What Does A Set and Exhibit Designer Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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

Set and Exhibit Designers

Set and Exhibit Designers design special exhibits and sets for film, video, television, and theater productions. May study scripts, confer with directors, and conduct research to determine appropriate architectural styles.

Salary
$64610
Becoming One
Very Hard
Education
Bachelor's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





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

What they do

Set and Exhibit Designers design special exhibits and sets for film, video, television, and theater productions. May study scripts, confer with directors, and conduct research to determine appropriate architectural styles.

  • Prepare rough drafts and scale working drawings of sets, including floor plans, scenery, and properties to be constructed.
  • Read scripts to determine location, set, and design requirements.
  • Develop set designs, based on evaluation of scripts, budgets, research information, and available locations.
  • Attend rehearsals and production meetings to obtain and share information related to sets.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Set and Exhibit Designers direct and coordinate construction, erection, or decoration activities to ensure that sets or exhibits meet design, budget, and schedule requirements. They develop set designs, based on evaluation of scripts, budgets, research information, and available locations.

  • Assign staff to complete design ideas and prepare sketches, illustrations, and detailed drawings of sets, or graphics and animation.
  • Design and produce displays and materials that can be used to decorate windows, interior displays, or event locations, such as streets and fairgrounds.
  • Inspect installed exhibits for conformance to specifications and satisfactory operation of special effects components.
  • Examine objects to be included in exhibits to plan where and how to display them.
  • Observe sets during rehearsals in order to ensure that set elements do not interfere with performance aspects such as cast movement and camera angles.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Set and Exhibit Designers also attend rehearsals and production meetings to obtain and share information related to sets. They may also select and purchase lumber and hardware necessary for set construction.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Set and Exhibit Designers design and build scale models of set designs or miniature sets used in filming backgrounds or special effects. They might also observe sets during rehearsals in order to ensure that set elements do not interfere with performance aspects such as cast movement and camera angles.

In addition, they acquire or arrange for the acquisition of, specimens or graphics required to complete exhibits.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them research architectural and stylistic elements appropriate to the time period to be depicted, consulting experts for information, as necessary.

To some Set and Exhibit Designers, it is also their responsibility to estimate set- or exhibit-related costs, including materials, construction, and rental of props or locations.

Freedom to make decisions

How much decision making freedom does this job offer?

No freedom
4%

Very little freedom
4%

Limited freedom
9%

Some freedom
48%

A lot of freedom
35%

Structured vs unstructured work

To what extent is this job structured for you versus allowing you to determine your own tasks, priorities, and goals?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
9%

Limited freedom
9%

Some freedom
39%

A lot of freedom
43%


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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Average

76% said they were satisfied with their job and 54% said they found their job meaningful.


Laura Vargas

My name is Laura Vargas, I’m a freelance set designer in the American film and TV industry.

My job title is set designer, although it can change depending on the scale of the production. If it’s a small one it’ll normally be an art director or production designer, who is the person in charge of the overall look of the production, coordinates with the director and the rest of the department heads, designs the sets and it’s in charge of the art department, oversees the construction and set dressing process.

If it’s a bigger production sometimes I’ll be a set dresser or prop master, and I’ll be on set making sure it looks as it was initially designed and that the props (objects used by actors) have continuity in all the scenes.

My typical day

A typical day of work: no day in the film industry is the same, that’s the fun of it. Before a shooting, if I’m the production designer, I’ll spend around two months or more designing, planning, and building the set.

When production starts, a typical day for the art department would normally start at least a couple of hours before the general crew call time, so that we have time to prep the set, move furniture, decoration, and have all the props on time. Then when the shoot starts, there has to be on set dressers who reset props or elements on the set being used in each scene, and that generally make sure everything keeps looking good and is on call in case the director or cinematographer need anything moved or changed. When the shooting is done, most of the time the art department needs to break down the sets, return everything that was rented, and coordinate logistics for the next set.

Pros

Every day is different. It is very fun getting to work on sets with different themes and eras. While being on set you learn a lot from different crafts, you meet very interesting people all the time. Seeing the sets on the screen, when the film or series is finally released, is very satisfactory.

Cons

As it is mainly a freelance job, it doesn’t offer complete stability. Really long hours on set or locations with unpredictable weather, you have to be prepared for anything.


Pros

Suitable for people who like to work with designs.

Suitable for people who value achievements and are results-oriented.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

Good salary (earns more than 50% of the careers out there).

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

It is very hard to get into this career. Extensive skills, knowledge, and experience are required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$64610 per year

Average hourly wage

$31 per hour

Entry-level Set and Exhibit Designers with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $30,180 to $38,790 per year or $15 to $19 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $106,230 $51
Senior (Top 25%) $82,780 $40
Median $58,180 $28
Junior (Bottom 25%) $38,790 $19
No experience (Bottom 10%) $30,180 $15

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Set and Exhibit Designers based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Business, Professional, Labor, Political, and Similar Organizations $85400 $41.06
Federal Executive Branch $80480 $38.69
Motion Picture and Video Industries $75850 $36.47
Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers $62710 $30.15
Radio and Television Broadcasting $62180 $29.89
Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services $60070 $28.88
Amusement Parks and Arcades $59160 $28.44
Specialized Design Services $58090 $27.93
Performing Arts Companies $56500 $27.17
Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services $56430 $27.13

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Set and Exhibit Designers work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Set and Exhibit Designers including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Motion Picture and Video Industries 4800 $75850 $36.47
Performing Arts Companies 1090 $56500 $27.17
Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions 800 $54570 $26.24
Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers 520 $62710 $30.15
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 400 $53880 $25.90
Local Government 370 $51040 $24.54
Other Support Services 350 $54190 $26.05
Federal Executive Branch 280 $80480 $38.69
Specialized Design Services 240 $58090 $27.93
Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services 230 $51330 $24.68

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
0%

40 hours
36%

More than 40 hours
64%

Working schedule

35%

61%

4%

Work with group or team

How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
0%

Important
4%

Very important
26%

Extremely important
70%

Deal with external customers

How important is it to work with customers in this job?

Not important at all
14%

Fairly important
50%

Important
14%

Very important
9%

Extremely important
14%

Manage or lead others

How important is it to coordinate or lead others in completing work activities in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
4%

Important
35%

Very important
26%

Extremely important
35%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
17%

Every day
83%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
48%

Every day
48%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
35%

Every day
61%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
9%

Once a year
22%

Once a month
48%

Once a week
17%

Every day
4%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
0%

Once a year
26%

Once a month
48%

Once a week
26%

Every day
0%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
5%

Once a year
64%

Once a month
32%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
73%

Once a year
27%

Once a month
0%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
0%

Slightly competitive
0%

Moderately competitive
39%

Highly competitive
43%

Extremely competitive
17%

Repetition in this job

How important is repeating the same type of task over and over in this job?

Not important at all
39%

Fairly important
13%

Important
35%

Very Important
4%

Extremely Important
9%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
4%

Minor impact
9%

Moderate impact
35%

Important impact
43%

Very important impact
9%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
4%

Once a year
39%

Once a month
30%

Once a week
4%

Every day
22%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
4%

Limited responsibility
17%

Moderate responsibility
39%

High responsibility
26%

Very high responsibility
13%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
0%

Limited responsibility
9%

Moderate responsibility
30%

High responsibility
48%

Very high responsibility
13%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
0%

Once a year or more
5%

Once a month or more
9%

Once a week or more
5%

Every day
82%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
13%

Once a year or more
39%

Once a month or more
39%

Once a week or more
9%

Every day
0%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
22%

Once a year or more
61%

Once a month or more
13%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
4%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
30%

Once a year or more
43%

Once a month or more
22%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
4%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Very Hard
You will need an extensive amount of skill, knowledge, and experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require graduate school and more than five years of experience. These careers usually involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Similar careers include Pharmacists, Lawyers, Astronomers, Neurologists, and Veterinarians.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
4%

Associate’s Degree or similar
4%

Bachelor’s Degree
39%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
9%

Master’s Degree
26%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
13%

Doctoral Degree
4%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
0%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
5%

3 to 6 months
0%

6 months to 1 year
0%

1 to 2 years
14%

2 to 4 years
59%

4 to 6 years
23%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
27%

1 month
27%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
18%

6 months to 1 year
0%

1 to 2 years
14%

2 to 4 years
9%

4 to 10 years
5%

Over 10 years
0%

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.

The Builder
71%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
43%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
100%

People with The Artist 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.


The Helper
29%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
48%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
33%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with forms, designs, and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

They also like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
81%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
67%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
52%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
48%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
52%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
71%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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