Become a Furniture Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

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

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Do I Want to Be 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. Furniture designers express their creativity by combining modern technologies with craftsmanship to produce furniture that will fill both private and public places. Competition with other furniture designers for contracts may be keen.

Job Requirements

Many positions call for designers with at least a bachelor's degree in fields such as interior design or industrial design, along with a strong portfolio highlighting their best works. The following table outlines the most common requirements, according to CareerBuilder job ads posted during the month of October 2012.

Common Requirements
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
Key Skills 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
Computer Skills 3-D design software program, AutoCAD
Technical Skills Plot drawings, electrical and data dimensions
Additional Requirements Microsoft Office, communication skills, ability to work within strict deadlines, knowledge of product assembly

Step 1: Earn a Degree

There are certificate programs for aspiring furniture designers; however, employers prefer to hire furniture designers who have invested their time in completing bachelor's degree programs. There are significant learning outcomes between the two programs. The certificate programs are usually part of continuing education programs offered by various schools and usually cover fundamental construction and design, concepts, development, and techniques in furniture design. Courses that are included in bachelor's degree programs can focus on related fields, such as interior design or architectural design, plus the essentials in furniture design. The 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, providing instruction in design within a broader context.

Success Tips:

  • Acquire an entry-level job. Future employers look for candidates who have already acquired some work experience in the field. Entry-level jobs are the best way to acquire this experience. 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 will get the students acclimated to different furniture designs, their period styles, types of fabrics, and other information that aspiring furniture designers can benefit from.
  • Watch exhibits. 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). Many of these shows use different venues each year. The Internet is a great source for students to acquire information on the latest exhibits and showcases in the industry.

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. Some schools 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 Tips:

  • 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. Being able to see other people's designs can spark one's imagination and can drive an individual to perform better.
  • 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 and their showcases of new designs and techniques can inspire aspiring furniture designers.

Step 3: Find Employment

Joining membership organizations, including the American Society of Furniture Designers (www.afsd.org) or Furniture World (www.furninfo.com), can provide access to related job banks and job referral services. Candidates can also use online sources from the Internet. Career services advisers at the schools can give some pointers on how to land that first job.

Success Tip:

  • Stay informed. 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.
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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
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    • Washington (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Western Washington University include:
      • Graduate: Master
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        • General Visual Communications Design
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    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Appalachian State University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Metropolitan State College of Denver include:
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    • Virginia (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University include:
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      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
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    Areas of study you may find at University of Michigan include:
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    Areas of study you may find at University of Louisiana include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Ferris State University include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Georgia Institute of Technology include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Rochester Institute of Technology include:
      • Graduate: Master
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      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Visual and Performing Arts
      • Design and Applied Arts
        • Advertising and Commercial Design
        • General Visual Communications Design
        • Graphic Design
        • Illustration and Drawing
        • Industrial Design
        • Interior Design and Decorating
      • Fine Arts and Studio Art
      • Photography, Film, and Video

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