The role of the Commercial Designer

We have been looking at the role of the commercial designer for the past six weeks. A commercial designer is hired to design new ideas for a customer, but much more than that.

 Textile design covers a wide range of areas with clothing being just a part of the industry. Everything from seating and carpets to clerical vestments have been carefully designed and thought through by a commercial designer.

A good commercial designer needs to be versatile enough to work with a variety of companies and products. They need to be able to understand the concepts of other designers, brands and companies, yet be able to work alone or in a team and be confident at bringing their own ideas forward.

When a commercial designer receives a brief they need to be able to consider the beliefs and specifications of the brand they are working for. Considerations need to be kept in mind such as cost, timescale and sustainability. Does the brand have specific requirements in materials used? What is the product used for and does the material stand up to the job it is designed for?

A commercial designer needs to be constantly researching to keep aware of trends and innovations in design. Studying trend resources such as WGSN and style blogs, attending trade shows like Premiere Vision.

A good understanding of the market you are designing for is essential, but you should also have a good knowledge of the market as a whole. If you are designing for a high street brand you need to be aware of other high street retailers, but also fashion from other sectors like haute couture. Keeping as wide a knowledge base as possible helps to bring more ideas and new concepts to the brief.

Keeping in touch with the competition is a good way of seeing what has worked and not done so well, regular competition shopping and web browsing helps to know where other brands are going and when changes happen. Trend spotting helps you see what local trends are developing amongst the local community another way to involve consumers in the process is through focus groups and interviews that help give you a perspective on what people are looking for.


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Finally, with all the information gathered, a designer needs to bring the concept through to a design idea. You need to be able to communicate your idea to others both on the design team and other teams who may or may not initially understand your idea. The confidence to speak out for something you believe in, yet the willingness to listen to comments on your work with an open mind is vital to the process. To be able to take on board criticism and use it to re-create a better product will only help in the long run.

Once the design process had ended and the product is finished and on the shop floor the commercial designer needs to assess the process, finding out what worked well and what needed improving.

Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

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