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. View article »

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  • 0:01 Furniture Designers
  • 1:07 Earn a Degree
  • 1:53 Develop a Portfolio
  • 2:34 Find Employment
  • 3:28 Stay Current

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Furniture Designer?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
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 and 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; knowledge of product assembly; use of 3-D design software program, AutoCAD, and Microsoft Office; deadline-driven
Salary $69,820 (2015 average salary for all commercial and industrial designers)

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

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.

The skill set required of furniture designers focuses on creativity and technical aptitude. They need design skills, sketching ability and an eye for patterns, as well as an understanding of layout, space plans, plot drawings and 3-D design software. With these skills and the proper training, furniture designers may go on to lead a successful, profitable career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, furniture designers, as well as other commercial and industrial designers, earned an average salary of $69,820 as of May 2015. Now let's explore what steps you may take to begin a career in furniture design.

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Furniture designers tend to hold bachelor's degrees in relevant fields, such as industrial and interior design. For instance, an bachelor's degree program in interior design covers topics like architectural drawing, computer-aided design, textiles, color theory, lighting design, and art philosophy. Some programs allow interior design majors to concentrate their studies specifically on furniture design. An alternative educational pathway to this career is a certificate. Though rare, certificate programs in furniture design teach the skills and principles of the art and may include courses in furniture design processes, furniture making techniques, furniture history, and capstone projects that have students demonstrate the skills they've obtained during their education.

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Step 2: Develop a Portfolio

Employers look closely at a designer's portfolio, a collection of the designer's best work and design ideas, when considering an applicant for a design project. Your portfolio should be a display of your creativity and style. Early on in your career, it may consist largely of college projects, but it should develop as you evolve as a furniture designer. Degree programs in design typically provide instruction in portfolio development to help you create your own portfolio. You may also benefit from searching the Internet for other designers' portfolios. Seeing other people's designs can spark one's imagination, inspire designers, and give insight into what a good portfolio looks like.

Step 3: Find Employment

With training and a portfolio, you can begin seeking employment in the career field. Common work settings for furniture designers include design firms and furniture manufacturers, though many are self-employed and provide design services for clients on a contract basis. One way to locate employers is to become a member of industry organizations. For instance, the American Society of Furniture Designers provides members with networking opportunities, job referrals, and a professional directory. Those who are having trouble finding employment might get a foot in the door with entry-level work. After all, employers seek candidates who understand the ins and outs of the industry. For example, you might work as a sales representative for an interior design firm. A sales representative position may expose you to different furniture designs, period styles, and types of fabrics, among other aspects of the industry.

Step 4: Stay Current

Furniture designers must stay informed about the latest products and techniques in the industry. To do so, they may take advantage of resources provided by industry organizations, including the American Society of Furniture Designers. Another prominent industry organization is the Furniture Society, which provides information regarding upcoming furniture design shows, such as the Chicago Art Furniture Exposition, Fine Furnishings Shows, and International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Designers can also subscribe to Furniture World magazine and other industry publications.

Here's a tip for success: as you gain experience and hone your craft, enter the Pinnacle Awards. Hosted by the American Society of Furniture Designers, the Pinnacle Awards recognize innovative and creative furniture designers. Pinnacle Awards are presented in more than a dozen categories, such as casual dining, bedroom, home office, motion upholstery, and lighting.

Furniture designers generally hold bachelor's degrees in industrial and interior design, though certificates in furniture design are also available and designers attract employers with design portfolios that demonstrate their skills and work.

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