What is a Textile Designer?

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

We are so used to having textiles all around us, but we might not realize how much effort goes into creating them. In this lesson, we'll explore the role and duties of the textile designer and see how they help create the designs in our lives.

Textile Designs

We don't always think about it, but there is art all around us. Look around your home. Do you have towels? How'd they get there? There are no towel trees growing in the rainforest. Somebody had to design that towel--select those colors, create the patterns, choose the materials, etc. The same can be said of your carpets, the fabrics on your furniture, even your curtains. Have you ever noticed how many styles of curtains there are? These different styles were all designed by somebody. That somebody is a textile designer, a person responsible for the aesthetic characteristics of fabrics or cloths. These artists have more impact on your daily life than you probably ever realized. Just look around.

Every design had to come from someone
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Picking the Materials

So, what exactly does a textile designer do? Picture yourself working for a company that makes special novelty socks. They want their socks to sell better than anybody else's so they hire a textile designer (you) to make their socks the best. Not all textile designers get to choose the materials they work with, but this sock company has the time and money to invest in the best product possible, so they give their textile designers a lot of power. One of your first steps is to pick the materials used to create these socks. Socks need to be soft, thick enough for cushioning, lightweight enough for comfort, strong enough for prolonged use, and absorbent. So, you choose to avoid a fragile material like linen or a course material like hemp. Cotton is a good option, as are synthetic fabrics like polyester.

Textile designers that have control over this part of the process have a lot of decisions to make. Besides just picking the fabrics, they may also need to consider what fiber types, yarn sizes, or kinds of dyes will be used, as well as how those dyes will be applied. Are you going to print the design by hand or with a machine? Should the fabrics be bleached or left natural? Are any parts of the design going to be embroidered or sewn? There's a lot to think about.

Creating the Design

Aside from deciding on what type of materials to use, you'll need to actually create the design. Your design needs to meet both the aesthetic and practical needs of the product. Since this is a novelty company, they want their socks to be fun, bright, and colorful. Your design should reflect those needs, but in a way that works for a sock. Are horizontal or vertical stripes better? How large or small should patterns be to be visible? Which parts of the sock will generally be seen, and which parts will be hidden?

Textile designs can get pretty complex
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