How to Become a Furniture Designer

If you want to become a furniture designer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


• You have an interest in combining aesthetics with function

• You have manual illustration and computer aided design (CAD) skills

• You have a keen interest in interior decorating

• You have interest in a career field that offers the possibility of self-employment

• You are willing to work hard to build your business and promote your brand

• You take satisfaction from watching design ideas materialize

• You are willing to endure periods of limited income while building a portfolio, a client base or finding stable employment


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a furniture designer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as salary expectations, an outline of the skills you’ll need, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Furniture Designer

To be effective in this profession, you need to be able to combine a broad range of skills and knowledge within the fields of visual arts and technology, specifically in the following areas:


• Aesthetics

• Basic business practices

• Consumer trend analysis

• Ergonomics

• Manual and computer-aided rafting, sketching and model making

• Marketing

• Materials and processes

• Mechanics and engineering techniques


Because you need such a broad range of knowledge and skill set, it is ideal that you pursue a bachelor’s program in furniture design. It is possible however, to become a furniture designer with a degree in a closely related field, such as industrial design, fine arts, engineering, graphic design or architecture. Ultimately, the educational requirements will vary by employer, but in general, the more relevant and in-depth your education, the better prepared for this career you will be.


Whichever educational route you decide to take, it's important that you pursue coursework in the following areas (or very closely related areas) in order to acquire the necessary knowledge and skill set:


• Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD)

• Furniture manufacturing methods

• Furniture materials and processes

• Furniture trends

• History of furniture

• Interior decorating

• Manual sketching


Success Tip: Try and find an academic program that offers work placement or internship opportunities, as those types of programs are great ways to build a professional portfolio and meet prospective employers.





More About this Career: General Job Description

Furniture designers are responsible for designing pieces of furniture and related products. They must begin this process by conceptualizing an idea for a piece, and then using traditional and computer aided design (CAD) methods to create a design of that concept.


Typically, furniture designers begin by hand-sketching their design ideas, and then using computer software to finalize the design by adding more intricacy and detail. Their designs will often include all different aspects of a furniture design, including exact dimensions, how the piece is put together and what materials will be used to make it.


Some furniture designers may be involved in the fabrication (even if its just the initial prototype) as well as the design of the furniture, whereas others will simply be involved in the design process. Regardless of their level of project involvement, furniture designers must be concerned with balancing functional requirements, innovative design and aesthetic appeal.


Depending on the size of the company they design furniture for, these designs may become mass-produced or made in small quantities.



Typical Job Duties

• Research, study and plan various furniture designs

• Discuss design ideas with clients or manufacturers

• May produce quotes on final costs for specific clients ordering custom furniture

• Select materials suitable for specific designs, such as wood, metal, plastics and textiles

• Generate sketches of designs as well as use computer aided design software

• Organizing plans and budgets related to material costs

• Attend training and other industry related events and seminars

• Liaising with craftsmen or production staff about the process of manufacturing

• May be involved in the usage of various tools to turn raw materials into finished furniture products



Work Experience Needed

A good way to begin a career as a furniture designer is to join an internship or apprenticeship program. These programs will give you hands-on experience in key areas of furniture design, and will also allow you to make valuable industry contacts.


Internship and work experience programs may be offered through your school, although if you are not, you should inquire about any temporary or apprentice positions within local furniture design or repairs shops.


Although there may not be a quantifiable amount of experience you'll need to get a job, gaining experience will afford you the opportunity to develop a portfolio and make valuable industry contacts.


Success Tip: Get acquainted with your professors, fellow designers and upholstery experts while you’re in school and keep in touch with them after you graduate. Speaking often with these individuals will help you build your knowledge base and will go a long way during your career as a furniture designer.





Build Your Design Portfolio

Collect photographs and samples of your work to assemble in a physical and digital portfolio. Your portfolio will be your visible resume; you will use it to market yourself to prospective employers or clients.


Your portfolio may be a collection of projects you’ve completed while in school, projects you've completed during an internship or apprenticeship, freelance projects you’ve completed, or projects you’ve completed purely for practice. By the time you start applying for contract or permanent jobs, your portfolio will speak for itself.


Success Tip: Whether or not you gain an internship or apprenticeship program, you must continuously hone your skills, so design and build at every opportunity. 



Skills Needed to Be Successful

Becoming a furniture designer requires the ability to effectively combine a variety of skills in different areas of visual art and technology. Such skills include:


Computer Skills: Furniture designers need to understand how to use computer programs, especially computer aided design and drafting programs (CADD), as they play a crucial role in executing various functions, such as documentation, illustration, rendering, animation, drafting and three-dimensional modeling.


Manual Design Skills: Even though computers play an increasingly large part in the work of furniture designers, they still rely heavily on their hands and their manual dexterity for creating sketches and working with materials in the development of prototypes. Working with their hands also requires furniture designers to have strong visual awareness and good hand-eye coordination.


Knowledge of Materials and Processes: In order to create designs that are aesthetically appealing, functional, safe and profitable, furniture designers must have thorough knowledge of the materials and production processes (including safety) that will be used in the development of their designs.


Business Management Skills: Furniture designers that are considering self-employment will require basic business marketing and management skills. They will need to know how to find consumers that want to buy their products, introduce those consumers to their products, and ensure that the capital, time and materials are available to make and deliver those products.


Consumer Analysis Skills: Furniture designers need to understand their target market. They need to be able to spot trends within that market, and should be able to apply logic and reasoning skills to study their target consumers and recognize the need for certain types of products.



Helpful Traits & Characteristics to Have

In order to enjoy performing the duties involved in this profession, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your daily, weekly, and monthly duties as a furniture designer is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.


• Enjoy combining art with function

• Enjoy drawing and designing

• Enjoy interior decorating

• Take satisfaction from watching ideas materialize physically

• Self-discipline, self-motivation and persistence

• A desire to keep up to date with market trends

• Enjoy experimenting with different ways of doing things, such as using new materials

• Interest in a career field that offers the possibility of self-employment



Who Employs Them?

Furniture designers may be self-employed by working on a contract basis as freelancers, or by owning their own specialty furniture store (which may be a physical or online store).


Alternatively, they may be employed on a part-time or full-time basis by small or large furniture manufacturers, furniture distributors and retailers, not-for-profit organizations or private design firms.



Furniture Designer Jobs - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "furniture designer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Typical Salary Level

The salary level of furniture designers can vary greatly, depending on a variety of factors. For example, depending on their employment structure, some may earn an inconsistent and fluctuating income, while others may earn a more stable and reliable income.


Aside from their employment structure, the salary level of furniture designers may also be influenced by the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience, skill and aptitude

• The region in which they work

• Whether or not they are self-employed

• The size and type of their employer

• The amount of time they dedicate to work each week


Unfortunately, there is no salary data available for the specific profession 'furniture designer'. We can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary levels of workers in closely related fields.


Furniture Designer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the "industrial designers" occupational group is $66,590 per year. The BLS states that the lowest 10% of salaries in this group are below $38,630 per year, and the top 10% are above $108,040 per year (May, 2018 statistics).


Salary - Canada: According to the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the "industrial designers" occupational group earn an average salary of $69,264 per year. According to the Provnice of British Columbia, those working in the "artisans and craftpersons" group earn an annual provincial median salary of $35,360 per year.



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Architectural Technologist

Fabric Designer

Industrial Designer

Industrial Engineer

Interior Designer




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a furniture designer.


Occupations in Alberta:Industrial Designer.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 28, 2019.

Arts & Design:Industrial Designers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 28, 2019.

Applied Arts:How to Become a Furniture Designer.” (n.d.) The Art Career Project website. Retrieved November 28, 2019.

Explore Careers:Furniture Designer.” (n.d.) National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 28, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Furniture Designer

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant to this profession can be found on our Scholarships page, by finding the pages that correspond to the majors listed on our "Relevant Fields of Study" section below. Any scholarships found within those pages will be suitable.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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