Product designers design most things we use in our daily life, from chairs and other household items, to mobile phones, computers and other gadgets. They either improve existing models, or design new products.
You could be:
- designing a wide range of products including household items such as vacuum cleaners, kettles, televisions, computers, telephones, tools, cars or medical equipment
- planning the overall design of a product, working from a brief, making sure it meets customer needs, is easy for people to use, appealing to look at and efficient
- taking into account the production methods, cost, timescales and market demand
- deciding on a suitable material depending on the product
- sketching initial design ideas and using specialised computer-aided design (CAD) programmes to produce final drawings
- making a working model or prototype for testing to make sure the product will work well, and using this to solve any design problems
- presenting proposed designs to managers or clients
- liaising with other professionals such as engineers, model makers and marketing staff
- keeping up to date with current design influences and trends, and production methods.
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 newly qualified product designers in the UK tend to be in the range £18,000 to £24,000 a year. Experienced designers and those leading a team can earn up to £45,000 a year. Senior designers can earn £45,000 or more.
Freelance designers charge a daily rate or price for a whole project. The amount will depend on your experience and reputation.
- You would be based in a studio, office or workshop.
- You may work alone for part of the time, but you would also be part of a team of other professionals.
- You may have to spend some time in the factories which make the goods.
- The factories can be noisy, dirty and dusty.
- You may also have to visit clients at their work sites.
- Hours are normally regular, Monday to Friday, but may be longer when you have to meet deadlines.
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- You normally need an Honours degree in product design or other relevant subject.
- The universities of Dundee, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier and Strathclyde, and Glasgow School of Art, offer product design degrees.
- Other relevant subjects include 3D design, industrial design and spatial design.
- For entry you need 4-5 Highers normally including English and Art and Design. Higher Maths and Physics or a technological subject may also be required.
- You need a good portfolio of design work to get into college or university and also later when applying for jobs, to show how you developed your ideas.
- You could start by taking a National Certificate (NC) or National Qualification (NQ) (up to 4 subjects at National 4 or 5 for entry) or a Higher National Certificate (HNC) (2 Highers for entry) in similar subjects. This could lead on to a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a degree.
- You may be required to have a driving licence.
All applications to Art Schools (Duncan of Jordanstone at the University of Dundee, Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow School of Art and Gray's School of Art at Robert Gordon's University) are through UCAS, with some courses having a closing date of 15th January and others having the closing date of 24th March.
Because product designers are needed in all types of industry, there are job opportunities throughout the country. However, many design consultancies are in large cities, particularly in London and south east England.
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What Does it Take?
You need to be:
- creative and imaginative
- able to visualise ideas in 3D
- knowledgeable about different materials and production methods
- skilled in IT including CAD packages
- able to explain your ideas to a wide range of people with different technical skills
- flexible and adaptable as you may have to alter your work to suit the budget
- well organised and able to work to deadlines
- able to accept criticism of your work.
You need to have:
- precision and attention to detail
- number skills for calculating measurements and costs
- a knowledge of engineering principles
- good spatial and visual awareness
- a good eye for design, detail and colour
- project management skills
- business awareness.
- You would train and gain experience on the job working with a senior designer.
- You may need to go on short courses to learn about new software packages that come on the market.
- With experience and qualifications you might take a part time specialist postgraduate course.
- The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) runs opportunities for Continual Professional Development based on a points system as well as in-house training for employers to send their staff. The Design Business Association (DBA) also offers professional development opportunities.
- Depending on the size of the firm you work for, you may gain promotion to a senior designer or team leader post.
- With further experience you may become a design manager, project manager or move into a specialist area such as ergonomics.
- You may need to move to take advantage of promotion opportunities.
- You might set up your own business as a freelance product designer.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
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