a job quickly and get new clients. Further frustrations are caused when designs are rejected or don’t turn out as planned, and sometimes creativity just doesn’t seem to come.

Designers may work at many different places under many different conditions. Manufactures, large design firms, or corporations usually make for a very stable working environment in terms of regular and reasonable hours in a comfortable office setting. Designers who work freelance or who work at small firms usually work according to whatever individual contract they have at the time, making adjustments to their client’s need, which makes for a less stable environment. They may have uneven working hours, with varying workloads and more evening and weekend hours. Designers who are self-employed or who work as consultants often work longer hours in a smaller and simpler offices.

Hours and conditions depend not only on the type of firm, but also on the type of designer. Industrial and graphic designers, and interior designers generally work quite regular hours, but may have to work extra hours or weekends to meet the demands of a particular project. Set and exhibit designers, however, often have much more uneven schedules, working long hours under pressure and having to make quick adjustments. Fashion designers often operate the same way, having to work very long hours in preparation for a fashion show, or traveling to the site of a show. Floral designers mostly work regular hours in small, agreeable working conditions but large events like wedding may require some extra hours. Merchandise designers may work regular hours in a corporate job, but those who work in actual retail stores often have irregular hours as they do most of their work when customers are out of the store. Also many designers, especially those in interior, merchandise, and fashion design, have to deal with equipment transportation, sample books, heavy displays, supervising construction, and many other responsibilities.

Becoming a Designer

Though different types of designers require different personalities and skill sets, creativity is common to all designers. It is necessary for designers to seek for beauty and balance and have a sense of the aesthetic. Also, since they spend so much time dealing with customers and complex projects, they have to have good communication skills and analytical thinking that leads to problem-solving. And even though computers have had such an impact on designing, most designers, especially those in fashion, have some kind of artistic training that enable them to make sketches and plans.

The amount of schooling needed depends on the type of design. However, it is important to keep in mind that schooling isn’t always the deciding factor in getting a job. A sampling of a designer’s work in the form of a portfolio is usually the most important.

Fashion designers generally have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree from a reputable fashion design college. It is also imperative that a potential fashion designer be conversant in patterns, accessories, trends, fabrics, and the fashion industry as a whole. Set and exhibit designers usually have 4-year degrees as well, and often a Masters in Fine Arts as well. An important credential for set designers is membership in the United Scenic Artists, Local 829.

For floral designers, many people enter the profession by gaining on-the-job experience rather than formal schooling. Professionals look for trainees, generally people with at least a high school degree who are eager to learn and very artistic. However, formal schooling is beneficial, especially for people who want to own their own businesses or hold a management position. Many vocational schools offer short (less than a year) courses in floral design. Community colleges and universities often offer associate’s and bachelor’s degreesin horticulture, floral design, ornamental horticulture. Also, to become an accredited floral designer, a potential designer needs to pass an examination given by the American Institute of Floral Designers.

Two- and three-year programs at professional schools are also offered for many other types of design. Degrees from such programs usually qualify graduates to become assistants to designers. Four-year programs at colleges and universities supply graduates with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. These degrees involve a more rigorous and varied curriculum, involving mechanical drawing, sketching, art history, design principles, and other skills applicable to the various areas of design. Most designers, especially those who want to work independently, are recommended to find programs that have a strong liberal arts core that will teach business management, marketing, psychology, and art. Also, architectural skills can be very helpful to designers, especially those in interior design.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design offer many desgin degrees in areas like art, interior design, industrial design, graphic design, and fashion design. They accredit over 200 schools, many of which require at least a year of studying basic design and art before admitting students to the bachelor’s degree program. Admission to the program may also require a portfolio of samples and sketches.

Another professional organization for designers is the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research. They also offer bachelor’s degrees in the areas of architecture, art, and home economics in over 120 schools and programs.
Industry and Job Outlook

As they economy expands, more people are demanding the skills of designers, and analysts anticipate growth for the industry. Competition for positions, however, will continue to be fierce, as there are many gifted and competent people who want to be designers. Ingenuity, persistence, and more formal schooling will set apart those who will succeed.

Graphic design has the highest projected growth rate. As more businesses look to the Interned Web for information and as the entertainment market (including television, video games, movies, and advertisements) expands, there is more and more call for graphic designers.

There is also increasing demand for interior designers, especially for offices, retail stores, homes, and establishments specializing in care for the elderly. Floral design has a relatively high turnover rate due to a lack of advancement opportunities, which leads to new jobs.

The area of industrial design will continue to grow rapidly as the importance of safety and quality of products grows. As customers want everything to be cheaper, more comfortable, easier to use, and as technology becomes more important in every field, industrial design is a very important industry.
A few areas of design, however, do not show this rapid growth. New jobs for merchandise displayers will come from the natural turnover caused by workers who retire or move to different professions. The industry of clothing manufacturing is slowing, which means that growth in fashion design is also slowing. And the area of exhibit and set designing is very small, so even though there is a lot of growth there will not be a lot of job openings.

Earnings

The range of income for industrial and commercial designers was $25,000 to $85,000, with the average being about $60,000 in architecture, engineering, and other associated industries.

The range for fashion designers was $22,000-110,000, with the average being about $50,000. The majority of designers earned between $35,000 and $75,000.
The range for floral designers was $13,000-30,000. The average was about $20,000. Median earnings were slightly higher for grocery stores than florists.
The range for graphic designers was $20,000-65,000. The average was about $36,000, with the majority earning between $28,000 and $49,000. Earnings were slightly higher for those in advertising and specialized design services than those of printing and media publishing services. Annual earnings were shown to have a direct correlation to the level of responsibility by the American Institution of Graphic Arts. At the top of the chain are graphic designers who have their own firm or a partnership in a firm. They earned around $90,000. Under them are the creative chiefs of design departments in big corporations or design firms who earned about $85,000. Next are freelance designers who work independently, who earned about $55,000. Senior designers or supervisors earned about $50,000, while the staff-level designers below them earned about $40,000.

The range for interior designers was $21,000-70,000. The median was $39,000 with the majority earning between $29,000 and $53,000. Earnings were very slightly higher for architectural and specialized services, and slightly lower for furniture stores.

The range for merchandise displayers was $15,000-40,000. The medial was $23,000 and the majority of professionals made between $18,000 and $29,000.
The range for set and exhibit designers was $18,000-63,000. The median was $34,000 and the majority earned between $25,00 and $46,000.

The preceding statistics are approximations of data gathered in 2002.