Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Marie O'Donovan from CRH plc to give some advice for people considering this job:

Marie O'Donovan

Environmental Officer

CRH plc

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Marie O'Donovan

You should possibly consider studying environmental science or environmental engineering in third level.

You would also need to consider if you would like do quite a bit of driving during your day and to be able to oragnise your own work plans as both these things are important.

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Art, Craft & Design

Art, craft and design are words that go together easily. From fashion to architecture, and illustration to graphic design, Ireland has progressed from a thriving heritage of handcrafts, to an international reputation for its high profile contemporary designers. Careers in this field deal directly with work that contains a very high level of artistic talent, creativity and energy. The sector typically attracts people who like to express themselves by creating a work of art, be it in the form of a painting, a new building, a video, a photograph, an advertisement or a piece of sculpture.

careers in art craft and design

This is a creative sector, with three inter-dependent disciplines, each having a different way of thinking:

  • Art emphasises ideas, feelings, and visual qualities
  • Craft emphasises the right use of tools and materials
  • Design emphasises planning, problem-solving and completion, using drawing as a means of thinking


Opportunities with Irish in this Sector
Visual Arts header image

Visual Arts is the term used to describe creations we can look at i.e. drawings, paintings, sculpture, architecture, photography, prints, film - the creation of a two or three-dimensional visuals.


Photo: Weei Man - Eden Project Cornwall, D.H.
Visual arts are a subsection of Fine Arts, which also includes Dance, Music, and Theatre. [See Entertainment & Performing Arts for a detailed description of Dance, Music and Theatre]. 

Creative arts and media encompass the visual arts - graphic arts, film, drama, music and performing arts, in addition to aspects of the work of museums and galleries, and, in a wider sense, architecture.

Architecture is the design of buildings and structures. Architects may be involved in designing widely varying projects, from a residential house to a stadium such as the Aviva, to large-scale town planning. To qualify as an architect takes 7-9 years. You must first get a degree from a recognised school of architecture, followed by two years of approved practical experience and then successfully complete an examination in Professional Practice. The Royal Institute of Architects Ireland (RIAI) is the registration body for the Profession. The EU has a directive on architectural qualifications and any course recognised under the directive is also recognised by the RIAI. The RIAI list currently includes UCD, DIT, WIT, UL, UCC, CIT, QUB and UU.

Photography - Photographers specialise in many different areas. Some take pictures for use in journalism and the print media, others for specialist medical and scientific publications. Some choose to run a small studio, but most are self-employed and work freelance and are in demand to cover all the special events in our lives such as weddings, christenings, and family portraits. There are a variety of courses in photography available at certificate, diploma and degree level. Explore the course menus on the Left-Hand Side of this page. Check individual course details and specific entry requirements.  A portfolio of work may be an entry requirement.

Printmaking - Printmaking is the production of images either on paper, or on other materials such as fabric, parchment, plastic, by various specialist processes of multiplication such as woodcut, linocut, lithography, silk screen, or etching among others. There are no formal education requirements for printmakers, but a Bachelor's degree in fine arts with an emphasis in printmaking can serve as the first step toward a career in printmaking. An apprenticeship is a route for a student to learn the trade and to increase career opportunities. Many established printmakers teach and run classes to support themselves and finance their work. They may also offer technical or advisory support to students.

View the Sample Occupations menu on this page to explore Visual Arts occupations such as Artist, Printmaker or Sculptor in detail.

[Visit the Media and Publishing Sector  for information on Film-making, animation, television and related careers]

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Craft header image

Craft is an area of the Decorative Arts, which also includes interior design. Craft means skill or technique - doing a job with careful attention to detail and discipline. Craft involves both the design and the skilled making of an object or product in a particular medium, such as glass (blowing, casting or stained glass), ceramics (pottery, hand-building or industrial production), or metal (forging, fabricating or casting). 

A craft designer can design and produce functional work, such as tableware or watches, or very sculptural work, or anything in between. They may use traditional methods dating back thousands of years, or the latest technologies such as computer-aided design (CAD). Craftspeople tend to set up their own studios or work with others in a shared studio. 


" There is a good market for contemporary craft design and many craftspeople work for themselves, designing and making their own ranges of work, or producing commissions for clients. "



The craft sector is valued by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland at €498m, with €373.5m of business in the domestic market and €124.5m attributed to exports.

Nearly 6,000 people are employed in Irish craft and design with over 2,000 craft enterprises, large and small, officially registered. There are now more than 800 annual craft events in Ireland.

A feature of the craft sector in Ireland is that it is spread throughout the country. Many craftspeople are based in rural areas with few other sources of employment available.

The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland is a good place to find out more about the range of objects which craftspeople produce, and to learn more about the Craft Sector in Ireland. Visit 'What the Experts Say' to learn more.

There are many good craft design courses in Irish colleges of art and design. Different courses have different emphases, from functional products, such as industrial ceramics, to a more sculptural approach. You should ask your careers advisor for further information or contact the relevant department in the college where you are thinking of studying. The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland also offers technical courses in jewellery making and pottery skills - See 'What the Experts Say'.

Craftspeople also need business skills for promoting and selling their work, organising exhibitions and managing their small business. It is a good idea to gain work experience with an established craftsperson after qualifying, to learn more about the business side of things as well as practising and furthering your craft skills. Most local enterprise boards run business skills courses which can be a worthwhile further learning experience. Some craft designers also teach design, either full or part-time, as well as keeping up their own studio.

GMIT Letterfrack offers a variety of degree courses in Furniture Design. Click on the image to read full graduate profiles of GMIT graduates: 

Visit our Sample Occupations menu on this page to explore Craft occupations such as Woodturner, Horologist, Jeweller, Potter, or Glassmaker in detail.


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Design header image

'Design' is a broad and vague term. It can mean different things to different people. In its most basic form, a design is a plan or a blueprint for a visual work of art. It is also the outcome or the product produced from the design plan. 

Design spans career sectors as diverse as fashion, architecture or product manufacturing. There are a myriad of design disciplines:

Source: Winning by Design (EFGSN, November 2017) 

Design disciplines divide into seven broad categories: product design; fashion and textiles; structures and places; digital design; visual communications; TV and film, and strategic design.
Source: Winning by Design (EFGSN, November 2017) 

PRODUCT DESIGN

Product Design, also known as industrial design, is the design of commercial products. It involves a blend of science and engineering to mass produce products rather than handcrafted goods. Product designers are innovators. Making products that are safe and durable and that look and feel attractive is becoming essential in a competitive marketplace. 

Graduates of industrial and product design courses from the Institute of Technology Colleges are currently experiencing good employment opportunities. In Ireland and abroad, many designers work as consultants to industry. New technologies have made it possible to compete with design consultancies abroad. The central role that product design can play in the industry is opening up exciting opportunities for product designers.

FASHION AND TEXTILES

Fashion and Textiles are a sub-set of product design. Fashion design is the product development activity of the commercial clothing, design, manufacturing and distribution industries. Most people who work in fashion design work for small fashion designers. The work involves producing the design, cutting the pattern and finishing the garment. They produce ready-to-wear collections that are sold through selected shops. Some work for large wholesale manufacturers and create designs suitable for large department chain stores.

A professional fashion designer will need to possess specialised skills and an in-depth knowledge of their chosen field as well as a deep understanding of the fashion environment.

[See also Fashion and Beauty Sector]

Textile design courses have a strong emphasis on drawing. Computer-aided design (CAD) plays a big part in modern textile design, from digital printing and computer operated weaving, to computer generated embroidery.

Textile designers such as Orla Kiely need to have great colour sense, a love of tactile qualities and an innovative, contemporary design eye. Craft and technical skills are required in this area, which brings together creativity with both traditional and modern technology.

Relevant courses are available at Level 6, 7, 8. Explore the CourseFinder.

STRUCTURES & PLACES

Careers in this area include design and development engineering (i.e. applying physical laws and principles of engineering in the design of machines, materials, instruments, structures, processes and systems) and consulting activities for:
  • machinery, industrial processes and industrial plant.
  • projects involving civil engineering, hydraulic engineering, traffic engineering
    water management projects.
  • projects elaboration and realisation relative to electrical and electronic engineering, mining
  • engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical, industrial and systems engineering, safety engineering. 
  • Design Architecture - Architect, Architectural Technologist, Town Planning Officer,  Draughts Person, Architectural and Town Planning Technician. 
  • Gardeners and Landscapers. 
Architecture is probably the oldest design discipline - the art and science of designing buildings and structures. Architecture includes the design of the built environment, from town planning, to urban design and from landscape architecture to furniture. Architectural design is as much about feasibility and cost for the builder, as it is about function and aesthetics for the end-user. Architects must understanding space, volume, texture, light, shadow and abstract elements in order to achieve an aesthetic end. Their skills are required in a myriad of design projects, from a stadium such as the Aviva, to a residential house.

[Visit Building, Construction & Property for related information]

Interior Architecture shapes the way that people move within a built environment. Their focus tends to be on space planning, conservation, signage issues and the relationship of internal space to external architecture. Interior architects work mostly in the commercial sector in conjunction with architects.

To be recognised as an interior architect in Ireland requires a minimum of Diploma in Interior Architecture (Level 7), although most professional firms will prefer students to hold a degree level qualification. View a video on Interior Architecture here. 

Interior Design - Interior design is the formulation of creative, technical and practical solutions to an interior space. It goes beyond furniture, atmosphere and colour, to materials specification and cost. Space is conceptualised by the designer, using technical drawings and computer-aided design. Interior design solves problems of access, specification, acoustics, ergonomics, heating, lighting, internal arrangement and the suitability of space for its purpose. 

Interior designers work on residential projects and across the spectrum of office, hotel and retail environments. They may choose to work freelance or for an interior design or architectural firm. This is a great way to learn from senior designers and to work as part of the team.

You do not need to have studied art or design at school to become an interior designer. Level 7 & 8 courses in Interior Architecture and Interior Design are available at CIT, DIT, IT Sligo and LIT.

Furniture Design - Furniture Design is the creative and technical development of furniture and related products. Furniture designers may be working on one-off custom designs, product ranges, or design items for mass production. They may work alone, or in teams, be self-employed or work for a large design company.

There are many different furniture design courses available. All will cover the fundamentals of design. Some will be geared more towards design and manufacturing, others will crossover with related design areas such as interior design. [Explore the CourseFinder].

Career options range from self-employment to working with large-scale furniture production companies that employ furniture designers as part of an in-house design team. Some furniture designers even design for film.

DIGITAL DESIGN

Industrial design underpins digital design. Computer-aidd design (CAD) has transformed the nature of the design process in in the areas of architecture and product design. In the same way, digital manufacturing is revolutionising the process of production and prototyping.

Digital design includes the design and production of websites, DVDs, computer games, digital television and mobile communications etc. It involves working with digital photography, digital video, virtual reality, image processing, streaming technology, software design, graphic design, data visualisation and representation, 3D audio and digital sound processing.

New technology is being developed all the time and keeping up with the speed of change in technologies is both exciting and vital throughout your design career.

There are numerous course options available in Digital Design. You can study full-time or do a one-year add-on course after completing a diploma or degree in a related area.

[Visit Media and Publishing for information on related areas such as Animation]

VISUAL COMMUNICATION

More commonly referred to as 'Graphic Design' this is one of the first design disciplines to emerge. it has evolved today to become an intrinsic part of digital design.

The work of graphic designers is all around us - adverts in newspapers and magazines, illustrations in catalogues and brochures, the design on almost all packaging, the graphics on websites and multi-media products, even signposts, maps and directories, are all the work of the graphic designer. On screen, graphic designers create websites, animated promotions and interactive material. The commercial and business world has now come to depend on design for its success and there is a good demand for graphic designers in Ireland. 

There are many graphic design courses available at Level 5 and Level 6, and Visual Communication courses at Level 7 and Level 8 are offered at AIT, CIT, DIT, IADT, IT Carlow, LKIT, NCAD and WIT.

TV & FILM

Also viewed as a subset of digital design, TV and film design includes animation which has been a hugely successful sector in Ireland.

[Visit Media and Publishing for related information.]

STRATEGIC DESIGN

Strategic design and design thinking is relevant to all enterprises. In recent years, design has played an increasingly important role in business and the economy. Design thinking is changing the way businesses operate and informing the strategies of major organisations. 

There has been a movement towards recruiting and training designers with a wider skill set - people with business acumen and strategic thinking who can work in a multi-disciplinary way.

EMPLOYMENT IN DESIGN

A study of the sector commissioned for Year of Irish Design shows 48,000 people employed in design roles in Ireland – that’s 2.5% of the workforce. The Irish Design sector accounts for 21% of our exports, valued at €38 billion.There are numerous career opportunities to be embraced.

Design-related roles exist in areas from industrial design (cars, furniture etc) to print (magazines and other publications) to technology (websites, mobile apps). As new design areas have opened up, designers from traditional design backgrounds such as product design, graphic design or architecture, have moved into these new fields as User Experience (UX) designers or User Interface (UI) designers. The explosion in design related roles in the digital sector is linked to mobile devices and human interaction with internet banking, websites, apps, social media etc- all of which require design skills.

Source: Policy Framework for Design in Enterprise in Ireland, DJEI, 2016 


Did you know ...
Ireland has a long history and successful track record in design. The Celtic Revival and the Irish Arts and Crafts movement (c.1895-1925) brought about a major resurgence of Irish craft and design, in stained glass work, printing, woodwork and metalwork.

Irish stamps, and especially coin design, has been praised for its design standards. Many of our coins have featured animals as a symbol of our agricultural economy. The designs were chosen following independence in 1922, by a committee headed by Nobel-prize winning poet W.B. Yeats. 

One of Ireland's best-known designers, Eileen Gray (1878-1976) was at the height of her career in the 1920s, as a pioneering modernist in furniture and architectural design.

Ireland has many top designers who are well known internationally for their clothing, textiles, accessories, ceramics and furniture. Designers such as Orla Kiely, John Rocha and Philip Treacy have reached celebrity status for their contribution to the world of fashion.

Ireland has also become famous as a hub for the design of software, games and animation. Animator and visual effects artist, Richard Baneham, won an Oscar in 2010 for his work on the film Avatar.


Source: Policy Framework for Design in Enterprise in Ireland, DJEI, January 2016

GETTING INTO DESIGN

Design courses are available in Universities, Institutes of Technology and Further Education Colleges throughout Ireland. Courses are offered from NFQ Level 5, to Levels 6, 7 and 8. Course titles include the following examples:

Product Design - Polymer Technology; Timber Product Technology; Product Design; Furniture Design; Medical Device Innovation; Industrial Design; Precision Engineering Design

Digital Design - Design in Digital Media; Software Design; Game Development; Digital Games; Web Development; Creative Digital Media; Multimedia; Media Technology; Data Visualisation; Interaction Design; Multimedia Applications Development

Visual Communications - Graphic Design; Visual Communications; Design in Visual Communication; Illustration; Communication Design

TV & Film - Film & Television Studies; Video & Film Production; Animation; Screenwriting; Motion Graphics; Film & Theatre; Stage Design

Spaces & Places - Architecture; Interior Architecture; Architectural Technology; Landscape Architecture; The Built Environment; Structural Engineering; Urban Design; Interior Design & Technology

Fashion & Textiles - Fashion; Textile & Surface Design; Design in Textiles; Fashion Knitwear; Jewellery & Metalwork; Costume Design

Other design - Creative Design; Fine Art; Design Practice

Explore the CourseFinder here. 

Note: Some art related courses through the CAO system are restricted courses. That means that applicants require a portfolio of work and applications must be in by the 1st of February in the year you are applying for the course. Students are graded for entry to most art/design courses by way of Portfolio and basic Leaving Certificate grades (or equivalent). 

Assembling a good portfolio a year or two prior to entry is essential for third level courses in the area of art and design. It is possible to take a Portfolio Preparation Course as a Post Leaving Course (PLC) in a college of further education.

In general, your art portfolio should reflect your style and interpretation of different media through a range of varied pieces. It is a good idea to include preparatory work in order to display your work at the different stages of development. Take photographs of any work that is too heavy or cumbersome to carry. It is always worthwhile to have your work neatly presented and well laid out.

It is important to check out the courses and investigate the course content behind the course title. Courses with similar titles can differ in emphases and offer different areas of specialised study. Courses in design tend to offer opportunities to specialise in areas such as illustration, and graphic design, photography, multimedia and new media and design for industry. Fine Art programmes offer the student the opportunity to work in painting, sculpture, printmaking and interdisciplinary studies.


Video: 'The Future is in Our Hands' Year of Irish Design

Art and Design Education 

Careers in Art and Design include teaching and education. The importance of arts education in the lives of young people has gained firm recognition in recent years, opening up many opportunities for Arts Education graduates. An Art Education qualification will enable you to teach in a second level school, or in other educational settings such as museums and galleries, or community settings. Many graduates continue to work as artists, alongside teaching.

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National Arts and Health Website, Waterford Regional Hospital, Dunmore Road, Waterford
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Department of Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare St., Dublin, 2.
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ICA Central Office, 58, Merrion Road, Dublin, 4.
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Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin, 8.
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103, Francis St., Dublin 8.
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The Fumbally Exchange, Fumbally Lane, Dublin, 8.
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IrishArt.net
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St. Stephen's Green House, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, 2.
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