What Do Set Designers Do

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

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

The Set Designer is responsible for designing and creating sets for television, film, or theater productions. They are part of the art and design department.

Set Designers work closely with the Director and Production Designer to achieve a specific look for the set. They also collaborate with Graphic Artists and Illustrators to develop concept art or original graphic elements for the production.

The Set Designer is involved in the production process from the start. They read scripts and then produce detailed plans for the design of the sets.



Set Designers

Set Designers design the sets that are used for film, television, or theater productions. They communicate with the Director and other creative artists involved in the production to design a set that meets the needs of the script.

Salary: $52000
Personality: The Artist

What they do

Set Designers design the sets that are used for film, television, or theater productions. They communicate with the Director and other creative artists involved in the production to design a set that meets the needs of the script.

Read the script to understand the visual style of the production

The Set Designer often receives access to the script during the pre-production stage. They read the script to gain a better sense of the material that they are working with. Set Designers may read a script multiple times while starting to compile a list of things needed for each scene.

In some cases, the Set Designer may receive notes from the Production Designer or Director before reading the script. They may provide their preferences for scenery, props, or the furnishings used for a scene.

Collaborate with the creative team behind the production

After reading the script, the Set Designer typically meets with the Director and Production Designer to develop the visual concepts for the production. The Production Designer may already have sketches and models to give the Set Designer a clearer idea of the visual style. The Art Director, who is the leader of the art/design department, may also relay information between the Production Designer and the Set Designer.

Other members of this collaborative process include the Graphic Artists and Illustrators. The Set Designer may provide Illustrators with their initial set designs, allowing the Illustrators to paint or draw key concept art.

Produce plans or drawings of the sets needed for the production

The Set Designer produces plans, sketches, and models of the set designs. They use the input from the Art Director, Production Designer, and Director to create plans for each set. The set designs may include a mixture of rough sketches and detailed blueprints for structures and locations.

When a scene requires an interior location, the Set Designer may draw floor plans. The floor plans are typically drawn to scale and provide a layout for each set. The “sets” team uses these plans to determine the placement of furniture and props.

The scope of the plans depends on the size of the production. When working in theatre, Set Designers may only design a single set for the stage.

Film and television productions often involve multiple sets. The size of the sets may also be much larger compared to a theatre stage, giving Set Designers more freedom to develop elaborate designs.

Create a detailed list of the required set dressings

After producing the plans for the set designs, the Set Designer creates an extensive list of the required items. This includes props, furniture, and scenery.

The Set Designer is also often responsible for estimating the costs of the designs. After creating a list for the set designs, the Set Designer tallies the cost of the items to create an estimate. Depending on the budget for the production, the Set Designer may need to scale back some of the design elements to reduce costs.

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What is the job like

Pros

You get to express your creativity when designing sets

While Set Designers need strong technical skills, they also get to use their creativity, which can make this job more rewarding and entertaining.

Your designs can influence the look of a film or television show

The sets that you design directly influence the overall tone of the production, allowing you to leave your mark on a film or television show.

Your job allows you to work with a diverse range of people

You are likely to work with a diverse range of people, helping you expand your creativity and develop new ideas.

You may get to work on projects in other countries

Set Designers remain employed during principal photography, which may provide the opportunity to visit other countries.

Cons

People may not recognize your hard work

Set Designers rarely receive industry recognition for their work on film or television projects, which may discourage some individuals.

Your collaborators may not appreciate your ideas

Set Designers may occasionally work with individuals that do not share the same vision for a project. The differences of opinions can be frustrating.


Where they work

Film Studios
Advertising Firms
Theatre Companies
Festival Organizers


The Art Director or Production Designer often hires the Set Designer for film or television productions. Set Designers are often employed by film studios. They may also find employment with theatre companies.

Advertising firms also employ Set Designers. As with a film or television production, commercials often require the design of original sets.

Other potential employers include music tour producers, festival organizers, and event coordinators. Set Designers may design outdoor staging for music events.

How to become one

Step 1: Develop your design skills in high school

Aspiring Set Designers should practice graphic design in high school. Take art classes and look for online resources on set design or graphic design.

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

Many Set Designers have an arts-related degree. Some of the most common fields of study include Interior Design, 3D Design, Fine Art, and Architecture.

Step 3: Look for work in local theatre productions

Getting involved in large film, television, or theatre productions require experience. Start your career by working on local theatre productions, even if you need to start as a Prop Maker or an assistant to a Designer.

Step 4: Gradually look for bigger projects

After working in the local theatre scene, try looking for work on small projects, such as independent films. With each project, you should gain additional experience and material for a portfolio. Leverage your experience and portfolio to continually take on bigger projects.

Should you become one

Best personality for this career
The Artist

You can read more about these career personality types here.

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.

Set Designers require creativity, as their job depends on their ability to create designs for film or television sets. Set Designers also need to work well with others, due to the collaborative aspect of filmmaking.

The long hours that Set Designers spend working on a project require patience and the ability to handle stress well. You may occasionally work overtime or need to travel long distances for work, which can add to the stress of the job. Those with even temperament are less likely to become overstressed.

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


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