What Does A Production Designer Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Production Designers

The Production Designer supervises the visual design of sets and shooting locations for film productions. They read scripts and work with others to develop the tone and atmosphere for each scene.

Salary
$57200
Education
Bachelor's degree
Personality





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

On a film production, the Production Designer is the head of the art department. Production Designers are responsible for establishing the overall visual look of the set. They ensure that each location is prepared and matches the style intended by the Director, Producer, and Cinematographer.

Production Designers are an essential part of the production process, overseeing multiple sub-departments. They supervise the teams responsible for art/design, construction, sets, props, costumes, special effects, and even hair and makeup.

Becoming a Production Designer often requires a combination of a college education and work experience. You may need to work your way up within the art department.

What they do

The Production Designer supervises the visual design of sets and shooting locations for film productions. They read scripts and work with others to develop the tone and atmosphere for each scene.

Research the visual elements needed for the production

During pre-production, the Production Designer brainstorms with the Director, Producer, and other members of the creative team. They select the mood and visual style for the production.

The Production Designer then begins researching the visual elements needed to achieve the right style. Depending on the production, the Production Designer may need to conduct extensive research.

For example, producing a historical film typically requires more research compared to a production with a contemporary setting. The Production Designer needs to ensure that the look of the sets and costumes matches the historical period.

Create sketches or models based on research

After researching the styles needed for the production, the Production Designer starts producing sketches or computer models. Sketches and models provide the rest of the art department with guidelines for preparing the set, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

The Production Designer may also work with the Art Director to convert the sketches into detailed plans. Each team within the art department uses the plans to complete their responsibilities. For example, the Art Director may use the sketches to create technical plans for the construction crew to use when building sets.

Monitor the budget needed to design the sets

When working with the Director to develop the visual style of the film or TV show, the Production Designer evaluates the potential costs. The Production Designer works closely with the Line Producer to ensure that the project stays within budget for the construction and dressing of sets.

Assemble the crew needed for the art department

Before production starts, the Production Designer needs to assemble the art department. The Production Designer is often responsible for hiring crew members and overseeing the sub-departments within the art department.

Some of the positions that the Production Designer may fill include Set Designer, Prop Master, Costume Designer, Construction Coordinator, and Special Effects Supervisor.

Oversee the development of sets or stages

After hiring crew for the art department, the Production Designer manages the construction and dressing of the sets or stages. The Production Designer needs to ensure that the set is ready for filming to prevent delays in the production schedule.

Production Designers manage the daily work of the artists and construction crew that prepare the scenes. This also includes the sets, props, costumes, and special effects teams.

Provide input during post-production

The traditional role of the Production Designer ends when the team finishes principal photography. However, films with computer-generated imagery (CGI) often keep the Production Designer around for post-production. The Production Designer may consult with the visual effects team to ensure that any CGI elements match the style and tone that was developed before filming.

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What is the job like

Pros

You get to work in a creative environment

Working on a film or television production allows you to spend your work hours in a creative environment, which can be incredibly rewarding.

You may receive industry recognition for your work

Depending on the medium that you work in, you may receive awards or accolades. When working on a film production, the Production Designer may be eligible for the Academy Award for Best Production Design.

You often have the freedom to hire your own team

Production Designers often have the responsibility of hiring individuals to head each section of the art department.

You may get to work in interesting locations

When working on film or television productions, your projects may take you to interesting and exotic locations.

Cons

You will often work long hours

Production Designers frequently work long hours and may need to avoid taking time off to complete a project on schedule.

The amount of responsibility can be stressful

Along with long hours, the responsibility of being a Production Designer can be stressful. The production crew depends on you to help set the visual style of the project.

Where they work

Film Studios & Production Companies
Advertising Agencies
Event Coordinators & Event Planning Agencies
Music Festivals


Production Designers are commonly employed in the film production industry. However, Production Designers are also needed for television and stage productions. They are often hired by the Producer or production company producing the project.

Along with film, television, or stage projects, Production Designers are often hired for commercial productions. Advertising agencies may hire a Production Designer to lead the design of their advertising spot.

While less common, some Production Designers seek work in the events industry. Festivals and large public events with elaborate productions hire Production Designers to assist with the design of the stage.

How to become one

Step 1: Study film or participate in school theatre productions

High school students can prepare for a career in film by researching the filmmaking process online or participating in school theatre productions.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field

Production Designers usually have a Bachelor’s degree before entering this field. Art and Graphic Design are common majors.

Step 3: Get a job in the art department

Production Designers start in lower-level positions and work their way up. After graduating from college, start looking for work in the art department on movie or television productions. Common positions include Graphic Artist, Illustrator, and Set Designer.

Step 4: Build your portfolio while looking for more work

Aspiring Production Designers should add to their portfolios after each project and continuously look for more work. As you gain more experience and contacts, start looking for Production Designer positions on smaller productions, such as an independent film.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Artist

People with this personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Production Designers need a strong imagination and creativity to develop original ideas and create visually interesting designs. Due to the need to present your ideas to others, you should also have good communication skills and work well with others.

As Production Designers manage an entire department, they need good leadership skills. You should feel comfortable managing others and providing feedback when necessary. Problem-solving skills are also useful for Production Designers, as film productions often experience unexpected setbacks.

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