Textile designers create designs for woven, knitted or printed fabrics. These can be used for furnishings, clothing, packaging and floor and wall coverings.
The role of a textile designer
Textile designers have to research trends and forecasts in the textile industry. This helps to determine what is likely to sell, and leads to increased knowledge of new manufacturing technology.
As a textile designer, your key duties would include:
- producing initial sketches by hand or on computer, using specialist computer aided design (CAD) software
- manipulating digital designs until they meet customers' requirements
- making up samples or having them constructed by technicians
- researching design trends and forecasts to decide what is likely to sell
- liaising with clients, technical staff, marketing and buying staff
- keeping up to date with developments in manufacturing technology.
Some designers work for organisations such as design agencies, manufacturers or retailers. They will have to liaise with clients, technical staff, marketing and buying staff to create a product.
Working in textile design
A lot of your time may be spent at a computer, designing fabrics and manipulating patterns.
A textile designer will produce initial sketches by hand or on computer. They will either make samples or have them manufactured.
While some designs are machine-made in large quantities, other designers use traditional techniques, such as embroidery or block printing.
As a textile designer with a manufacturer, retailer or design company you will usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with additional hours at busy periods. A lot of your time will be spent at a computer, designing fabrics and manipulating patterns. You may need to travel within the UK or overseas, to exhibit at trade fairs or visit clients and manufacturers.
Freelance textile designers often have relevant craft skills and may carry out entire projects. A freelance designer may use techniques such as embroidery, hand-printing or block printing. They can market these direct from their own studio, through craft fairs or through retail outlets.
As a freelance designer you will normally split your time between designing and marketing your work. You may also need to supplement your income with other types of work, such as teaching.
Getting into textile design
There are two main entry routes:
- By taking a degree in textile design or a closely related subject at an institution with a proven record in this field. If you already have appropriate work experience you may be able to start a degree course without the usual entry qualifications.
- By starting work as a textile operative, gaining relevant experience and eventually moving into textile design.
You may be able to enter the textile industry through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.
You will need to present a design portfolio when you are looking for work. You can also use your portfolio to make speculative applications to companies whose products match your style.
If you intend to become self-employed, it may be useful to do further training in business skills and photography (which will help you to market your work).
You could gain recognition of your skill level by joining a professional body like the Textile Institute or Chartered Society of Designers. Being a member of an association would give you access to opportunities for professional development and networking.