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Furniture designer

Designs items of furniture and related items for the mass market, in small batches or as once-off items.

Furniture designers design furniture and related products for industrial, commercial and domestic clients balancing innovation, aesthetic appeal and functionality. They create designs for mass-produced as well as handcrafted furniture products. They must consider the function of an item of furniture, the way it looks and the limitations of the material that it is made from.

Work activities

  • Conferring with production, design, and sales personnel to obtain design suggestions and customer orders.
  • Sketching freehand design of article.
  • Obtaining approval from customer, design committee, or authorised company officials.
  • Preparing or directing preparation of blueprints containing manufacturing specifications, such as dimensions, wood type, and upholstery fabrics to be used in manufacturing article.
  • Attending staff conference with plant personnel to explain and resolve production requirements.
  • Designing and preparing detailed drawings of jigs, fixtures, forms, or tools required to be used in production.
  • Designing custom pieces or styles according to specific period or country.
  • Building or overseeing the development of prototypes and computer aided design models before going into production.
  • Designing fixtures and equipment, such as counters and display case.

Work conditions

Travel: very little travel required except the occasional visit to a customer.
Working hours: a flexible attitude towards working hours is needed as regular extra hours may be required particularly to meet customer deadlines.
Location: mainly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment: possible, it is very common for designers with experience to set up their own consultancy practice.

Typical employers

Craft based workshops
Industrial furniture manufacturers
Architects
Interior designers.

Career development

Although this profession is not that well developed in Ireland, there are a small number of large furniture manufacturers that require designers. They sometimes go abroad to look for designers. After gaining industrial experience, it is possible for designers to establish own businesses.

Salaries

Republic of Ireland: salaries will vary and are often talent based. If self-employed, you will rely on your client base to either work on specific commissions or sell one-off items via a studio or gallery.
If working in a manufacturing company you can expect a starting salary in the region of €20,000–€25,000 per year. This will increase with experience and reputation.

Northern Ireland: typical starting salaries are in the region of £18,000–£21,500.

Entry requirements

Open to non-graduates and graduates of all degree subjects.

Other relevant degree subjects

Degrees most relevant to this career would be
Furniture design and manufacture,
Wood technology
Computer and 3D design
Industrial Design.

Postgraduate study

While a pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement, it is desirable to increase your knowledge of either the design aspects or the materials. Most graduates go to the UK to study for a masters degree in Furniture Design.

Specific entry requirements

Skills in computer-aided design.

Training

The training is mainly on the job. Some employers may send you on computer-aided design (CAD) courses.

Tips for applications

You need to build up experience either through your degree course or via work experience with a furniture manufacturer or a design consultancy. Apply to furniture manufacturers for work that will build up experience.

Skills and qualities

  • Artistic ability combined with creative ideas about design and styles.
  • Interest in 3D design.
  • Problem solving by seeking new ideas.
  • Learning new practical skills.
  • Excellent communication and presentation skills.
  • Excellent drawing skills.
  • Understanding the scientific uses and properties of materials.