Textile Design

01

What Is a Textile Designer?

Just take a look around, and you will see someone wearing or using textiles created by a designer – clothing, bed linens, kitchen towels, carpets, and blankets, or non-fabric materials like wallpaper and wrapping paper. 

Textiles are anything that is made up of yarns, fabrics, or fibers. To be useful, they must have flexibility, abrasion resistance, strength, and moisture control properties. Sometimes textiles are used in materials meant to be protective, such as bulletproof vests, helmets worn by soldiers, and cut resistant gloves used by butchers.  The carpeting on the floor of a school, the gowns worn by nurses and doctors, and the sound absorption wall coverings in a theater are all examples of textiles.  Textile design is a highly creative field that involves the process of creating the designs that are printed on these woven, knitted, or other types of fabrics. 

The field of textile design includes pattern-making, while also managing the production process.

In other words, a designer will incorporate both their initial creative vision of the finished textile with the technical aspects of production, while keeping in mind the characteristics of certain dyes, fibers, finishes, and yarns.  Today, nearly all professional textile designers use CAD (computer-aided software) to create designs on fabrics or other surfaces.  Heat-transfer printing is also a popular printing process used in textile design. 

Textile designers draw ideas for patterns and designs on paper or by using computer software programs, such as Artlandia SymmetryWorks, a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator, Bontex, textile CAD software, Evolution Textile Design Software, or LECTRA.  There are numerous types of repeated patterns; the most common, half drop and straight. Sometimes, the same design is produced in a number of different colors, which are called colorways. Once a pattern or design is complete, the process shifts to picking the fabric(s) on which to print or weave the pattern. 

Textile designers are highly-creative people who can draw, have a superior eye for color, pattern, and texture, and an appreciation for the fine points of textiles and fashion. They recognize the fluctuations in trends and fashion, understand textile techniques, are good communicators, possess problem-solving skills, and enjoy a challenge, all while staying on budget and deadline.

02

Textile Designer Education & Training Requirements

There are a number of career options and work environments in the field of textile design. Most employers require designers hold a college degree, although some jobs only require vocational training or on-the-job training.  However, the field is competitive, and to gain the edge over other candidates or open your own business, you must earn an undergraduate degree in textile design or a closely-related field. 

A bachelor’s degree in textile design will provide students with a foundation in the creation and functional utility of various textiles.  As the most common industry that uses textiles is the fashion industry, many classes will be structured about the creation and design of different types of fabrics.  Other courses will include the design and development of textile sculptures, constructed textiles, and surface textiles.  Students will learn about the history of textiles and the theoretical concepts and aesthetics of the field. Studio classes are very hands-on, with few lectures classes.  Students will complete designs and work with materials and components that make-up textiles, such as knits, leathers, silks, and color dyes.  Coursework typically includes color usage, textile design processes and terminology, repeat patterning, computer-aided textile design, and knitted and woven design. 

Graduates who wish to continue their education and earn a master’s degree in textile design have a few options to choose from, including a master of arts in textile and apparel management, a master of arts in textiles and marketing, or a master of arts in textiles and supply train management.  Each of these programs is designed to build on what students have already learned, as well as help them explore the processes and technologies that go into the production and design of textiles going forward. 

Students enrolling in these programs should already have foundational knowledge of computer software, mathematics, patterning, and design. They will take advanced coursework in product development, textiles and computer-aided textile design techniques, and body scanning. Like most bachelor’s programs, master’s programs in textile design are hands-on and take place in a laboratory or studio environment.  Typical courses may include nonwovens characteristics, methods, and processes, bonding principles in nonwovens, materials and polymers, advanced woven structures design, textiles quality and process control and biotextiles. Master’s programs prepare graduates for advanced positions in management in textile design. 

While in school, textile designers may have the opportunity to intern and gain real-world experience in the textile industry.  As an intern, you will have the opportunity to utilize your design skills and acquire professional work habits, outside of the classroom. You will also have the chance to build a portfolio, which will add weight to your resume and provide a source for references and a network prior to graduation.

03

Textile Designer Job Description & Work Environment

Textile designers usually work a regular work week. However, they may work overtime to meet a deadline, for travel, or if presenting at a trade show.  Most of the time they work in an office or studio and will spend some time on the floor of a factory overseeing the production process. They will work in a variety of positions, including colorist, fabric engineer, designer, and stylists, and are employed as in-house designers by apparel manufacturers, product developers, interior designers, in the automotive industry, and home furnishing companies, as well as in many other textile-related industries. Designers will meet with and discuss the needs of customers and employers to understand what is required in any design, how the textile will be used, and what properties, such as weight, performance, flammability, and strength are needed. Once they have selected the textile, they will produce design ideas and samples for presentation to the customer. 

They must work within a budget and meet deadlines, all the while keeping up with current trends and production techniques.  They will research new fabrics and new design techniques, as well as continually learn new design software and production processes.  It’s not uncommon for textile designers to travel as part of their job, sometimes overseas to meet with suppliers of materials and manufacturers who may produce the final product. 

There are a number of careers in a variety of industries for graduates of a textile design program, which include:

  • Weaver
  • Quality assurance inspector for textiles
  • Freelance textile artist
  • Home furnishings textile design
  • Product developer for interior design
  • Fashion textile designer 

Designers who have gone on to earn their master’s degree in textile design can quickly more out of entry-level positons and into management. A few career choices include:

  • Textiles production manager
  • Quality assurance manager of textiles
  • Research and development analyst
  • Textile supply chain manager
  • Textile marketing manager 

Textile design is a competitive field, so a good education and building a professional portfolio, as well as a stellar reputation is required.

04

Textile Designer Salary & Job Outlook

Nearly every industry in the US has felt the effects of globalization, growth of imports, and new developments in technology, but few as acutely as the fashion and textile design fields.  Although the two fields are closely related, they are very different, but both are responsible for providing consumers with a number of products. Textile mills manufacture thread, yarn, and fabric for clothing, but also for carpet, upholstery, wall coverings, etc. Designers are responsible for the patterns on these fabrics. In the near future, employment in the textile design field is expected to see slight employment gain, especially in the design of patterns for carpets and rugs, and other miscellaneous fabricated textile products. This is good news for textile designers just entering the field who wish to work in these areas. 

Textile mills are also expected to see steady growth as they continue to stay at the forefront of technology and invest in research into new ways to lower cost without lowering quality. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report any employment data for textile designers. However, the fashion design and textile design fields are intertwined, and the BLS does show slower than average growth of only three percent in the fashion design field between 2014 and 2024. 

Salary expectations will vary greatly depending on education, geographic location, industry, and experience.  Pay also varies depending on the reputation of the designer, with individuals who have many years of experience and a stellar reputation in the industry making much more.  And, successful independent designers can make many times the salary of the highest paid salaried employee. That said, the median annual salary for fashion designers in 2015 was $63,670.  The highest ten percent of fashion designers made well over $125,000 per year.

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