Set designer

 5 October 2012

Set designers work with the director and creative team to produce sets and scenery which enhance the experience of the show.

You will need to have design skills and a background in art and design.
You will need to have design skills and a background in art and design.

The challenge for a set designer is to find a visual language for the director’s vision of a play, and to cope with the sometimes complex logistics of staging.

As a set designer, you might:

  • sit in on rehearsals, sketching out designs for the set and working out a final design which conveys the message of the show in an effective way
  • sketch out scenes to see how they’ll look played out in front of your design
  • build models of your scenery designs, and produce storyboards with images showing the staging for each scene
  • create a 'Bible' for the craft workers who will build the sets and staging
  • meet regularly with the director, the lighting designer, the production manager and the costume designer, making sure everyone's ideas run along similar lines and don't clash.

Once rehearsals begin, there may well be further changes to your set to make sure it complements the staging as the actors polish their roles. 

How do I get into set design?

You will need to have design skills and a background in art and design of some kind. Art, design and technology, and IT are all useful subjects to specialise in. 

Good set design conveys the message of the show in an effective way.

In terms of further study, you might want to take a foundation art course and then complete a degree in fine art or design. Some drama schools offer BA degree courses in Design for the Stage.

After this you might have the option to study for a design diploma or postgraduate qualification in sceneography.

The Society of British Theatre Designers offers some training and advice. 


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