Wallpaper Designer

The Job and What's Involved

Wallpaper designers, also known in the industry as stylists or colourists, produce creative ideas for wall coverings, featuring repeating designs.

The work may include designing patterns and deciding upon materials, dealing with buyers and addressing market trends.

There are three main areas of work and it is usual to specialise in one area:

Custom designed services - designers produce unique designs to meet the specific requirements of clients, sometimes working with interior designers to discuss individual patterns and colours. Wallpaper may be produced through limited, digital runs. Some designs may be block or screen printed and hand trimmed.

Collections for prestigious design houses - often created and sold in smaller volumes, usually at higher prices. Many have a distinctive quality and pattern that are recognised by buyers.

High Street collections - are readily available and affordable for the mass market. As well as producing 'own-branded' wall coverings, retailers buy in ranges each season from selected design houses.

In addition to wallpaper, designers may also produce a range of matching home items, such as soft furnishings or light fixtures. Some are also responsible for developing innovative wall covering materials, using embossed, raised or textured patterns or coating the paper to make it washable.

Wallpaper designers usually work a year ahead to ensure their designs are ready for exhibiting at trade fairs. They predict forthcoming trends by working closely with buyers and visiting exhibitions worldwide. Some designers are also responsible for buying materials for collections, the production process, budgeting, marketing and sales promotion.

After sketching ideas, wallpaper designers use computers to make samples for testing. During this process, they consider how the finished article will look, the quality and durability, and the costs to produce specific colours or finishes.

Designers compile their finished collections into pattern books, which are exhibited at trade and decorating fairs. The typical launch months are March and September.

Wallpaper designers usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Longer hours may be required for attending trade shows, often in Europe and New York, or to meet deadlines. Self-employment or contract work is often possible. The workload for freelance staff may vary significantly between seasons.

Wallpaper designers may work alone or as part of a team. They are usually based in a studio or an office. Some time may be spent with buyers, printing manufacturers, prototype testing teams and product marketing teams.

Starting salaries for a wallpaper designer are around £15,000 to £18,000 a year. Freelance wallpaper designers usually charge per design or collection.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Wallpaper designers may work for manufacturing companies that specialise in textiles or wall coverings, or as part of an in-house design team employed by a retail chain. Some work for small, exclusive design houses. Self-employment is also a possibility, particularly in the bespoke field. Freelance designers often use agents to market their products, paying them a set percentage of their fees.

The main opportunities for employment are typically in the East Midlands, the North West, Yorkshire and London. Work placements may be possible.

This role is quite rare, although the opportunities are increasing. There are many more applicants than vacancies.

Many employers recruit directly from university or college end of term shows. Vacancies may also be advertised through textile societies and in the arts and media sections of local and national newspapers.

Education and Training

Competition for posts means that a degree or HND in art and design or textiles is usually a minimum requirement. A strong portfolio of work is essential.

People occasionally start out by working as an assistant in a design studio. Entry at this level is typically with an HND or A level in art and design. NVQ's in Manufacturing Textiles are also available at Levels 1 to 3.

For entry to HNC/HND courses, applicants need one A level in art and design, textiles or related subjects, or a BTEC national diploma/certificate, or the equivalent.

For degree courses, entrants need a minimum of two A levels, plus five GCSE's (A-C), or equivalent qualifications. Most entrants complete a year's general foundation course in art and design to develop their portfolio before starting their degree course. This may not be necessary for applicants with a vocational qualification in art and design.

In Scotland, degree courses generally take four years. The first year equates to the foundation year in England and Wales and provides a general introduction to art and design.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training takes place on the job, working with more experienced designers and developing new techniques and skills. It is important for all wallpaper designers to keep their skills up to date. Work placements abroad can provide a good insight into worldwide trends.

Short courses in wallpaper design may be available. Several postgraduate courses in textiles are available.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Wallpaper designers need:

  • To be artistic and creative.
  • A good eye for detail, including colour, texture and pattern.
  • A good understanding of different materials and how they can be used.
  • Knowledge of printing methods and different paper weights.
  • To be excellent communicators to identify and fulfil customers needs.
  • To have good business sense.
  • To budget and cost each part of the production process.
  • To be confident and able to negotiate.
  • To be organised and methodical.
  • To have good computer skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Apart from the largest wall covering manufacturers, many in-house design studios are relatively small with limited opportunities for promotion. Most entrants start in a junior stylist position. With experience they may be able to progress to designer and senior designer. Senior designer positions are highly sought after.

Once experienced, many wallpaper designers establish their own businesses. Some move into related careers in textile buying, design management, colourist work or interior design.

Get Further Information

British Coatings Federation Ltd (BCF),
James House, Bridge Street,
Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 7EP
Tel: 01372 360660
Website: www.coatings.org.uk

Crafts Council, 44A Pentonville Road,
Islington, London N1 9BY
Tel: 020 7278 7700
Website: www.craftscouncil.org.uk

Creative and Cultural Skills, 4th Floor,
Lafone House, The Leathermarket,
Weston Street, London SE1 3HN
Tel: 020 7015 1847
Website: www.creative-choices.co.uk

National Society for Education
in Art and Design (NSEAD),
The Gatehouse, Corsham Court,
Corsham, Wiltshire SN13 0BZ
Tel: 01249 716138
Website: www.nsead.org

Proskills, Centurion Court,
85B Milton Park, Abingdon,
Oxfordshire 0X14 4RY
Tel: 01235 833844
Website: www.proskills.co.uk

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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