Furniture Design Careers

Make a living AND make a difference.

What does a furniture designer do?

A furniture designer uses a variety of skills to design new furniture and related products for industrial, commercial and domestic clients. The products vary greatly, from bespoke (custom-made or commissioned) design or limited batches of furniture to mass-produced items.

Designers work alone or alongside colleagues, creating concepts and designs that balance innovative design, functional requirements and aesthetic appeal. There may also be product development responsibilities involved.

The process of furniture design demands creativity; business awareness; and skills in marketing, finance, sales and manufacturing. Furniture designing may involve a number of functions, particularly for the self-employed, including designer, production manager, buyer, salesperson, accountant and maintenance engineer.

The exact nature of your role as a furniture designer will depend on your work setting. Self-employed or freelance furniture designers often work alone or with one or two other like-minded craftspeople. They usually need to engage in some form of self-promotion, such as attending trade exhibitions and design shows or arranging publicity through specialist publications. In-house designers in a manufacturing company may originate new designs or improve existing designs. Furniture design consultants often work to a brief agreed upon with the client and have responsibility for managing a project on the client's behalf.

The work of a furniture designer includes developing briefs from clients establishing design and performance criteria; testing product concepts using sketches, full-size card models, hard prototypes and computer-aided design (CAD); liaising with other departments (in the case of a manufacturing company), such as marketing, production, supply and sales; analyzing market trends; assessing the viability of new design ideas and proposals in the current and predicted market; and responding to national and local economic issues planning work schedules. Furniture design requires expertise in many business concepts, including coordinating timescales, resources and production information for promotion and marketing.

Furniture design students should plan to attend the biannual Furniture Market in High Point, North Carolina, before they graduate. This is an important part of your education and the perfect venue to network with Kendall alumni and prospective employers to seek internships and future employment. The Kendall Alumni Office schedules an alumni reception for all furniture design alumni and current students attending the event. Our alumni are seeking good designers and often hire from Kendall.

What are some typical occupations for furniture designers?

  • In-house designers in large manufacturing companies
  • Design consultancy practices
  • Retailers
  • Interior/multidisciplinary design studios
  • Architectural practices
  • Private buyers
  • RTA furniture companies
  • Hardware designers
  • Lighting and accessories designer
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  • Appraisers
  • Furniture conservator/restorer
  • Industrial/product designer
  • Designer instructor
  • Showroom sales
  • CAD operator

Where are Kendall graduates working?

90 percent of wood furniture in American homes are designed by Kendall graduates.

  • American of Martinsville
  • Ashley
  • Baker
  • Bassett
  • Bernhardt
  • Broyhill
  • Century
  • Drexel Heritage
  • Flexsteel
  • Henredon
  • Hickory Furniture
  • Hooker Furniture
  • Kindel Furniture
  • Keeler Brass
  • Lane
  • La-Z-Boy
  • Lexington
  • Minka Lighting
  • Mitchell Gold
  • Pilliod
  • Pulaski Furniture
  • Stanley Furniture
  • Value City
  • Woodward

Salary information

Salary ranges will depend on the size of the company you join, your geographical region and your experience, and may vary widely if you open your own design firm or freelance. Entry-level salaries are reporting in the $40,000 to $45,000 range.

Most graduates will find employment in North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, Mississippi, California and Wisconsin.

Employment-related resources

  • ASFD (American Society of Furniture Designers)
  • ASFD Directory of Designers
  • Design Week
  • Cabinet Maker
  • Specialized recruiters; see the list in the Career Services office
  • Kendall online job bulletin

Other resources

  • www.asfd.com (American Society of Furniture Designers; offers student memberships)
  • www.furnituretoday.com (the weekly newspaper of the furniture industry)
  • wwww.highpointmarket.org/(High Point Market Authority; list market dates and events)
  • Kendall Student Furniture Club
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