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Nature of the Work
* Nearly 40 percent are self-employed, almost five times the proportion in all professional occupations.
* Creativity is crucial in all design occupations; formal education requirements range from a high school diploma for floral designers to a bachelor's degree for industrial designers.
* Despite projected faster than average employment growth, keen competition is expected for most jobs because many talented individuals are attracted to careers as designers.
Designers organize and design articles, products, and materials so they serve the purpose for which they were intended and are visually pleasing. Pleasant surroundings, beautiful clothes, and floral arrangements can boost our spirits, and products and packaging that are eye-catching are more likely to attract buyers than those that are not.
Many designers specialize in a particular area of design, such as automobiles, clothing, furniture, home appliances, industrial equipment, interiors of homes and office buildings, exhibits, movie and theater sets, packaging, or floral arrangements. Others work in more than one design field. The first step in developing a new design or altering an existing one is to determine the needs of the client. The designer then considers various factors, including the size, shape, weight, and color of the product; materials used, and the product functions. The ease of use, safety, and cost of the design are additional factors. Designers offer suggestions to their clients; some ideas are more practical, while others are more aesthetically appealing. The designer develops by hand, or with the aid of a computer, sketches of several design concepts they present for final selection to a client, an art or design director, a product development team, or producer of a play, film, or television production. The designer then makes a model, a prototype, or detailed plans drawn to scale. Designers in some specialties increasingly use computer-aided design (CAD) tools to create and better visualize a final product. Computers greatly reduce the cost and time necessary to create a model or prototype, which gives a real idea of what the product will look like. Industrial designers use computer-aided industrial design (CAID) to create designs and to communicate them to automated production tools.
Designers may supervise assistants who carry out their designs. Those who run their own businesses may also devote a considerable amount of time to developing new business contacts and to administrative tasks, such as reviewing catalogs and ordering samples.
Design encompasses a number of different fields. Industrial designers develop and design countless manufactured products including cars, home appliances, children's toys, computer equipment, and medical, office, or recreational equipment. They combine artistic talent with research on product use, marketing, materials, and production methods to create the most functional and appealing design and to make the product competitive with others in the marketplace.
Furniture designers design furniture for manufacture, according to knowledge of design trends, competitors' products, production costs, capability of production facilities, and characteristics of a company's market. They may also prepare detailed drawings of fixtures, forms, or tools required to be used in production of furniture, along with designing custom pieces or styles according to a specific period or country. They must be strongly involved with the fashion industry and aware of current trends and styles.
Interior designers plan the space and furnish the interiors of private homes, public buildings, and commercial establishments, such as offices, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, and theaters. They also may plan additions and renovations. With a client's tastes, needs, and budget in mind, they develop designs and prepare working drawings and specifications for interior construction, furnishings, lighting, and finishes. Increasingly, designers use computers to plan layouts that can be changed easily to include ideas received from the client. They also design lighting and architectural details such as crown molding, coordinate colors, and select furniture, floor coverings, and curtains. Interior designers must design space in accordance with Federal, State, and local laws, including building codes. Increasingly, they plan spaces that meet accessibility standards for the disabled and elderly.
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 clothing and accessories. 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. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, adapting men's, women's, and children's fashions for the mass market.
Textile designers design fabric for garments, upholstery, rugs, and other products, using their knowledge of textile materials and fashion trends. Computers are widely used in pattern design and grading; intelligent pattern engineering (IPE) systems enable even greater automation in generating patterns.
Floral designers cut and arrange live, dried, or artificial flowers and foliage into designs to express the sentiments of the customer. 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 floral arrangement or plant is to be delivered. The variety of duties performed by a floral designer depends on the size of the shop and 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.
Working conditions and places of employment vary. Designers employed by manufacturing establishments or design firms generally work regular hours in well-lighted and comfortable settings. Self-employed designers tend to work longer hoursespecially at first, when they are trying to establish themselves and cannot afford to hire assistants or clerical help.
Designers frequently adjust their workday to suit their clients, meeting with them in the evenings, or on weekends when necessary. They may transact business in their own offices, clients' homes or offices, or may travel to other locations such as showrooms or manufacturing facilities.
Industrial designers usually work regular hours but occasionally work overtime to meet deadlines. In contrast, set designers, especially those in television broadcasting, often work long and irregular hours. The pace of television production is very fast, and 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. During production deadlines or before fashion shows, however, they may be required to put in overtime. In addition, fashion designers may be required to travel to production sites overseas and across the United States. Interior designers generally work under deadlines and often work overtime to finish a job. Floral designers usually work regular hours in a pleasant work environment, except during holidays when overtime usually is required.
All designers face frustration at times, when their designs are rejected or when they cannot be as creative as they wish. 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 about 342,000 jobs in 1996. Nearly 4 out of 10 were self-employed, compared to less than 1 out of 10 workers in all occupations.
Salaried designers work in a number of different industries, depending on their design specialty. Most industrial designers, for example, work for consulting firms or for large corporations. Interior designers usually work for design or architectural firms, department stores and home furnishing stores, or hotel and restaurant chains. Many do freelance workfull time, part time, or in addition to a salaried job in another occupation.
Set designers work for theater companies and film and television production companies. Fashion designers generally work for textile, apparel, and pattern manufacturers, or for fashion salons, high-fashion department stores, and specialty shops. Some work in the entertainment industry, designing costumes for theater, dance, television, and movies. Most floral designers work for retail flower shops, but a growing number work in floral departments of grocery stores.
Creativity is crucial in all design occupations. People in this field must have a strong sense of color, an eye for detail, a sense of balance and proportion, and sensitivity to beauty. Sketching ability is especially important for fashion designers. A good portfolioa collection of examples of a person's best workis often the deciding factor in getting a job. However, formal preparation in design is important in all fields with the exception of floral design.
Educational requirements for entry-level positions vary. Some design occupations, notably industrial design, require a bachelor's degree. Interior designers also generally need a college education because few clientsespecially commercial clientsare willing to entrust responsibility for designing living and working space to a designer with no formal credentials. Interior designers must also be knowledgeable about Federal, State, and local codes, and toxicity and flammability standards for furniture and furnishings.
Interior design is the only design field subject to government regulation. According to a 1997 survey from the American Society for Interior Designers, 22 States required interior designers to be licensed. Because licensing is not mandatory in all States, membership in a professional association is universally recognized as a mark of achievement for interior designers. Professional membership usually requires the completion of 3 or 4 years of postsecondary education in design, at least 2 years of practical experience in the field, and completion of the National Council for Interior Design qualification examination.
In fashion design, some formal career preparation, such as a 2- or 4-year degree, is usually needed to enter the field. Employers seek individuals who are knowledgeable in the areas of textiles, fabrics, and ornamentation, as well as trends in the fashion world. Similarly, furniture designers must keep abreast of trends in fashion and style, in addition to methods and tools used in furniture production. Several universities and schools of design offer degrees in furniture design.
In contrast to the other design occupations, a high school diploma ordinarily suffices for floral design jobs. Most floral designers learn their skills on the job. When they hire trainees, employers generally look for high school graduates who have a flair for color and a desire to learn. However, completion of formal training is an asset for floral designers, particularly for advancement to the chief floral designer level. Vocational and technical schools offer programs in floral design usually lasting less than a year, while 2- and 4-year programs in floriculture, horticulture, floral design, or ornamental horticulture are offered by community and junior colleges, and colleges and universities.
Formal training for some design professions is also available in 2- and 3-year professional schools which award certificates or associate degrees in design. Graduates of 2-year programs generally qualify as assistants to designers. The Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is granted at 4-year colleges and universities. The curriculum in these schools includes art and art history, principles of design, designing and sketching, and specialized studies for each of the individual design disciplines such as garment construction, textiles, mechanical and architectural drawing, computerized design, sculpture, architecture, and basic engineering. A liberal arts education, with courses in merchandising, business administration, marketing, and psychology, along with training in art, is also a good background for most design fields. Persons with training or experience in architecture also qualify for some design occupations, particularly interior design.
Computer-aided design (CAD) courses are very useful. CAD is used in various areas of design, and many employers expect new designers to be familiar with the use of the computer as a design tool. For example, industrial designers extensively use computers in the aerospace, automotive, and electronics industries. Interior designers are using computers to create numerous versions of space designs. Images can be inserted, edited, or replacedmaking it possible for a client to see and choose among several designs. In furniture design, a chair's basic shape and structure may be duplicated and updated by applying new upholstery styles and fabrics with the use of computers.
In 1997, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredited about 200 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design; most of these schools award a degree in art. Some award degrees in industrial, interior, textile, graphic, or fashion design. Many schools do not allow formal entry into a bachelor's degree program until a student has successfully finished ayear of basic art and design courses. Applicants may be required to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.
The Foundation for Interior Design Education Research accredits interior design programs and schools. Currently, there are over 120 accredited programs in the United States and Canada, located in schools of art, architecture, and home economics.
Individuals in the design field must be creative, imaginative, persistent, and able to communicate their ideas both visually and verbally. 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, budget their time, and meet deadlines and production schedules. Business sense and sales ability are also important for those who are freelancers or run their own businesses.
Beginning designers usually receive on-the-job training, and normally need 1 to 3 years of training before they advance to higher-level positions. Experienced designers in large firms may advance to chief designer, design department head, or other supervisory positions. Some experienced designers open their own firms.
Despite projected faster than average employment growth, designers in most fieldswith the exception of floral and furniture designare expected to face competition for available positions because many talented individuals are attracted to careers as designers. Individuals with little or no formal education in design who lack creativity and perseverance will find it very difficult to establish and maintain a career in design.
Finding a job as a floral designer should be relatively easy due to the relatively low pay and limited opportunities for advancement.
Overall, the employment of designers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006. Demand for industrial designers will stem from continued emphasis on product quality and safety; design of new products that are easy and comfortable to use; high-technology products in medicine, transportation, and other fields; and increasing global competition among businesses. Rising demand for professional design of private homes, office space, restaurants and other retail establishments, and institutions that care for the rapidly growing elderly population should spur employment growth among interior designers. Floral design should experience healthy growth with the addition of floral departments in many grocery and department stores. Demand for fashion, textile, and furniture designers should rise as consumers become more concerned with fashion and style. In addition to employment growth, many job openings will result from the need to replace designers who leave the field.
Full-time designers in all specialties combined had median weekly earnings of about $590 in 1996. The middle 50 percent earned between $380 and $890 a week. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $280, while the top 10 percent earned over $1,300.
Earnings of floral designers were lower than most types of designers. According to a survey conducted by Floral Finance Inc., beginning floral designers had average earnings of $5.85 an hour in 1996. Designers with 1 to 3 years of experience earned $6.94, while designers with over 3 years of experience averaged $8.17. Managers had average earnings of $10.10 per hour in 1996.
According to the Industrial Designers Society of America, the average base salary for an entry-level industrial designer with 1 to 2 years of experience was about $27,000 in 1996. Staff designers with 5 years of experience earned $35,000, while senior designers with 8 years of experience earned $45,000. Industrial designers in managerial or executive positions earned substantially moreup to $140,000 annually.
Workers in other occupations who design or arrange objects, materials, or interiors to improve their appearance and function include visual artists, architects, landscape architects, engineers, photographers, interior decorators, and merchandise displayers. Some computer-related occupations, including Internet page designer and webmaster, require design skills.
For a list of accredited schools of art and design, contact:
National Association of Schools of Art and Design, 11250 Roger Bacon Dr., Suite 21, Reston, VA 20190.
For information on careers and a list of academic programs in industrial design, write to:
Industrial Designers Society of America, 1142-E Walker Rd., Great Falls, VA 22066. Homepage: http://www.idsa.org
For information on degree, continuing education, and licensure programs in interior design, contact:
American Society for Interior Designers, 608 Massachusetts Ave. NE., Washington, DC 20002-6006.
For a list of accredited programs in interior design, contact:
Foundation for Interior Design Education Research, 60 Monroe Center NW., Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Homepage: http://www.fider.org
For information about careers in floral design, contact:
Society of American Florists, 1601 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314.
For a list of schools with accredited programs in furniture design, contact:
American Society of Furniture Designers, P.O. Box 2688, High Point, NC 27261.
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