Floral Designers (or florists) are specialists in the art of designing and creating floral arrangements in various shapes and sizes that include, but are not limited to, bouquets, table centerpieces, wreaths, and corsages. In addition to fresh cut flowers, a designer may work with/include silk flowers, foliage, plants, botanical materials, herbs, or various ornamental grasses. Arrangements may also be housed in a variety of vessels such as vases, baskets, or bowls and may include embellishments that add to the overall look or theme (e.g., ribbons, balloons, candles, candy). A floral designer designs arrangements for a variety of occasions such as birthdays, holidays, showers, weddings, funerals, and a wide variety of special events.
The responsibilities or duties of a designer vary depending upon the environment in which they work. Below is a sampling of some environments and the associated tasks typically performed by a designer.
- Privately Owned Shops - Most designers work in small, private floral establishments that typically cater to custom and large orders for events and special occasions such as weddings, showers, or those required by an interior designer or caterer. In these scenarios, a Designer can meet with a customer to review and discuss the specific occasion, type of arrangement(s) needed, arrangement options, the customer's wishes and preferences, prices, schedule, and delivery. With special occasions, a designer may typically assist with floral decoration set up, and may also provide assistance to interior designers who are creating displays for restaurants, hotels, special showings, and/or private residences. Many designers create a variety of arrangements and displays to have on hand for point-of-sale, or walk-in, customers.
- Grocery Stores and Internet Floral Establishments - Designers who are employed by floral departments in grocery stores or Internet floral establishments specialize in the creation of various arrangements, bouquets, and decorations made in advance of purchase. They also tend to fill small, custom orders for funerals and special occasions. Grocery stores rarely, if ever, offer delivery of arrangements to customers and generally do not take on large custom orders.
- Wholesale Floral Distributors - A wholesale designer who works in this type of business generally provides assistance with the selection and purchase of flowers and greenery that are to be sold to retail florists. The designer can also determine the specific flowers to be included in displays used as customer samples.
- Self-Employed Designers - Individuals who are self-employed manage all the components of running a business, from flower selection and purchase to hiring and managing staff to determining and managing budgets and finances, and more. Many of these designers also run a related, side business that supplements or compliments their floral business, such as wedding floral consultation, gift shop, or public classes on floral design or gardening.
Because flowers are perishable, most orders must be created very close to a delivery date. As a result, most designers may work nights and weekends in order to fulfill large or time-sensitive orders (e.g., showers, weddings, funerals). Designers also work long hours before and during holidays when the volume of orders increase.
Most individuals in this profession work in well-lit, comfortable environments, as well as outdoors, when needed. Designers may travel to customer locations or event sites to deliver and/or set up arrangements, and to vendor locations to purchase supplies and flowers. Most trips tend to be short in distance.
When creating arrangements a designer typically stands for long periods of time and use the same arm and finger movements, which may result in various muscle strains. Designers are also prone to back strain from moving, carrying, and/or lifting heavily weighted arrangements. Allergic reactions are also common in this profession as some designers find themselves experiencing reactions to certain types of pollen. Lastly, if used improperly, injuries may occur due to frequent use of sharp items such as wire, knives, and scissors.
An individual in this profession is expected to possess and/or display many of the following skills and attributes:
- service-oriented attitude
- interpersonal and communication skills
- judgment and problem-solving abilities
- organizational and time management skills
- ability to adapt to and apply changing trends
- ability to work independently, and at times, under pressure
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for floral designers is "expected to decline moderately, 9 percent, between 2006 and 2016." Demand for floral decorations and arrangements are expected to grow however, as a result of:
- increases in the population
- demand for up-scale weddings and special events
- rises in disposable income
- increased spending in interior design (generating both live and artificial arrangements)
In spite of the increase in demand for floral decorations and arrangements, employment opportunities are expected to be few in the wholesale industry. Reason being that in order to cut costs many floral shops are purchasing flowers and supplies directly from growers. Another factor is that the rapid growth in e-commerce (electronic commerce) within the floral industry affords a retail florist the ability to more easily find suppliers.
Individuals considering this profession should note the sensitivity between arbitrary consumer spending on flowers and floral products and the state of the economy. In a down economy, job opportunities are more than likely to decline as arbitrary spending on flowers falls off, and vice versa.
Floral Design Schools and Certification
Formal, post-secondary training is not required for this profession; most designers learn their vocation from on-the-job experience. There are however, several vocational and private floral design schools and community colleges that offer programs and certificates in floral design. A high school diploma is generally a prerequisite for acceptance into a floral design program and most run from several weeks up to one year. Floral design schools provide instruction on the fundamentals of floral arranging, including trends, pricing, exposure to the many varieties of flowers and their colors and textures, appropriate care and handling of flowers, and techniques for cutting and taping, and applying and tying embellishments such ribbons and bows.
Individuals seeking an associate or bachelor's degree may look to community colleges and universities. While some of these institutions offer degree programs in floral design, others may offer degrees in horticulture or ornamental horticulture (science or art of vegetable, fruit, flower, or ornamental plant cultivation) and/or floriculture (flower and flowering plant cultivation). Courses typically include floral design, botany, chemistry, hydrology, microbiology, soil management, and pesticides. Those seeking to own and manage their own business may add courses to their program such as accounting, business, marketing, and computer technology.
Designers seeking recognition of their professional achievement in floral design may look to the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD). The AIFD accreditation exam comprises two parts: a written section covering floral terminology, and a practical, onsite, floral arranging section where candidates must complete five floral designs within four hours. The five design categories are:
- wedding arrangements
- funeral tributes
- table arrangements
- wearable flowers
- a category at the sole discretion of the candidate
Individuals who have completed formal design training/education are better positioned for advancement and also tend to secure the better opportunities. Advancement in this profession is fairly limited to most experienced Designers moving on to positions such as supervisor or Chief Floral Designer, or perhaps opening their own floral business.
If not self-employed, individuals seeking employment in this profession can find opportunities in establishments that include florist shops; floral departments within grocery stores; Internet floral shops; general merchandise stores; wholesale companies; and, lawn and garden equipment and supply stores.