Advice for Textile Design Students

22.04.2012 § Leave a comment

I get questions about how to become a textile designer quite often, so I think it is worth recording some of my observations. Here are some of the most common questions that come up in my conversations with students:

What preparation or skills are needed to become a textile designer?

Becoming a textile designer requires an education in textiles. A good place to start is to ask yourself where you’d like to focus your studies. A school like the Rhode Island School of Design, for example, focuses on the aesthetic aspects of design whereas NC State’s College of Textiles is one of the best programs for textile technology, the actual function of textiles.

Before you commit to this field, you may also want to test your color sensitivity with the Farnsworth Munsell 100-hue test. There are online versions, but the physical test is more reliable. Most designers score less than 20, so a score above 20 may put you at a disadvantage. Although I’m sure there are professionals with higher scores, it’s a general guide. If you take a textile course, the school may have one of the tests that you can use.

What is your background, and did you advance from an entry level position?

I founded Brentano with my husband over 20 years ago, and as entrepreneurs there was really only one level. My background is in art, but I am always pushing to learn more about textile technology. I take and teach classes to continue to learn and evolve with the industry.

What kind of day-to-day activities does someone in your position do?

As Brentano’s Design Director, I make decisions about the patterns we’d like to develop and discuss design concepts, pattern, weave constructions and colors with the design staff. I’m in constant communication with the mills we work with, and I also work with our sales and marketing teams, answering clients’ questions and implementing sales strategies.

What other opportunities are available in the industry?

Besides textile design, there are many other options within the industry that you could consider – including marketing, sales, and customer service. Administrative positions would still put you in contact with beautiful fabrics and idea. (I’ve found that the reverse is true too; designers do about as much administrative work as they do design.)

What advice do you have for a current student?

My recommendation is that you don’t just focus your education on textiles. Communication and understanding sales numbers are incredibly important to a designer, and since it is rare nowadays to have a job as a textile designer, that kind of flexibility is useful.

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