Become a Furniture Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a furniture designer. Learn about the job description and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in furniture design.

Should I Become a Furniture Designer?

Furniture designers are experts in creating and designing furnishings while considering both fashion and functionality. They design interior and exterior furniture, often keeping factors like sustainability, ergonomics, customer style preferences, and practicality in mind. Competition with other furniture designers for contracts may be keen.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field(s) Furniture design, architectural technology, interior design, industrial design, design engineering, or related fields
Experience 3-5 years of experience, with prominent work showcased in a portfolio
Key Skills Communication, sketching ability, development of patterns, familiarity with isometric drawings as well as furniture and space plans or layouts, ability to solve complex design-related problems, plot drawings, electrical and data dimensions, use of 3-D design software program, AutoCAD, and Microsoft Office, deadline-driven, knowledge of product assembly
Salary (2014) $64,620 (median salary for all commercial and industrial designers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Careerbuilder.com job ads October 2012

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Bachelor's degrees are often preferred by future employers and tend to focus on related fields, such as interior or architectural design. Such programs provide instruction in design within a broader context. Curriculum might cover design and format, professional practices, and other components in the field. For instance, an interior design student is required to take interior design courses, along with lighting design, furniture design, and architectural drafting,

Although a bachelor's degree might be preferred, aspiring furniture designers also have the option to pursue certificate programs. Certificate Programs are usually part of continuing education programs offered by various schools and cover fundamental construction and design, concepts, development, and techniques in furniture design.

Success Tips:

  • Acquire an entry-level job. Future employers look for candidates with some work experience in the field. Even if the student is not actually designing yet, being in the field and seeing different designs and products is a great learning path. Students can acquire jobs as sales representatives for interior design firms or furniture stores. This experience orients students with different furniture designs, period styles, types of fabrics, and other beneficial information for aspiring furniture designers.

Step 2: Develop a Portfolio

Creating a portfolio of a candidate's latest conceptual designs is the most effective way to show prospective employers his or her creativity and style. Most schools include portfolio development in their curriculum and may have career services departments. Faculty members and career services advisers can provide positive and constructive suggestions for students, based on their expertise and knowledge.

Success Tip:

  • Get ideas from the Internet. The Internet is a place where aspiring furniture designers can see other people's designs. Many schools showcase their students' designs online. Seeing other people's designs can spark one's imagination and inspire increased performance.

Step 3: Find Employment

In addition to seeking job-placement assistance from educational career services, individuals may consider joining membership organizations, such as the American Society of Furniture Designers (www.afsd.org) or Furniture World (www.furninfo.com). These professional organizations can provide access to related job banks and referral services.

Step 4: Stay Current

Furniture designers can use the different professional organizations to stay informed about the latest products or techniques in the industry. They can also subscribe to various magazines, including Furniture World, to get the latest news in furniture design. In addition, there are various organizations designated for furniture designers, such as the Furniture Society (www.furnituresociety.org). This organization provides information regarding upcoming furniture design shows, such as the Chicago Art Furniture Exposition (CAFE), the Fine Furnishings Shows, and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF).

Success Tip:

  • Consider participating in the latest Pinnacle Design Achievement Awards. The American Society of Furniture Designers (www.asfd.com) recognizes the latest innovative and creative furniture designers. Each year, they facilitate the Pinnacle Design Achievement Awards; in addition to being an opportunity for recognition, inspiration can be found in the showcases of new designs and techniques.

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