What is a Furniture Designer?

M.C. Huguelet

A furniture designer is a type of artisan who creates furnishings like couches, tables, and chairs. Depending on the circumstances of the designer’s employment, he may strictly conceive furniture designs or he may also produce and sell his designs. Furniture design requires highly developed technical skills as well as an awareness of past and current furnishing styles. Therefore, the route to becoming a designer typically includes a mixture of hands-on training and fine arts education.

A furniture designer creates furnishings like couches, tables, and chairs.
A furniture designer creates furnishings like couches, tables, and chairs.

In some cases, a furniture designer may be employed by a large furnishings or home goods producer. These types of companies often hire designers solely to generate new designs, sometimes as part of a creative team. The plans for the pieces that the designer creates are passed along to the companies’ manufacturers. Depending on the size of the company, the pieces can then be produced in small batches or in bulk.

This type of job has some benefits for the furniture designer. For instance, he is not responsible for the cost of production supplies and he is not required to market his product. On the other hand, some designers might feel inhibited by the necessity to stay within the bounds of their company’s design ethos, or may dislike the compromise element that can accompany teamwork.

The furniture designer who prefers to have more control over his output may choose to start his own company. Here, he is more likely to see his designs through from conception to sale, drafting a plan for each piece, building it, and finally selling it. He may operate a showroom where customers can view and purchase his work, or he may work solely through commissions.

While self-employment offers the designer a great deal of creative freedom, it also has several drawbacks. He is responsible for all supply and production costs and, in some cases, employee wages and store space rental. In order to gain exposure and attract clients he must also market his own work, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

Every furniture designer must have a range of technical skills, from competence in artisanal disciplines like woodworking, cabinetry and upholstery to the mastery of computer-based design programs. Additionally, an understanding of furniture history can help the designer put his work into context and build upon existing designs. Should he choose to work for himself, he may also benefit from training in sales and marketing. To obtain these skills, a potential designer may enroll in a furniture design program at an art college or university. Alternatively he may work as an apprentice for an established designer.

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