Becoming a Textile Designer: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a textile designer's job duties, salary, education and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a textile design career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Textile Design

Textile designers use traditional art techniques and computer technology to create printed, knitted and woven fabrics. Formal training is required to enter this field. Take a look at the following pros and cons to see if a career as a textile designer would be right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Textile Designer
Personal satisfaction of seeing your fabric design samples in stores and showrooms*
Opportunity to work with current computer design software*
Training and skills are transferable to other related professions*
Opportunity to be self-employed*

Cons of a Career as a Textile Designer
Highly competitive field*
Creative frustration that comes from having work criticized or rejected by superiors*
Pressure to keep up with evolving technology*
Work may involve exposure to chemicals and dyes*
Self-employed designers may have to work irregular hours*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Textile designers create and determine the look or structure of natural and synthetic fabrics according to their end use. They use both traditional and computerized techniques and materials to create patterns for apparel, carpets, home furnishings, wall coverings and window treatments. A designer will often begin with a sketch and then use painted or digitized images to produce a two-dimensional sample of a printed fabric. They can also create and develop automated designs for woven and knitted fabrics that are produced on electronic looms and computerized knitting machines. Some textile designers decorate individual fabrics by hand using paint, beads, embroidery, lace or other embellishments. Textile designers usually specialize in printed, woven or knitted fabrics for either apparel or home furnishings. Their work is similar to that of a fashion designer in that textile artists must stay abreast of current and emerging trends in clothing and fabric.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

Graduates of a formal design program will be prepared to work in a variety of positions, including designer, colorist, stylist or fabric engineer. They can be employed by apparel manufacturers, home furnishing companies and product developers. As of December 2014, the majority of textile designers earned between $31,552 and $79,765 a year, according to PayScale.com.

What Are the Education and Training Requirements?

An associate's or bachelor's degree with a concentration in textile and surface design is the usual requirement for beginning a career in the industry. For example, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science, a Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in textile and surface design. At both the associate's and bachelor's degree level, the curriculum will include coursework in drawing, design, color, screen-printing, weaving, knitting technology and computer-aided design (CAD) for textiles.

Training is hands-on, and students will learn how to design patterns, lay out repeats, create color combinations and operate weaving looms and knitting machines. CAD programs have now replaced many of the textile design tasks that were formerly done by hand, and students will use computer software programs to produce designs, repeats, color separations, sample yardage and presentation boards. Classroom and studio learning experiences will help students acquire the basic skills employers are looking for in today's industry. In general, a textile designer should have:

  • A working knowledge of how textiles are designed, printed and constructed
  • An understanding of color theory
  • The ability to perform color separations and repeat patterns
  • Experience with CAD programs for textiles
  • An awareness of fabric and fashion trends

Textile Designer Jobs Posted by Real Employers

While many employers prefer a textile designer to have some professional experience, the first of the following positions from April 2012 illustrates that a college degree in this major may allow you to begin working in the industry right after you graduate.

  • A major designer of bed linens in New York City has an opening for a talented, entry-level designer with a 4-year degree in textile design. This person will be responsible for producing designs, design repeats and color separations for printed and woven bed linens.
  • One of the largest home textile importers in Massachusetts is looking for an assistant textile designer with a bachelor's degree in art and design and only 3-6 months of experience and training. Candidates will be responsible for designing materials that reflect key fabric, fashion and color trends.
  • A retail chain in Los Angeles is advertising for a senior designer with a degree in graphic design or a related major and between 2-5 years of experience in graphic and textile design. This person will be responsible for designing all-over prints, graphic tees and original interpretations based upon magazine and photo tears.
  • A household name in home goods and linens in New Jersey has a position for a surface, textile and graphic designer with a specialized Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and between 3-5 years of experience designing fabrics for home furnishings. This person will be responsible for creating repeatable fabric designs in accordance with current trends. A great deal of travel is associated with this position.
  • A well-known retailer is looking for a designer for women's woven goods. The applicant must possess a bachelor's degree in fine arts and design and 8-10 years of experience in the industry. Candidates with an excellent sense of color will be responsible for designing exclusive products and developing trends in accordance with the store brand.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

One way for an aspiring textile designer to get an edge in the field before they complete college is through an internship in apparel, home furnishings or a related area. Some design programs include a senior internship as part of their required curriculum, and you'll receive credit for the work you do outside of the classroom. In other degree programs, the placement is voluntary and is offered as either a credit or a noncredit option. Internships can be on a part-time or a full-time basis and take place during the academic year or during the summer.

Benefits of an Internship

An internship has several advantages. It may provide you with the opportunity to get out of the classroom and have a real-world experience in the textile industry. Additionally, you'll have the chance to utilize your design skills and acquire professional work habits. Finally, in addition to your portfolio, a design position will add weight to your resume and provide you with a source for references and a professional network before you graduate.

Alternative Career Paths

Fashion or Clothing Designer

Clothing designers in the fashion industry create and assist in the production of men's, women's and children's apparel. They can be employed by design firms, retailers, performing arts companies or wholesalers. Frequent travel and long hours may be required. Creativity and talent as evidenced by a strong portfolio carry more weight with a potential employer than a formal education, but many designers enter the industry with an associate's or a bachelor's degree in a related major. In May 2014, the average annual salary for a fashion designer was $73,690. However, the BLS projected a negative three percent decrease in employment from 2012 to 2022, which reflects a decline in the number of people employed in the industry.

Retail Buyer

Fashion industry retail buyers select and purchase clothing that will be sold in stores to consumers. Those who are employed by large companies usually specialize in men's, women's or children's apparel, while buyers who work for smaller stores may choose and buy the entire inventory. Although it's possible to enter the industry with only a high school diploma, larger companies prefer buyers with a bachelor's degree in business or an applied science. As reported by the BLS, the average annual salary for a wholesale or retail buyer (excluding farm products) was $58,190 as of May 2014. Slower-than-average growth (four percent) in employment was predicted from 2012 to 2022.

Fiber Artist

Fiber artists create crafts, quilts, wearable clothing and fine textile art from natural and synthetic fibers and fabrics. Their work can be woven, sewn, knitted, crocheted or assembled in some similar fashion. A formal education is helpful but not necessary, and fiber artists can acquire the technical skills they need by taking individual classes, working with a mentor or enrolling in an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree program at a college, university or independent art school. According to the BLS, in May 2014, the average annual salary for a craft artist was $36,300. Employment opportunities for crafts artists were expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of three percent from 2012 to 2022.

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