Apprentice product designers make common goods more usable by introducing new designs and improving current ones.
As a product designer, you will create a broad range of goods, such as mobile phones, household appliances, and vehicles, as well as larger items, such as industrial tools, equipment, and machinery.
You will improve an item’s design and use by understanding technology, materials, and manufacturing techniques. This might entail creating new things or improving existing ones.
You may also be known as an industrial designer.
Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:
- discuss what your client wants
- investigate how existing products work or how services are used
- develop ideas and make initial sketches or outline plans
- decide on suitable materials or resources
- use computer design software to produce detailed blueprints
- make samples or working models, known as prototypes
- test and refine designs.
- Starting salaries for apprentice product designers are £22,000 to £25,000.
- Product designers with five to ten years’ experience, including team leaders, can earn £35,000 to £45,000.
- Senior product designers can earn £50,000 to £80,000. The top end of the scale may be earned by a creative partner or director position.
Your working hours will typically be 9am to 5.30pm, 40 to 42 hours a week, but there may be times when extra hours are necessary in order to meet deadlines or to resolve design difficulties. The additional hours will not normally include weekends or shifts.
You could work in a workshop, in a creative studio or in an office.
Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice product designer include:
- Level 6 Product Design and Development – Entry requirements for this level include 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship.
This typically takes 60 months to complete as a mix of workplace learning and academic study at an approved university.
On a product designer apprenticeship, you’ll learn:
- design skills and knowledge
- the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- understanding of technology, materials and manufacturing methods
- analytical thinking skills
- persistence and determination
- thinking and reasoning skills
- complex problem-solving skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently.
You might work in-house for a manufacturing or service company or as a design consultant on a range of client projects. Another common option is to work as a freelancer.
If you work in-house, you will most likely be employed by a large industrial and home product manufacturing business with multidisciplinary teams concentrating on new product development. International firms that produce well-known brands are among them.
Some manufacturers, especially larger ones, seek ideas from outside their organisation, which opens up opportunities whether you work in a design consultancy or freelance designer.
Your training will be mostly on-the-job, focusing on CAD and product knowledge. Throughout your career, you will be required to expand your equipment and software knowledge via on-the-job training.
Organisations such as the CSD provide short external courses in relevant subjects.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is essential, and organisations like CSD promote it. It is also vital to read industry news and remain updated on industry trends.
Postgraduate studies help you develop management skills and be funded by your employer.
The traditional next step is to become a senior designer, with opportunities in smaller consultancies and organisations being more limited. In such a setting, when opportunities arise, progress is more likely via movement between organisations or even across neighbouring design industries.
You can rise from senior designer to creative director based on your specific interests and talents. Alternatively, you may advance to a higher-level management role, such as new business director or project manager.
Skilled designers are in great demand, especially those with specialised knowledge and technological background. Moving inside the UK or overseas may boost your prospects of progress.
If you have adequate experience and established ties, you might work as a freelancer or even create your own product design business.