How to become a set designer

A set designer’s job is to create the overarching look of any given set on television, in film or in the theatre. This means that the role is a slightly unique combination of creativity and practicality, as you have to conceptualise an idea, design it and then do your best to make it a reality with the team of people around you.

The role is given a variety of different names depending on where you’re based. In film and TV the role is often known as a production designer, whereas in theatre, it can also be known as a stage designer. However, the same skill set is intrinsic to all three types of designer.

The role is one which fits inside the planning stages of a production, starting right at the conceptual planning meeting and running through right until opening night or until filming starts. You’ll have to understand the concepts of the production you’re involved in, work with your director to make sure you’re singing from the same hymn sheet, and have a good understanding of the creative sphere.

You’ll also need good delegation skills and to be a good orator, as you’ll need to convey exactly your needs to a variety of people including make-up artists, lighting and sound teams, carpenters and electricians and props technicians.

Salary & benefits

There are literally no set guidelines as to how much you can earn in the industry, because set designers work on a nearly constant freelance basis, unless they belong to a big theatre or a corporation such as the BBC.

Freelance rates can vary widely, based on your experience and your proven track record, but the best set designers are highly in demand from Hollywood and can earn tens of thousands from working on one blockbuster production that does well at the box office.

Working hours

Like most roles in the industry, working hours are about as flexible as can be depending on the projects you are undertaking and the stage that your productions are at.

Working hours can be extremely long, however, and will almost certainly involve weekend and evening work when deadlines for production dates are looming.

Entry

Most set designers begin with an arts related degree or qualification. Drama schools and several Universities have begun to offer courses in set design and more specialised branches of it, although architecture, fine art and graphic design remain stalwart pillars of the set design profession.

Training & progression

The majority of a set designer’s training would come on the job, learning from those who have lots of experience and doing their best to emulate the leading figures whilst adding an innovative twist.

As your career progresses, you would build up your portfolio with your past experiences and build your reputation through the industry and your contacts within it. You could join the Society of British Theatre Designers in order to further boost your reputation, and look at doing a postgraduate qualification in a relevant discipline.

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Working as a Set Designer

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a set designer. For example, did you know that they make an average of $24.03 an hour? That’s $49,984 a year!

What Does a Set Designer Do

There are certain skills that many set designers have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed analytical skills, artistic ability and communication skills.

When it comes to the most important skills required to be a set designer, we found that a lot of resumes listed 27.9% of set designers included set design, while 15.2% of resumes included art direction, and 12.1% of resumes included production meetings. Hard skills like these are helpful to have when it comes to performing essential job responsibilities.

When it comes to searching for a job, many search for a key term or phrase. Instead, it might be more helpful to search by industry, as you might be missing jobs that you never thought about in industries that you didn’t even think offered positions related to the set designer job title. But what industry to start with? Most set designers actually find jobs in the education and hospitality industries.

How To Become a Set Designer

If you’re interested in becoming a set designer, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We’ve determined that 60.6% of set designers have a bachelor’s degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 15.4% of set designers have master’s degrees. Even though most set designers have a college degree, it’s possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Choosing the right major is always an important step when researching how to become a set designer. When we researched the most common majors for a set designer, we found that they most commonly earn bachelor’s degree degrees or master’s degree degrees. Other degrees that we often see on set designer resumes include associate degree degrees or high school diploma degrees.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a set designer. In fact, many set designer jobs require experience in a role such as internship. Meanwhile, many set designers also have previous career experience in roles such as designer or artist.

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How to become a set designer

Set designers research, design and supervise the construction of sets and scenery, costumes and all the visual aids required in stage, film and television productions.

Personal requirements for a Set Designer

  • Artistic flair
  • Able to combine practical and artistic skills
  • Good communication skills

Education & Training for a Set Designer

To become a set designer you usually have to complete a VET qualification. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a set designer by completing a degree in design, visual arts, fine arts, creative arts, technical production or visual communication. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, visual arts and design are normally required. Applicants may also be required to attend an interview and submit a folio of work. Suitable industry experience (paid or voluntary) is also an advantage. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Set Designer

  • Produce freehand sketches, accurate scale models, plans and working drawings in consultation with the director of the production, the production manager and other creative artists
  • Design sets and props, taking into consideration budget allocations and the artistic and technical requirements of the director or producer
  • Supervise qualified tradespeople who construct the sets and direct set assistants on matters relating to design interpretations
  • Advise on other areas of technical production such as lighting and sound.

Tasks

  • Arranges objects, positions models, and selects landscapes and other visual forms according to chosen subject matter..
  • Selects artistic media, method and materials..
  • Conceives and develops ideas, designs and styles for artistic works..
  • Applies media to surfaces using appropriate techniques..

Working conditions for a Set Designer

Set designers mostly work in large cities where the main centres of entertainment, production, training and development are located. They often work long hours.

Employment Opportunities for a Set Designer

Set designers are employed by theatre and film and television production companies, usually under contract for the duration of a particular production. They may also be self-employed and work on a freelance basis. Success in this field requires outstanding ability and artistic flair. Demand for set designers is linked to the number of films, television programs and stage shows under production at a given time, the level of government and private funding available, as well as popular trends in entertainment.

Specializations

Set Designer

Set designers research, design and supervise the construction of sets and scenery, costumes and all the visual aids required in stage, film and television productions.

Set designers are experts at scene-setting for a variety of purposes. While a great deal of the job market is in the field of entertainment; there are other industries that employ the services of these trained professionals. Real estate developers, architects, hospitals, private industry, and government projects; all utilize the talents of what is referred to as set design. Spatial sensitivity, knowledge regarding functionality and artistic aesthetics are all qualities that have been developed by the successful set designer.

What Is Set Design?

Anyone who has ever watched a movie or play has most likely noticed the backgrounds and settings at some point during the performance. Oftentimes, the settings in a performance lend a certain air or feel to it. They are usually necessary to either make the performance believable or add to the story.

Set design, which is sometimes referred to as scenic design, refers to the design and creation of the sets used in works of performance art, including movies and plays. At times, designing these sets may be as simple as arranging a few simple pieces of furniture on a stage. Other times, however, it may be as complicated as recreating a complex location, such as the inside of a spaceship, with limited materials.

What Does a Set Designer Do?

A set designer is responsible for designing and creating the sets for movies and plays. Sets for each of these types of performance art are often somewhat similar, but they also have a few glaring differences.

For instance, set designers that work in traditional theaters may be a little more limited in their designs; they are often limited to the size of the stage, for example. Also, these set designers must keep in mind that the show will be performed in front of a live audience, so they must include every possible detail. Sets for plays may need to be very portable as well.

Set designers for movies and films, on the other hand, are not usually limited by much; they are often able to build much larger sets, and any small details that are left out can often be added later with a little creative editing.Whether he is creating sets for plays or movies, however, a designer will usually follow a basic procedure.

A set designer will usually start his design process by reading the script first. While reading a script, a designer will typically pay careful attention to the settings and background descriptions. This will help him get an idea of what types of sets he will need to design.

Collaborating with other members of the crew is also an important aspect of a set designer’s job. A set designer will usually discuss the sets with the director of a movie or play, in order to create settings that help create or enhance the look and feel of a production. Set designers will also usually collaborate with lighting technicians, prop masters, and carpenters, among others.

Research is another extremely important part of a set designer’s job. These professionals will often need to be excellent researchers to create realistic sets. Creating realistic sets for shows that take place in different time periods, for example, will often require extensive research, including looking at old photographs, if available. Designing sets for productions that take place during the present day may be a little easier, but research is still usually necessary. For example, in order to create a realistic set for a movie that takes place in a police station, a set designer will usually visit one or study photographs.

After a set designer has collaborated with other crew members and done his research, he will then usually make a few sketches of how he envisions each set. While doing this, most set designers will usually need to adhere to a budget. This means that the materials and labor necessary for creating each set must not cost over a certain amount. Once a director or producer approve a set designer’s sketches, he can usually begin creating and building the sets.

A simple set can often be created by arranging some props in a room or on a stage. In some instance, however, entire rooms or even houses might need to be built. For example, since it would be quite difficult – if not impossible – for a film crew to do their job inside a real airplane, an airplane set would have to be created. Sets for fantasy worlds, such as other planets, will also usually need to be created.

Set Designer Education & Training Requirements

Although it is possible for an individual to work his way up to a set design career from within a theater or production studio, individuals who are seriously interested in set design as a career should consider formal schooling.

A degree in fine art, interior decorating, or performance art could all be the beginning of a successful career in set design. Many arts and performing art schools, however, also offer studies in set design.

While studying set design, most students will also usually have the chance to get hands-on training, either by working in the school theater or participating in an internship. Creativity and ingenuity are two of the most important attributes that a set designer can have. Many times, these professionals must be able to create or build seemingly impossible sets or props with limited resources. Individuals interested in set design careers should also perform well under pressure. They will usually need to design and build sets in a short period of time. Attention to detail is also important since many times the little details add to the authenticity of a show. Drawing and communication skills are also helpful skills to have for those interested in set design as a career.

Helpful Organizations, Societies & Agencies

Related Careers in Drama and Theater

Consider these related careers in Drama and Theater.

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Working as a Stage Set Designer

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a stage set designer. For example, did you know that they make an average of $29.98 an hour? That’s $62,363 a year!

What Does a Stage Set Designer Do

There are certain skills that many stage set designers have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed analytical skills, artistic ability and communication skills.

When it comes to the most important skills required to be a stage set designer, we found that a lot of resumes listed 10.6% of stage set designers included data warehouse, while 8.5% of resumes included data models, and 8.5% of resumes included business process. Hard skills like these are helpful to have when it comes to performing essential job responsibilities.

How To Become a Stage Set Designer

If you’re interested in becoming a stage set designer, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We’ve determined that 58.1% of stage set designers have a bachelor’s degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 20.3% of stage set designers have master’s degrees. Even though most stage set designers have a college degree, it’s possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Choosing the right major is always an important step when researching how to become a stage set designer. When we researched the most common majors for a stage set designer, we found that they most commonly earn bachelor’s degree degrees or master’s degree degrees. Other degrees that we often see on stage set designer resumes include associate degree degrees or high school diploma degrees.

You may find that experience in other jobs will help you become a stage set designer. In fact, many stage set designer jobs require experience in a role such as etl developer. Meanwhile, many stage set designers also have previous career experience in roles such as sales associate or design consultant.

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we’ll match you with the right jobs to get there.

Set Designers is a professional who is apt in selecting backgrounds, lighting, props and other items to create the scenery for stage productions, films and TV shows. If we go by films like Ramlila, Jodha-Akbar and Devdas etc. it will become clear that Set Designing has been given the same importance as the acting is. Director of not only films but also TV serials gives a lot of emphases that their sets should be in confirmation with the demand of theme of their scenes. Set Designer is responsible for accomplishing this task for their Directors.

Although Actor/Actresses or Directors take whole attention/appreciation in a film if we go by the above-mentioned movies, the designer sets of these movies have got their due appreciation and important. It has made the role of Set Designer all the more important thus the demand for Set Designer has increased a lot in the entertainment industry.

To become a good Set Designer the aspiring candidates has to undergo some short-term courses and has to attain a lot of experience before plunging into this profession.

Set Designer Eligibility

Eligibility Conditions

Educational Qualification: Though no specific Educational qualification is required to be a Set Designer yet basic qualification of 10+2 is considered as good to have professional courses in this field.
Age Limits:
There is no age bar to become a Film Director.

Set Designer Required Skills

To become a successful Set Designer you should have aesthetics sense along with research skills and the ability to design a set according to the requirement of the scenes in the given budget.

Creativity, Technical Knowhow along with the ability to work as a team are the other skills required to accomplish this job in the best possible way.

Computer Skills, Design software, Computer-aided design (CAD) programs can be an asset for a Set Designer to become successful.

How to become a Set Designer?

To be a Set Designer one has to follow the given steps:

Step 1
After passing 12 class the aspiring candidate has to join some college for getting a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts. There are various private and Government institutes like L.S Raheja School of Arts that provide this degree. However, some reputed institutes with limited seats may take an aptitude test before granting admission to their institutions.

IF you are having knowledge of Interior Designing and Architecture that can be added advantage to you.

Step 2
After completion Graduation in the relevant field, One can go for Higher Education in the field like Master’s in the Fine Arts etc. or One can start his/her career by joining some Media House as an Assistant Set Designer to get some on the job experience. After getting some on job exposure one can take up his own assignment of Set Designing in an effective and successful manner.

List of Institutes for Set Designer’s Courses

Film Director Job Description

Set Designers are responsible for selecting backgrounds and lighting of the set or stage. They are also entrusted for selecting items and materials for creating the scenery for stage productions, films and TV shows. They work in tandem with Directors and Production crews to design/recreate the appearance and atmosphere of a specific time, place or location according to the script.

Experienced Set Designer specializes in specific types of sets, such as for television, movies, live theatre, trade shows or exhibits.

Communicating with other crew members like Carpenter, Electrician, Lightman, and Soundman etc. to get the best possible design for their set is another important job of Set Designers.

Set Designer Career Prospects

There are lots of opportunities for Set Designer in the Entertainment industry. Going by the flood of new serials on TV it can easily be foreseen that the demand for Set Designer in the coming time will keep on increasing. In the same way, there will be a huge demand, in fact, there is a huge demand for Set Designer in Film industry too. These professionals can also find work with various event management companies who are in great demand in domestic as well as corporate circles.

Set Designer Salary

The income/Salary of a Set Designer is entirely dependent upon the type of work he gets. It also depends upon the financial condition of the Media/Production house you are working for. But it is quite sure that you will start getting handsome salary once you have got some on the job experience.

However, if we talk it in numbers Set Designer’s pay package can vary from Rs.5,00,000 per month to Rs.50,000 for even a single assignment. With required creative skills, the power to work independently and creating what is liked by all can get you as per your desires and demands.

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How to become a set designer

In theatre, television, and film productions, the stage or set is often, though not always, transformed through a variety of changes to create the setting against which a play, musical, or opera is enacted. The two people most responsible for how things look on the stage are the lighting designer, who is responsible for all of the illumination, and the set designer, who is responsible for the scenery, props, and furniture that appear on the stage. One can train to become a set designer through a university degree program, but it is necessary to augment this with practical experience in order to get jobs.

To become a set designer, it is usually wise to complete a relevant bachelor’s degree, such as a B.A. or B.F.A. in Theatre Production, Technical Theatre, Costume and Scene Design, Theatre Arts, or Theatre Design and Technology, depending on the college or university. As an undergraduate, you are likely to encounter a pre-professional curriculum that includes aspects of set design such as drawing, rendering, drafting, construction, and stagecraft. Theatre history, dramatic repertoire, dramatic theory, acting, and costume design and lighting, may all be included. The managerial aspects of theatre and the integration of the engineering elements of scene design with the artistic goals of the production may also be treated.

Besides academic training, experience in the industry is important. This can start as a teen helping on sets for school productions and local community theatre productions. The earlier you start, and the more you volunteer and learn, the more likely that you will have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of relevant set design activity.

In addition to specific training and experience, there are certain personal qualities and talents or character traits that, if not absolutely required, are certainly extremely important to become a set designer. The ability to solve complex problems in transforming the artistic director’s or the director’s vision into a workable set that stays within budget is one example. Others are visualization — the ability to imagine how things would be if something changes, excellent communication skills, and working both independently and as a part of a team.

The motion picture and video industries are the largest employers of set designers, followed by performing arts companies. California is the place in which most are employed, followed by New York. In addition, unions are important in the motion picture and video industries Therefore, to become a set designer, choosing to live in one of the places in which you are likely to be hired and also join a union.

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

How to become a set designerMary Elizabeth

A set designer is responsible for constructing the sets in film, television, and theater. Sets are one of the ways that a designer can visually communicate what the movie or play is about. Becoming a set designer is a great way to channel your creative energy. You will have the ability to see your designs come to life and make an impact in the entertainment world. Millions of people will be entertained because of the sets that you create. If you are fortunate, you may be able to network with famous people in your industry, such as directors, producers, and actors.

Many people watch films or television and wonder who creates those amazing scenes – that would be a set designer. Set designers spend the day in their office or on location, using the tools necessary to design the perfect set. Designers may have a background in architecture, interior design, fine art, or production. Set design requires a lot of artistic ability, because you are going to be drawing sketches of sets. This career field also requires mathematical skills, because you are going to need to be taking measurements, scaling everything to size, and building your sets.

Networking is important if you want to become a set designer. Many people who are set designers got their start by meeting the right people in the industry. There are many people who want to be involved in the entertainment industry, and it is important to do the hard work necessary to set yourself apart. If you have the determination and passion, as well as the skills, becoming a set designer could be a great choice for you.

Why Become A Set Designer

This is a great career field for people with an artistic talent who would like to get involved in the entertainment industry. This is not an easy field to break into, but with determination and hard work, many set designers can find work in this industry.

A Set Designer should possess the following qualities and skills:

  • Artistic
  • Technical
  • Detail Oriented
  • Visual
  • Innovative
  • Creative
  • Aesthetics
  • Teamwork
  • Networking

Set Designer Work Environment

How to become a set designer

A set designer is needed in many different places. They may work in a film studio, a television studio, or in a theater. Sometimes a set designer is needed on location. They will work as part of a team to help conceptualize the set being built. A set designer often travels from one place to another.
Set designers work long hours. Many work ten or more hours a day, helping to design sets. Some designers may spend eight or more hours drafting a set, either on paper or using computer technology. It takes many hours of labor to put a set together, and set designers put in a lot of time to crafting their sets perfectly.

Set Designer Salary

According to the United States Bureau for Labor Statistics, the median salary for set designers was $53,000 in 2016. Salary may vary due to a number of different factors, such as education, experience, location, industry, and more.

Average Set Designer Annual Salary

The average annual salary for set designers is $59,590 a year. Salaries start at $29,010 a year and go up to $98,470 a year.

Average Set Designer Hourly Wage

The average hourly wage for a set designer is $28.65. Hourly wages are between $13.95 and $47.34 an hour.

Stats were based out of 11,490 employed set designers in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Set Designers

  • 1. New York $36.98 / hr $76,920 / yr
  • 2. Oregon $35.81 / hr $74,490 / yr
  • 3. District of Columbia $35.25 / hr $73,330 / yr
  • 4. Connecticut $32.45 / hr $67,490 / yr
  • 5. California $30.01 / hr $62,430 / yr

Top Paying Cities For Set Designers

  • 1. New York, NY $37.64 / hr $78,280 / yr
  • 2. Portland, OR $36.76 / hr $76,470 / yr
  • 3. San Francisco, CA $36.45 / hr $75,810 / yr
  • 4. Los Angeles, CA $31.61 / hr $65,740 / yr
  • 5. Washington, DC $31.08 / hr $64,650 / yr

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Set Designer Career Outlook

There are certain areas of the United States where set designers may be better able to find employment opportunities. Los Angeles and New York City both have large entertainment industries; in these metropolitan areas, there will be more positions available for set designers. A person looking to go into set design will not have much luck in a small, rural town.

According to the United States Bureau for Labor Statistics, there is expected to be a five percent growth rate for jobs in set design from 2014 to 2024, which is average compared to other industries.

Set Designer Degree

A person who wishes to go into set design must have the proper education, experience, a strong skillset, and have connections to the entertainment industry.

Step One: Undergraduate Degree If possible, attend college in a large city such as New York City or Los Angeles, where you will be in close proximity to people who are involved in movies and television. Enroll in a program such as set design, interior design, fine art, theater, architecture, or a related field. You will want to take classes where you will be given opportunities to learning about drafting, rendering, lighting and sound. Art classes are important to take, as well as math classes and computer design classes. Make sure that you get trained in the programs set designers use: AutoCAD, SketchUp, Maya, Photoshop, Illustrator, VectorWorks, and more.

Step Two: Internships Apply for an internship during the summer at either a film or television studio or theater – whichever area of the industry you are interested in. This is an important way to network with people in the entertainment world and show them your capabilities. Interning is your first step to landing a job once you graduate from college.

Step Three: Portfolio As you gain experiences in the field of set design, be sure to build a portfolio. This is something that you can have on your own personal website, or a physical portfolio you can take to interviews to show hiring managers the work that you have done. It is always a good idea to keep track of your work so that you can look back on it.