Textile Designer

The Job and What's Involved

Textile designers create designs for knitted, printed and woven textiles. These designs often feature repeating patterns.

Textile design can include designing:

- Textiles for clothing and accessories

- Fabrics for furnishings

- Printed, paper-based products

Textile designers need to discuss, understand and interpret the needs, ideas and requirements of their customers accurately. They must consider how the textile will be used and therefore which properties it needs. This may include assessing the weight, strength, performance and flammability of the material.

Once textile designers have selected the type of textile, they then produce design ideas, sketches and samples for presentation to customers.

As the world market for textiles becomes increasingly competitive, many UK-based textile designers are applying their skills to the design of textiles for specialist markets, such as protective clothing for oil rig workers. The UK is a world leader in technical textiles.

The work of a textile designer may involve:

  • Liaising with customers and interpreting their ideas and needs accurately.
  • Liaising with marketing, buying and technical staff as well as design colleagues.
  • Considering how the textile will be used and what properties it needs.
  • Researching the properties of materials used in specialist and industrial textiles.
  • Undertaking research for ideas and inspiration.
  • Experimenting with colour and texture.
  • Producing design ideas, sketches and samples to present to customers.
  • Producing designs using computer-aided design (CAD) software.
  • Checking and approving samples of completed items.
  • Working to deadlines and within a budget.
  • Keeping up to date with new fashions and trends, and design and production techniques.
  • Attending trade shows.

A self-employed textile designer also needs to spend time marketing their work and keeping up to date with finances and general administration.

Some designs are created on machines in large quantities; others use traditional techniques like embroidery, block printing or hand painting to produce short lengths of textiles for the luxury market.

Textile designers usually work normal office hours from Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines. Part-time work may be available. Freelance and self-employed designers may work from home and set their own hours.

Designers are usually based in an office or studio which is warm and well lit. They may spend a large part of their working day sitting in front of a computer screen or on the factory floor, checking their designs during production. They may also visit customers or trade shows. Overseas travel is relatively common.

Newly-qualified textile designers may earn between £13,000 and £20,000 a year. Freelance designers are usually paid a fee for each commission they undertake.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Typical employers include companies that produce clothing, soft furnishings and other textile-based products, large fashion and clothing retailers, design studios and consultancies. There may also be opportunities with exclusive design houses or interior designers.

It is estimated that there are around 20,000 people using design-related skills in the UK fashion and textiles sector. Of these, around 2,500 are employed specifically in the textiles sector (source: Skillfast-UK Business Survey 2008). Competition for vacancies is strong, with more applicants than vacancies. People looking for work usually need to undertake relevant paid or unpaid work experience and build up a list of contacts in the industry.

Companies employing textile designers are found all over the UK, although there is a higher concentration in London, the North West, the East Midlands and Scotland.

Many textile designers work on a freelance basis. At first, they may need to supplement their income with other work.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements to become a textile designer. However, most people enter through one of two main routes. Some begin as a machinist or cutter and progress to textile designer. More usually, entry is after completing a relevant HNC/HND, foundation degree or degree in design.

To join an HNC/HND or foundation degree course, applicants need a minimum of one A level, or the equivalent, in art and design subjects.

Entry to a degree course is usually with a minimum of two A levels, plus five GCSE's (A*-C), or the equivalent. Alternative qualifications such as BTEC National Diplomas/Certificates in art and design or fashion/textiles may be accepted.

Foundation courses in art and design, in which students gain a broad experience of art and design areas and develop a portfolio, are useful preparation for entry to degree courses.

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

Design courses are offered by universities and art colleges throughout the UK. Some are aimed specifically at textile design and others include modules on fashion, soft furnishings, fabrics, carpets or surface design. Some clothing technology courses also offer a design element. Some degree and HND courses focus more on the technical and business management aspects of design. Course admissions tutors and employers expect to see a portfolio of design work.

A range of postgraduate qualifications relating to textile design is also available. Applicants need a good honours degree in a relevant subject. The Textile Institute offers a range of courses and membership levels are determined by qualification status; designers can apply for membership at Fellow, Associate and Licentiate levels.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is carried out on the job. There may be opportunities to attend short courses to update computing, technical and creative skills.

The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) offers a range of seminars as part of their continuing professional development (CPD) scheme. Each seminar attracts CPD points, which can result in the award of a Professional Practice Certificate. The CSD encourages members to achieve 100 CPD points a year.

Those without a relevant degree can also work towards qualifications such as the EDEXCEL Level 3 NVQ in design or the City & Guilds Level 1 or 2 Certificate in creative techniques in textiles. City & Guilds also offer a Level 1, 2 or 3 Certificate in design and craft. Successful students could progress to the City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in design and craft.

Freelance designers may find it useful to train in business-related skills such as marketing and finance.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A textile designer should:

  • Be artistic, creative and able to draw.
  • Have an eye for colour, texture and pattern.
  • Be able to pay good attention to detail.
  • Understand the properties of different materials and dyes and the production processes of textiles.
  • Have knowledge of the market and be able to predict new trends.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be good at problem solving.
  • Have good organisational ability and be able to work to deadlines and within budget.
  • Have good CAD skills.
  • Have good business skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, junior textile designers may be promoted to designer and then to senior designer. Opportunities may be limited in smaller organisations and designers may need to change employers to gain promotion.

Freelance work and self-employment are common.

There may be opportunities to work overseas, particularly in Italy, France or the USA.

Some textile designers may move to related careers in textile manufacturing or buying.

Get Further Information

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

Crafts Council, 44A Pentonville Road,
Islington, London N1 9BY
Tel: 020 7806 2500
Website: www.craftscouncil.org.uk

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

Skillfast-UK, Richmond House,
Lawnswood Business Park, Redvers Close,
Leeds, West Yorkshire LS16 6RD
Tel: 0113 2399 600
Website: www.skillfast-uk.org

The Textile Institute, 1st Floor,
St James's Buildings, Oxford Street,
Manchester M1 6FQ
Tel: 0161 237 1188
Website: www.textileinstitute.org

UK Fashion Exports
(including the Register of Apparel and Textile Designers),
5 Portland Place, London W1B 1PW
Tel: 020 7636 5577
Website: www.ukfashionexports.com

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