Introduction to Design

Introduction to Design

Designers are distinguished from other artists by why they create. For "pure" artists the end creations are something to be perceived and experienced by observers in the works own unique contexts. When designers create something, they do so with the intent of having their creations perform a function. While some might consider it to be a work of art, an automobile has the primary function of transporting people from one location to another. While a small number of people might even consider the engine block of an automobile to be a work of art, the engine block has the primary purpose of housing the various moving parts that combine to make the internal combustion engine. These practical objects and a hundred million more that make up our living world all had to be designed.

With such diverse needs to be satisfied, designers specialize in different areas of expertise. Graphic, floral, fashion, mechanical, electronic, and aeronautic are just a sampling of the different career paths open to creative individuals. But whichever paths are chosen, designers will be helping to reshape our world, one piece at a time.

Related Career Fields


Design is one of the faster growing professions in the country. Nearly half a million jobs were classified as designer jobs by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). Partially this was because the classification describes a fairly wide range of careers. Almost 40 percent of these jobs were held by graphic designers, another 20 percent by floral designers, another 15 percent by merchandise displayers and window decorators and another 10 percent were held each by commercial and industrial designers and interior designers.

The average yearly earnings for different design disciplines also varies considerably. Fashion designers rank highest with an average of about $71,400. Sharing the middle ground were commercial and industrial designers at $61,000, interior designers at about $51,500 and graphic designers at about $46,750. Window decorators and merchandise displayers averag around $28,460 while floral designers earn an average of about $24,510 a year.

Design Career Challenges

The challenges that designers will have to face will vary from discipline to discipline, but all can rely on some common expectations. Their working environment will usually be offices. For most kinds of design work, computers will be used, both to aid in the execution of ordinary design tasks, like drawing, and to facilitate the fast communication of information amongst designers and between designers and clients. Even with the conspicuous presence of computers in the modern workplace, the ability to sketch and communicate ideas verbally will still be needed. Designers will need to follow the work and, depending on the nature of each specialty, individuals may need to live in certain regions that support their industry.


A great number of programs are offered for design candidates. Some, particularly those offered by large public colleges and universities, offer a broad curriculum, while smaller colleges, institutes and online schools may offer more specialized experiences, concentrating on a particular industry. Depending on the length of study, school accreditation, and course work emphasis, students may earn a certificate or they may earn an Associate, BA, Masters or Doctorate in any of the following degrees: Arts, Applied Arts, Fine Arts, Science, or Applied Science. Most technologically oriented career paths will emphasis the mastering of computer skills, particularly computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) technology, and all design candidates should expect to receive general course work in art, history and, to a lesser extent, the humanities.

Individuals entering the job market will be expected to possess a portfolio, demonstrating their skills and abilities. These portfolios will weigh heavily in the decision making processes of prospective employers. Typically, novice designers can expect a two to three year period of apprenticeship in their jobs, where they handle routine tasks under close supervision. As the designers become more experienced in their respective fields, they will enjoy an increased amount of responsibility and challenge.


From cogs to clogs, boxes to watches, and notebooks to boat hooks, designers in all fields face a barrage of creative challenges. New products are constantly appearing and old products strain to reinvent themselves. In an age where the phrase "designer this" and "designer that" serves to underline the insatiable hunger people have for unique and customized items, the designer's work has only just begun.

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