Retail / Furniture Designer

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Design in the manufacturing sector - Weekly review 5

This week I thought I'd talk a little more about what it is I actually do, because it isn't exactly clear. The term / job title 'designer', nowadays is so widely used it's actually pretty frustrating. The question that follows when you tell someone what you do for a living, is undoubtedly something like "Oh nice, designing what?". It can be anything. Some who work in digital design call themselves product designers, although they primarily develop a service, and those trained in architecture are often celebrated for creating fantastic products, the lines between disciplines are extremely blurry.

I work in design, more specifically, creating fixtures, furniture and equipment (FF&E). I was trained as, and my job title would suggest that, I am a product designer, but in reality my day to duties involve anything from the graphic, interior and industrial design disciplines. I'm guessing this is the same for the majority of designers I know, in particular those working at companies with lower numbers of employees or even startups. You tend to cross pollinate with other disciplines when creating, and that's not a problem, there will always be people who specialise and may even be able to provide a quicker / better solution, but having an understanding and appreciation is key. I don't create all of the promo / marketing material for Peerless it would probably amount to a full time job, but there are certain elements myself and the team help out with. I'll write draft mailshots using my knowledge of the product range and our new developments, then create a wire frame of where we'd like the logo and images etc, for the marketing agency to finalise and send out. It's all about efficiency, and they are much quicker and more experienced team to hand.

When I was job hunting at the start of my career, it was a bit frustrating. I don't know if anyone else found this, but when I left design school I still didn't really know what it was that I wanted to do. I knew I liked furniture, I loved interiors and beautiful spaces but I'm a maker. I understand how things work, how they're constructed and I can problem solve to produce products not just concepts. Lecturers / teachers will try and tell you that not knowing what you want to do is fine. Well let me burst a bubble, it isn't. The harsh reality of the design world means that nowadays a degree certainly doesn't get you a job, you'll be lucky if it even gets you a foot in the door for an interview. Everyone's got to stand out, and how do you do that? By producing work that excels in a discipline you enjoy. If your portfolio showcases a little bit of everything you come across as 'a jack of all trades, master of none' (as I have found out first hand). Yes, there are a few people out there that have the ability to produce groundbreaking work under various disciplines, but you'll almost likely find they aren't starting out their career. I don't know if what I'm trying to describe can be labelled as a specific theory, but once you start noticing it, it appears more often. Is it just coincidence the designers you follow on Instagram publish more popular / aesthetically pleasing content?

I'm definitely a kinaesthetic learner which is probably why I enjoy making things physically. When people think of design though, I have a feeling a lot of people would assume they work in modern city centre offices surrounded by macs and material swatches. This isn't always the case. Design in the manufacturing sector tends to be different. Where some designers create fantastic concepts and beautiful renderings those based in manufacturing companies like myself are often found further down the chain turning these concepts into conceivable products. There are many pro's / cons to working at either end of the spectrum in the retail market. Although it isn't a strict rule of thumb you tend to find interior designers / architects working on concepts and the product / industrial designers working closely with the manufacturers. Where interior designers will utilise the use of programmes like Vectorworks and Autocad, the product designers will often adopt Solidworks and Rhino. The benefits often include the direct contact with manufacturers, seeing your products coming to life, the satisfaction of physical prototypes and responsibilities within a team. The drawbacks can include the lack of client facing experience, not being credited for the role you played in a final design or interior, often on a lower income and a member of a smaller team means less colleagues to take feedback from.

There are a wealth of reasons to work on either side of this spectrum, but the one thing design school didn't really teach me or ready me for, was the chasm that exists between designers that create and designers that ideate, and when searching for a job in a niche market I've found it's best to not straddle this gap.

Personal

If you read last weeks post '3D printed prototypes . .' you will know I'm awaiting the arrival of some 1:5 scale models of a display system I've been working on at home for the past few months. I've finally finished all of the CAD models and starting to experiment with rendering and flaunting the different ways in which this system can benefit retailers, both in cost savings and flexibility. The prototypes came out really well and it's always really insightful having something physical to play around with. Take a look at the two prints of my Single display unit (roughly 600 x 1200mm real size) below. Thanks to Alex at ADMG Consulting hub, who suggested printing at 200 microns and a few other design tweaks, I'm looking to apply a light spray paint finish to one and test scale model merchandise on the other. Keep an eye out on my Instagram for updates.

 3D printed prototypes of the display units

3D printed prototypes of the display units

I also mentioned last week how I'm trying to get back into my sketching, and the addition of a new set of markers has definitely seen me get back into the swing of things, once again I'll be posting more on my Instagram soon. Since setting up these weekly reviews of my work not only has it been great to see where my times been spent over the past month or so, but it's good for setting targets as well. If I mention posting work to Instagram I feel like I have to follow through, there's no time spent contemplating how good the idea is it's just about pushing regular content. This has lead me to think I need to update my portfolio website so that it features somewhere for this type of work to live. So in the coming weeks up to launch expect me to be sharing some snippets of a page I'm thinking of naming 'design diary / journal' something along those lines. Let me know what you think, anything you'd like to see more of, and be sure to follow my Instagram account for regular updates of weekly goings-on. Thanks for reading.