Furniture designers produce designs for furniture such as tables, chairs, bookcases and cabinets. Working to the needs of clients or manufacturers, they may design individual handcrafted pieces or design for mass production.
You could be:
planning the design and selecting suitable materials including wood, metal, plastic or textiles
researching market trends and new techniques, as well as period styles such as Mackintosh
producing designs and technical drawings using computer-aided design (CAD) packages (such as AutoCAD and TurboCAD), sketches or models
discussing designs with individual clients and manufacturers
using tools to make a prototype model
testing how well the model stands up to wear and tear and then solving any problems
incorporating mechanical parts of some items into the design, such as levers in adjustable office chairs
taking into account issues such as cost, market trends, demand, materials and manufacturing methods and techniques and safety
liaising with individual craftsmen, or with various departments of the company: marketing, production, supply and sales, regarding the process of construction or manufacture
attending seminars and workshops on areas of furniture design and manufacturing.
Pay rates vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting salaries for qualified furniture designers in the UK tend to be in the range £18,000 to £25,000 a year. With experience this can increase to around £30,000 and senior designers may earn up to £40,000 a year or more. Some furniture designers work freelance. They charge a fee which varies depending on the job.
You might work for a large manufacturing company, a small family business or a design company doing work for several manufacturing firms.
You would be based in a design studio or a workshop.
You might work on your own or in a team while designing.
You may have to travel to visit factories, meet clients or attend trade shows.
The hours can be long at times, including some evenings and weekends, to meet deadlines.
In workshops, conditions might be dusty when wood is being shaped.
You usually need a degree (SCQF Level 9) in 3D design or product design with an option in furniture design. For entry to most courses you need 4 Highers including English and Art and Design or Design and Manufacture.
You might be able to get a job with an HNC (SCQF Level 7) or HND (SCQF Level 8) in furniture design. For entry you normally need 1-2 Highers or a relevant NC or NQ (SCQF Levels 4-5)
You could start by taking an NC or NQ. Entry requirements vary from no formal entry requirements to 4 subjects at National 4 including English, Art and Design and a technological subject. You might then progress to a more advanced course.
You need a very good portfolio of designs to get into college or university.
If you are very talented and have an extremely good portfolio, you might get into college or university without the necessary Highers.
Some entrants have previous experience in a trade such as carpentry.
For art school courses you need to apply through UCAS.
Entry can be very competitive. Most jobs are in large factories, designing furniture for the mass market, but there is also work with design consultancies, working with for example, interior designers and architects. There are also opportunities in retail and sometimes with smaller bespoke design companies. Some designers are self-employed and take a considerable time to establish themselves.