3D designer-maker

,  13 March 2013

3D designer-makers design and make unique products, which might be one-offs for commission or made for small-scale production.

You could be involved with all aspects of running a business such as accounts, sales, marketing and packaging. Image: University of the Crea
You could be involved with all aspects of running a business such as accounts, sales, marketing and packaging. Image: University of the Crea

What is the job like?

3D designer-makers design and make unique products, which might be one-offs for commission or made for small-scale production. The products are wide-ranging and include:

  • ceramics
  • glass
  • furniture
  • metalwork
  • objects d’art
  • toys.

3D designer-makers are often self-employed, but can work for a small company or design consultancy.

3D designers produce original and creative objects that are functional and aesthetically pleasing and make effective use of colour, texture and detail. Producing products that are environmentally sustainable is also very important.

Your work can vary according to the setting in which you work but often includes:

  • Using a range of materials such as wood, plastic, metal, clay, glass or fabric and specialist equipment where necessary.
  • Sketching initial ideas before using 2D and 3D computer assisted design (CAD) packages to prepare detailed drawings and models.
  • Developing and refining your designs, often after customer feedback.
  • Selling your work via galleries, websites, trade and craft fairs, pop-up shops and open studio events.
  • Creating sufficient products to deal with customer demand and managing stock control effectively.
  • Being involved with all aspects of running your own business such as accounts, sales, marketing and packaging your work for transportation.

3D designer-makers are often self-employed, but it may also be possible to work for a small company or design consultancy. Some designer-makers work as part of a collective, or in a shared studio or workshop with other artists.

How do I become a 3D designer-maker?

You will need:

  • creativity, imagination and lots of unique ideas
  • excellent communication, numerical, IT and organisational skills to run your own business
  • attention to detail, perseverance and determination
  • willingness to work hard on your own for long periods, often to tight deadlines
  • an understanding of materials and how things are put together.

Relevant school subjects include Art and Design, Design and Technology, English, IT, Maths and Physics.

What training and qualifications do I need?

Courses in 3D design and crafts are available at all levels within further and higher education.

Some of the further education qualifications can provide the entry requirements for university (at level 3).

Further education courses include:

  • BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design (3D Design/Design Crafts), Level 3
  • BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Architecture, Interior and Product Design

The BTEC level 3 courses last for two years full-time and are an alternative to A levels. You will need a minimum of four GCSE (A-C) passes or equivalent level 2 qualifications, such as the BTEC First Diploma in Art and Design, and GCSE (A-C) English or equivalent.

The BTEC level 3 courses can lead onto higher education courses, such as HND, foundation degree or degree courses. You may be asked for a merit or distinction.

It is also possible to progress onto a level 3 qualification from a level 2 qualification such as a BTEC First Diploma in Art and Design.

Degree courses

Degree courses in 3D design and crafts are listed on the UCAS website. Courses include:

  • BA Contemporary Crafts
  • BA 3D Design Craft
  • BA 3D Design, Sustainable Design, Materials and Craft
  • BA Product Design
  • BA Furniture Design
  • BA Ceramic Design.

Industrial design courses vary greatly in their emphasis. You will normally need art and design or design and technology A level, plus a portfolio and samples of your work.

The entry requirements for a degree are a minimum of two A levels or equivalent, such as a Level 3 Diploma. You will also need English GCSE (A-C) or equivalent and often GCSE (A-C) maths. Some universities may ask for three A levels, often at specified grades.

Another route to art-based degree courses in 3D design crafts and related areas is via a one-year foundation course in art and design. You will need a good portfolio of work and a minimum of one or two A levels, including art and design or equivalent.

Two-year HND courses in 3D Design Crafts are also available. 

Postgraduate MA courses in craft are also available.

How much will I get paid?

As most 3D designer-makers are self-employed it is very difficult to specify income. When you are establishing a reputation earnings can be very low. Renting studio or workshop accommodation can be expensive, and for this reason many 3D designer-makers start by running their own business from home.

Pricing your products so that you cover your costs and make a profit is one of the challenges of being a 3D designer-maker.

Commission rates for designers can vary greatly, from small amounts up to several thousand pounds for someone very established.


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