Textile designers create designs for woven, knitted or printed fabrics. These can be used for clothing or furnishings, such as curtains and carpets. As well as what a product will look like, designers need to think about how it will be used, and have an understanding of manufacturing techniques and production costs.
Working in textile design
As a textile designer, your key duties would include:
- producing initial sketches by hand or using computer-aided design (CAD)
- working on digital designs until they meet customers' requirements
- making up fabric swatches (samples) or having them manufactured
- researching design trends and forecasts to decide what is likely to sell
- liaising with clients and technical, marketing and buying staff
- keeping up to date with developments in manufacturing technology.
While some designs are machine-made in large quantities, other designers use traditional techniques, such as embroidery or block printing. You could work for a design agency, manufacturer, large retailer or hotel or leisure chain. You may need to travel within the UK or overseas, to exhibit at trade fairs or visit clients and manufacturers.
Freelance textile designers (who work for themselves) design and may also make and sell products from their own studio, at craft fairs or through shops. They use craft skills, such as weaving or embroidery, and also need business awareness and to be able to market themselves.
Getting into textile design
You will need:
- an eye for colour and detail
- both hand and computer-based design skills
- to understand technical processes
- communication skills
- to be a good teamworker.
At school/college, you may be able to study textiles as part of a GCSE or AS/A level in art and design or design technology. Some level 3 art and design courses have options in textiles, or fashion and textiles.
Most textile designers have higher education qualifications. You can use the UCAS website to find foundation degree, HNC/D and degree courses in textiles or textile design, sometimes combined with fashion or surface design. To get on to these courses (and also when you are looking for work) you will need an art and design portfolio - examples of your drawings and design ideas.
It may help to do a one year Level 3/4 Art and Design Foundation Diploma at college to build up your portfolio. You may be able to enter the textile industry through an Apprenticeship. The range of Apprenticeships in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.
How much can I earn?
Starting salaries can be around £15 – 22,000 rising to £30-55,000+ for a senior designer. Freelancers’ earnings differ widely, depending on the success of their business.