No one ever said ‘be a kitchen designer’

Grant Hughes, a young graduate from Herbert William Kitchens in Hampshire has reached his current position after studying graphic design but believes the industry needs a more formal career pathway


It was never a career path for me when I was young and, to be honest, the only people I had seen doing it were in the sheds and were perceived simply as hard-hitting salesmen.

It didn’t seem like the kind of job I needed to get a degree or otherwise for and I think this reflects how we are generally perceived as professionals. While working for B&Q in the flooring and tiling department, still not knowing where to go with my life, I decided to get into the kitchen department as a lead taker. I started to make a beeline for the kitchen design positions as it started to look like a viable career path once I was at that point.

To get there, however, I had to painstakingly teach myself CAD and prove that I could manage a plan and a quote. Later, I moved town and ended up working for Magnet after a brief stint in management. By this point, I began to realise that the best way to go would be to find and work for an independent – and that’s where I am now, at Herbert William Kitchens in West Wellow.

The point I am trying to make with my life story, is that to reach this stage in my career, I have had to graft and claw my way up – while also making a lot of mistakes along the way. There was no clear path, no easy way. That’s where we get to the crux of my opinion and the part that people may disagree with.

When certain parties insist that a degree is the only way to get into my profession, I feel that my contribution, even though I have had to put in possibly more work to get here than a degree student, is being cast aside.

I do believe that a formal entry path into kitchen design can only help the industry, but I would like to point out that a degree should not be the only way.

I have read some articles pushing the idea of apprenticeships and I would like to second that point of view. More and more industries are creating different paths into careers, even nurses will soon be able to get their RCN membership through an apprenticeship. Not only that, but our fitters constantly take on apprentices, which means there are always new ones around and the quality is good. Small studios should be doing the same thing and perhaps even bigger companies.

To keep with the theme, though, I would like to suggest other ways to get the required education. But here’s the big question: does it have to be a degree or an apprenticeship or would a college-level BTEC be enough?

To me, someone with a kitchen design degree should be able to get a kick-start and be considered a full designer on employment and be used within a company to educate or help train others – then move quickly on to become a senior designer.

A BTEC-level designer with no industry experience could come in as a junior designer for a short time and should already be equipped with most of the skills they will need, working towards eventually becoming a senior designer. An apprentice would learn on the job for a couple of years and can then be bumped up to a junior designer.

“British kitchen industry is not as inclusive and collaborative as it could be. NKBA could show us how it’s done”

Grant Hughes, kitchen designer, Herbert William Kitchens

Equally, if a designer has managed to get a certain amount of industry experience, or has started running a company, they should not be discounted. Depending on their current experience, they shouldn’t be at a disadvantage. However, going forward one of these entryways would be used, so new designers to the profession would have one of these qualifications.

And what’s the moral of this story?

I have learnt in my short lifespan that everybody learns and develops differently. Degree courses do not work for everyone, nor do they guarantee that the graduate will be good at the job they have studied for.

If, as an industry, we are going to formalise entry pathways, we need to have multiple options and make it clear to GCSE students that kitchen design is a viable and rewarding career path. Done correctly, kitchen design is about finding creative solutions to problems and fulfilling project briefs, not hard selling.

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