Career as a display designer

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Emma Smith works as a display designer in a store in Richmond. She has a key role in maintaining the style of every department in the store. Emma manages a visual merchandising team that provides customers with an attractive and inviting shopping experience.

What does your job as a display designer involve?

I'm responsible for planning and managing the overall look of the store. This includes window displays, signs, interior displays, cosmetic promotions and any other special sales promotions taking place.

What kinds of activities are involved?

I create unique designs for the store windows and interior displays, working with the requirements set by head office. I use all kinds of products within the store to create different looks. When a changeover is due, I work with my team to take down the window displays and put up all the new signage.

As well as seasonal window display changes, I also manage the look and design for one-off events – for example when a department moves to another part of the store.

What equipment do you use?

I work with lots of different materials depending on the nature of the display. Materials might include paints, buttons, fabrics, beads and stencils, as well as stock from the store. In order to put displays together I use drills, ladders and other DIY equipment.

What are your working hours like?

I work from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm during the week. I also do some weekend work. When we need to put up new displays, I do some night work, which involves working on a display from 6pm to 7am whilst there are no customers in store. However, I get time off to compensate for any extra hours worked.

What type of training have you had?

I was trained on the job when I first started and learned a great deal from working with the visual merchandising team. Training is helpful, but practical experience and a natural ability for design are very important.

What kinds of skills do you need to be a display designer?

Passion for design and creativity are essential. You need to have a design process and the ability to create ideas that are different. You also need to be very aware of what's happening in fashion.

You must have lots of ideas, be willing to work hard and put the hours in, as this role is not always nine to five. It is important to be confident in your ideas and able to take criticism. Attention to detail is also important, as you need to create work that will look professional and draw in customers.

How would you like your career to develop in the future?

I would like to work as a stylist for interior design magazines. I feel that this role would give me greater scope for creativity.

Route to becoming a display designer

  • Degree in Textile Furnishing.
  • Restaurant management.
  • Junior visual merchandiser.

Emma's tips

  • Work experience is a good way to make contacts and start in the industry.
  • Build up a portfolio of projects you have done at home, at school/college or in your spare time, to show potential employers.
  • Be inspired and passionate about the work.

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Salary information

  • Starting salaries range from £9,000 to £11,000 a year.
  • With experience, it is possible to earn £12,000 to £18,000 a year.
  • At senior levels, visual merchandisers could earn from £20,000 up to £50,000 if working for a major retail company.

Display designer

  • Employers require GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and most entrants have a relevant qualification. Previous experience in a retail-based environment is helpful.
  • Relevant qualifications include BA (Hons) Visual Merchandising and BA (Hons) Retail Design Management, a Foundation Degree in Visual Merchandising and a BTEC National Diploma in Display Design.
  • It is also possible to work towards NVQ/SVQs in Design at Level 3.
  • It is possible to study for courses approved by the British Display Society offered through learning providers in a number of locations.
  • Apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland) may also be available.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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