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Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Designers




Designers are people with a desire to create. They combine practical knowledge with artistic ability to turn abstract ideas into formal designs for the merchandise we buy, the clothes we wear, the Web sites we use, the publications we read, and the living and office space we inhabit. Designers usually specialize in a particular area of design, such as automobiles, industrial or medical equipment, home appliances, clothing and textiles, floral arrangements, publications, Web sites, logos, signage, movie or TV credits, interiors of homes or office buildings, merchandise displays, or movie, television, and theater sets.

The first step in developing a new design or altering an existing one is to determine the needs of the client, the ultimate function for which the design is intended, and its appeal to customers or users. When creating a design, designers often begin by researching the desired design characteristics, such as size, shape, weight, color, materials used, cost, ease of use, fit, and safety.

Designers then prepare sketches or diagrams—by hand or with the aid of a computer—to illustrate the vision for the design. After consulting with the client, a creative director, or a product development team, designers create detailed designs, using drawings, a structural model, computer simulations, or a full-scale prototype. Many designers use computer-aided design (CAD) tools to create and better visualize the final product. Computer models allow ease and flexibility in exploring a greater number of design alternatives, thus reducing design costs and cutting the time it takes to deliver a product to market. Industrial designers use computer-aided industrial design (CAID) tools to create designs and machine-readable instructions that communicate with automated production tools.

Designers sometimes supervise assistants who carry out their creations. Designers who run their own businesses also may devote a considerable amount of time to developing new business contacts, examining equipment and space needs, and performing administrative tasks, such as reviewing catalogues and ordering samples. The need for up-to-date computer and communications equipment is an ongoing consideration for many designers, especially those in industrial and graphic design.

Design encompasses a number of different fields. Many designers specialize in a particular area of design, whereas others work in more than one area.

Commercial and industrial designers develop countless manufactured products, including airplanes; cars; children’s toys; computer equipment; furniture; home appliances; and medical, office, and recreational equipment. They combine artistic talent with research on the use of a product, on customer needs, and on marketing, materials, and production methods to create the most functional and appealing design that will be competitive with others in the marketplace. Industrial designers typically concentrate in a subspecialty such as kitchen appliances, auto interiors, or plastic-molding machinery.

Fashion designers design clothing and accessories. Some high-fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. Other high-fashion designers cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores. These designers create original garments, as well as clothing that follows established fashion trends. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, creating designs of men’s, women’s, and children’s fashions for the mass market.

Floral designers cut and arrange live, dried, or artificial flowers and foliage into designs, according to the customer’s order. They design arrangements by trimming flowers and arranging bouquets, sprays, wreaths, dish gardens, and terrariums. They may either meet with customers to discuss the arrangement or work from a written order. Floral designers make note of the occasion, the customer’s preference with regard to the color and type of flower involved, the price of the completed order, the time at which the floral arrangement or plant is to be ready, and the place to which it is to be delivered. The variety of duties performed by floral designers depends on the size of the shop and the number of designers employed. In a small operation, floral designers may own their shops and do almost everything, from growing and purchasing flowers to keeping financial records.

Graphic designers plan, analyze, and create visual solutions to communications problems. They use a variety of print, electronic, and film media and technologies to execute a design that meet clients’ communication needs. They consider cognitive, cultural, physical, and social factors in planning and executing designs appropriate for a given context. Graphic designers use computer software to develop the overall layout and production design of magazines, newspapers, journals, corporate reports, and other publications. They also produce promotional displays and marketing brochures for products and services, design distinctive logos for products and businesses, and develop signs and signage systems—called environmental graphics—for business and government. An increasing number of graphic designers are developing material for Internet Web pages, computer interfaces, and multimedia projects. Graphic designers also produce the credits that appear before and after television programs and movies.

Interior designers enhance the function, safety, and quality of interior spaces of private homes, public buildings, and business or institutional facilities, such as offices, restaurants, retail establishments, hospitals, hotels, and theaters. They also plan the interiors of existing structures that are undergoing renovation or expansion. Most interior designers specialize. For example, some may concentrate on residential design, while others focus on business design. Still others may specialize further by focusing on particular rooms, such as kitchens or baths. With a client’s tastes, needs, and budget in mind, interior designers prepare drawings and specifications for non-load-bearing interior construction, furnishings, lighting, and finishes. Increasingly, designers are using computers to plan layouts, because computers make it easy to change plans to include ideas received from the client. Interior designers also design lighting and architectural details—such as crown molding, built-in bookshelves, or cabinets—coordinate colors, and select furniture, floor coverings, and window treatments. Interior designers must design space to conform to Federal, State, and local laws, including building codes. Designs for public areas also must meet accessibility standards for the disabled and the elderly.

Merchandise displayers and window dressers, or visual merchandisers, plan and erect commercial displays, such as those in windows and interiors of retail stores or at trade exhibitions. Those who work on building exteriors erect major store decorations, including building and window displays and lights. Those who design store interiors outfit store departments, arrange table displays, and dress mannequins. In large retail chains, store layouts typically are designed corporately, through a central design department. To retain the chain’s visual identity and ensure that a particular image or theme is promoted in each store, designs are distributed to individual stores by e-mail, downloaded to computers equipped with the appropriate design software, and adapted to meet the size and dimension requirements of each individual store.

Set and exhibit designers create sets for movie, television, and theater productions and design special exhibition displays. Set designers study scripts, confer with directors and other designers, and conduct research to determine the historical period, fashion, and architectural styles appropriate for the production on which they work. They then produce sketches or scale models to guide in the construction of the actual sets or exhibit spaces. Exhibit designers work with curators, art and museum directors, and trade-show sponsors to determine the most effective use of available space.