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Commercial and Industrial Designers - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Beginning commercial and industrial designers usually receive on-the-job training and normally need a few years of training before they can advance to higher level positions. Experienced designers in large firms may advance to chief designer, design department head, or other supervisory positions. Some designers leave the occupation to become teachers in design schools or in colleges and universities. Many faculty members continue to consult privately or operate small design studios to complement their classroom activities. Some experienced designers open their own design firms.

Employment
Commercial and industrial designers held about 44,300 jobs in 2008. About 30 percent of designers were employed by manufacturing firms, 9 percent worked in architectural, engineering and related services and another 8 percent worked for specialized design services firms.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average. Keen competition for jobs is expected; those with strong backgrounds in engineering and computer-aided design and business knowledge will have the best prospects.

Job Growth
Employment of commercial and industrial designers is expected to grow 9 percent between 2008 and 2018, as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will arise from an increase in consumer and business demand for new or upgraded products. The continued emphasis on the quality and safety of products, the increasing demand for new products that are easy and comfortable to use, and the development of high-technology products in consumer electronics, medicine, transportation, and other fields will increase the demand for commercial and industrial designers.

However, some companies use design firms overseas, especially for the design of high-technology products. These overseas design firms are located closer to their suppliers, which reduces the time it takes to design and sell a product—an important consideration when technology is changing quickly. This offshoring of design work could continue to slow employment growth of U.S. commercial and industrial designers.

Despite the increase in design work performed overseas, most design jobs, particularly jobs not related to high-technology product design, will still remain in the U.S. Design is essential to a firm's success, and firms will want to retain control over the design process.

Competition for jobs will be keen because many talented individuals are attracted to the design field. The best job opportunities will be in specialized design firms which are used by manufacturers to design products or parts of products. Increasingly, manufacturers have been outsourcing design work to these design services firms to cut costs and to find the most qualified design talent, creating more opportunities in these firms.

As the demand for design work becomes more consumer-driven, designers who can closely monitor, and react to, changing customer demands—and who can work with marking and strategic planning staffs to come up with new products—will also improve their job prospects.

Employment of designers can be affected by fluctuations in the economy. For example, during periods of economic downturns, companies may cut research and development spending, including new product development.

Earnings
Median annual wage-and-salary wages for commercial and industrial designers were $57,350 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,550 and $76,700. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,770.

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Academic Programs of Interest

Engineering Design
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Furniture Design
The Furniture Design curriculum encompasses a broad overview of woodworking operations and technology while allowing the student time to explore areas of personal interest. The flexible and portable skills you will possess after completing a Furniture Design program are an excellent head start in the ...more
Industrial Design
Industrial design is an applied art whereby the aesthetics and usability of products may be improved for marketability and production. The role of an Industrial Designer is to create and execute design solutions towards problems of engineering, marketing, brand development and sales. Although the ...more
Interior Design
The Interior Design Program curriculum is a comprehensive program combining theoretical elements of interior design with practical creative approaches to the solution of functional and aesthetic design problems in the living, working, and recreational human environment. Competencies generally developed ...more
Painter and Decorator
The Painter and Decorator Program is designed to teach a student how to apply paint, wallpaper, fabric and other finishes to interior and exterior surfaces of buildings and other structures. A Painter and Decorator student will also learn how to repair cracks and holes in walls and prepare work surfaces ...more