As a technical textiles designer, you would be involved in the design and development of fibres and fabrics produced mainly for their technical performance and functional properties, rather than characteristics such as colour or style.
You could work with fibres and fabrics for a wide range of uses, for example:
You would work alongside research and development and production teams, either to a customer brief or to develop in-house ideas. Your tasks would typically include:
You would need to keep up to date with health and safety issues in all aspects of your work.
You would normally work around 37 hours a week, but may need to do more hours to meet business needs, such as deadlines.
You would be mainly based in an office and laboratory environment, but would also spend time on the factory floor, and travel to attend conferences and exhibitions.
Salaries typically start at around £16,000 a year. With experience this can rise to between £25,000 and £35,000.
The technical textiles sector covers the following types of textiles:
Some of the world's leading technical textiles companies are based in the UK, producing, for example, clothing for NASA technicians and airbags for the major car manufacturers.
Most companies would expect you to have a relevant degree. It is important to research the content of degree courses – not all textile design courses will give you the technical skills and knowledge that employers are looking for. Some courses concentrate heavily on skills and knowledge for the fashion industry or on surface design disciplines.
The following institutions are among those with a strong tradition in the textiles field and are generally well-regarded by employers:
- University of Leeds
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- University of Manchester
- Heriot-Watt University
- De Montfort University
You could also use a textiles technology course as an entry route into technical textiles design. Relevant courses include the following at the University of Manchester:
You may be able to start in the textiles industry as a technician, but you would need a degree or professional qualification to progress your career. A foundation degree would give you the opportunity for developing your career whilst working.
To find out how a successful technical textiles designer developed her career, check the case study on the Technical Textiles website.
On-the-job learning is a crucial part of developing your technical knowledge and skills – once you are working as a technical textiles designer you will develop your existing skills and learn many new ones.
You could add to your on-the-job learning in a variety of ways, including:
Visit the TI and Textile Centre of Excellence websites to find out more about their training.
You may also find it useful to study specialist subjects such as intellectual property law.
You can keep up to date with the latest developments and challenges faced by the textiles sectors by reading the academic journals published by the TI, and attending TI events that bring together professionals, practitioners and academics working in the textiles industry all over the world.
You could also join local societies, including the Bradford Textile Society and Huddersfield Textile Society.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A technical textiles designer needs:
You may have the opportunity to carry out research in association with universities that have a textiles specialism.
Progression can be more limited within smaller organisations. Relocating or moving employers may be necessary to progress further.
Experienced technical textile designers can find job opportunities overseas in countries where textile development and manufacturing is increasingly taking place, such as India and China.
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