Textile designers are people who design textile patterns. You will work with a variety of different materials, be it fabrics, textiles or anything else that the client needs.
It is common for textile designers to look at elements of fashion too. While full work in the fashion industry isn’t specifically in the job description, many textile designers will lay the groundwork for fashion designers.
What is a Textile Designer?
A textile designer is someone who creates two-dimensional designs for fabric or textile products. Textile designers have been known to produce 3D designs as well, but the preference generally tends to be on 2D designs, with a view to allowing the pattern to repeat.
This work is different to a graphic designer as a textiles designer can work in either industrial or non-industrial locations. Textile designers almost always work with fabrics or with interiors, but some have been known to create designs for other materials.
As a textile designer, you will have lots of responsibilities. Textile print designers don’t just simply design 2D prints, they often need to liaise with different departments or customers to ensure that briefs are carried out effectively and will need to keep themselves abreast of industry developments and advances.
The general day-to-day responsibilities in a textile career are:
- Attending trade shows.
- Ensuring you are up-to-date with fashion trends.
- Experimentation with colours and production techniques.
- Keeping yourself up-to-date with industry and software advancements.
- Liaise with clients to develop ideas and textile designs.
- Logging designs and samples on CRM systems.
- Present samples of work to managers and clients.
- Printing designs to fabric or textile.
- Producing sketches.
- Sourcing fabrics.
- Use specialised software, including computer-aided design (CAD) programmes.
- Working to deadlines.
Your responsibilities will differ depending on what level you are working at. Those in senior positions will be expected to manage other textiles designers, liaise with department heads, decide on the style used for specific textile design, manage budgets, complete progress reports for management and oversee the creation of briefs.
Work experience is not essential for becoming a textile designer, but is desired.
The salary for a textile designer generally starts at around £15,000. Textile designers are often graduate jobs or entry-level fabric jobs, hence the relatively basic starting wage, however, career development is relatively quick, which means your earning potential rises too. The starting wage for textile designer jobs can also be higher if you are working in London, where it has been known to start at around £20,000.
With enough experience, you will soon find yourself earning more. As you become a junior textile designer, you can earn between £21,000 and £26,000. If you remain a junior designer but gain more experience, it has been known for designers to earn as much as £28,000.
Senior roles increase your salaries significantly. If you are a senior designer, you can earn anywhere between £29,000 and £37,000, however, design directors can earn upwards of £40,000.
A university degree is not essential to become a textile designer, but it is often desired by most companies. Companies tend to judge textile designers or fashion textile designers on their work and portfolio, however, a university degree is often required as you will have at least an entry-level understanding of CAD software, design programmes and other key skills.
The best degrees to focus on to become a textile designer are:
- Costume design
- Fashion and clothing design
- Fashion and textiles
- Graphic design
- Production management
- Surface design
If you are able to find a sandwich course, then that would also be helpful when looking for textile jobs.
While a degree is not essential, it is exceedingly rare to find work without a qualification of some kind. If either an undergraduate or postgraduate degree does not appeal to you, then you will need to have either a higher national diploma (HND) or a foundation degree beforehand. If you do not have a qualification, you will likely need to apply for a different job (usually a machinist or pattern cutter), however, it will impede your development.
A textile designer is someone who creates two-dimensional designs for fabric or textile products.
Training and development
Training will usually be provided by your employer. Though employers may send you on external training courses, it is more common for a textile designer to be trained on the job by on-site designers.
Most training will be a mixture of practical and theoretical disciplines. You will need to know how the different machinery operates (though you likely won’t be using them) and how the different software and CRM systems work.
Some employers have been known to send textile designers to college or university. If you do not have a degree or have limited knowledge in the area, then your company will look for you to top-up your learning in textile print design.
If you are a freelance textile designer, you will need to source your own training. You can source your own training if you are working for a company too, with courses being offered by companies such as City & Guilds or the School of Stitched Textiles (SST).
Registration with a professional body is not necessary, but can prove useful. The Textile Institute offers you access to training and development courses, guest lecturers and is also a very good way to introduce yourself to others in your industry and to find textile apprenticeships.
There are a number of essential skills that a textile designer requires. Most of your skills will be further honed on the job and when completing any training courses.
The skills needed to become a textile designer are:
- A good eye for detail.
- An ability to work to deadlines.
- An interest in fashion, art and textiles.
- Creative flair.
- Design skills.
- Excellent business skills.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Proficiency with CAD software.
If you are self-employed, there are other skills you will need. You will need to have a confidence in yourself to network, an entrepreneurial spirit and an ability to work to much tighter deadlines.
Work experience is not essential for becoming a textile designer, but is desired. Work experience, either at GCSE-level or as part of a sandwich course at university will both be well looked on by employers as it will show that you have some level of industry-knowledge.
It is possible to look for other sources of textiles work experience. Fashion and textiles apprenticeships are good ways to build industry contacts, gain experience and to become familiar with the inner-workings of the industry. A textile design internship, even if just for a summer or a short period of time, may be exactly what you need to stand out from other candidates.
A university degree is not essential to become a textile designer, but it is often desired by most companies.
The career prospects for a textile designer are very encouraging. You will likely start as a junior designer. If you have enough experience in the industry, you may be able to start slightly higher up, but this is rare. The route you take will also depend on your own personal goals and what working environment works best for you.
Progression in this industry is not always fast. That’s not to say that you can’t rise through the ranks quickly, but generally the rate of promotion is in line with the amount of experience you have. If you take on managerial roles, you will require management training and a good understanding of the industry.
Many people decide to become self-employed. This is not generally recommended to people unless you have several years experience and a good web of contacts, either through your work relationships or networking.
Being self-employed means that, with enough experience, you can even start your own business. This requires an entrepreneurial brain and will also rely on your ability to work with other people. Freelance is a good way to hone your skills and to see how good you are at working to a brief.