Display Designer

The Job and What's Involved

Display designers use their design skills to help promote the image, products and services of businesses and other organisations.

To some extent the roles of display designers and visual merchandisers may overlap, but display designers usually focus on designing displays, stands and panels that are used at exhibitions, conferences and other events. They also produce point-of-sale displays, which are stock containers that are usually mass-produced and installed in hundreds of retail outlets.

A display designer aims to promote a client's products, brand and image by creating an eye-catching display using visual and graphic elements. Depending on the client's business, the display may be taken to a wide range of locations, from trade exhibitions to shopping malls. The work involves:

  • Making presentations to potential clients to win contracts.
  • Discussing the brief with the client and identifying the key messages that need to be conveyed.
  • Gaining an in-depth understanding of the client's organisation, products, image and target market.
  • Considering factors such as the space available for the display, any special features it should incorporate, such as chairs, models and computers, and the client's budget.
  • Coming up with design ideas, images and graphics incorporating the client's logo and corporate colours, and discussing these with the client.
  • Researching costs and working within a budget.
  • Revising designs according to feedback from clients and other members of the design team.
  • Overseeing the production of the chosen design, checking the quality and making sure the project is completed to schedule.

Producing a display usually involves working with printers, exhibition contractors, plastics manufacturers and metal fabricators. The job could also involve arranging for the display to be transported to and from exhibitions, installed, dismantled and stored when not in use. Designers may liaise with suppliers of lighting, furniture, flower arrangements and other accessories.

Display designers usually work between 35 and 40 hours a week. Additional hours may be required as deadlines approach. Part-time work may be available, and freelance work is common.

Display designers could be based in design studios, at company head offices or design departments or in retail stores.

Designing and arranging displays can involve standing, lifting, carrying and using ladders.

Travel to other branches of the company, suppliers' premises, exhibition halls and conference centres may be necessary so a driving licence will be useful and, in some cases, essential.

Salaries may start at around £15,000 a year but with experience could rise to around £25,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Employers include the design departments of large organisations, design consultancies, display companies, printers, exhibition contractors and retailers. Freelance work is common. There are jobs in large towns and cities throughout the UK.

Vacancies may be advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, in specialist publications such as Design Week, The Designer, Drapers, The Grocer, local and national newspapers, on general retail job websites such as www.inretail.co.uk and on the websites of individual employers. The Design Council's website has links to organisations that may employ display designers.

Education and Training

There are no specific qualifications to begin this career, but most employers look for a qualification in a related subject and/or previous experience in design or retail. Useful qualifications include:

  • British Display Society (BDS) General/Higher Certificate in display, both one year, full time.
  • BDS Advanced Diploma in exhibition/retail display/point of sale design, all two years, full time.
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Award in visual merchandising.
  • ABC Level 3 Award/Certificate/Diploma in visual merchandising/display design.
  • OCR Level 3 Certificate/Diploma in visual merchandising.
  • Fashion Retail Academy Level 4 Diploma in visual merchandising.
  • Foundation degree in visual merchandising.
  • Degree in a related subject, such as exhibition/retail design or fashion marketing/promotion.

For a degree course, applicants usually need at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications. For foundation degrees they need at least one A level and four GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications. The requirements for other courses vary, and candidates are advised to contact course providers for full details.

Full or part-time Access courses may available for candidates who do not have the usual qualifications for entry on to degree courses.

The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant for this area of work.

Some people enter this career through an Apprenticeship in retail.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training depends on the employer and can combine on-the-job training with long or short internal or external courses.

It may be possible to work towards qualifications, including a Certificate/Diploma Level 3 in retail (visual merchandising).

The Chartered Society of Designers offers a continuing professional development (CPD) scheme to help members to keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

Freelance display designers or visual merchandisers have to fund their own training and development.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A display designer should:

  • Have a flair for design and colour.
  • Be creative, imaginative and energetic.
  • Understand a company's target markets and know how to appeal to them.
  • Be aware of current trends and activities in design, fashion and culture.
  • Have good communication skills to present ideas to others.
  • Be able to concentrate and work to tight deadlines.
  • Be able to use large and small spaces effectively.
  • Be self-motivated and practical.
  • Have technical drawing skills and, for some jobs, be able to use computer-aided design packages.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion opportunities depend on the size of the employer's business, but there may be opportunities to progress to supervisor, head designer, and sometimes to department manager.

Working overseas is a possibility for people working for multinational companies.

Experienced display designers may become self-employed by moving into freelance work or setting up their own business. They progress by increasing their client base and building their businesses.

Get Further Information

The British Display Society (BDS),
14-18 Heralds Way, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex CM3 5TQ
Tel: 020 8856 2030
Website: www.britishdisplaysociety.co.uk

The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD),
1 Cedar Court, Royal Oak Yard,
Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3GA
Tel: 020 7357 8088
Website: www.csd.org.uk

Design Council,
34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL
Tel: 020 7420 5200
Website: www.designcouncil.org.uk

The Fashion Retail Academy,
15-17 Gresse Street, London W1T 1QL
Tel: 020 7307 2345
Website: www.fashionretailacademy.ac.uk

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