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How to Become a Set Designer

By The Arty Teacher - December 5, 1989

What is a Set Designer?

A set designer (or scenic designer) is the person who designs and creates the visible space, including scenery, props, and furniture, for theatrical, film, or television productions. They aim to create the right atmosphere to help tell the story.

What Skills does a Set Designer need?

To become a set designer, you’ll need to have a great imagination, be creative in designing and building the scenery for plays or movies, and enjoy bringing the world of the story to life on the stage or screen.

What Qualification Will You Need?

A set designer typically needs a bachelor’s degree in theater or film. This will provide an education in design principles and technical aspects of production. Essential skills include being artistic, learning design software, and being good at making things. Work experience is valuable, along with strong communication and collaboration skills. A portfolio showcasing a range of past projects is the best way to show your experience and skills.

Different Types of Set Designer

There are different types of set designers, each specialising in various forms of entertainment and production. Some common types include:

  1. Theatre Set Designer: Specialises in designing sets for live theatrical productions, considering the spatial and visual requirements of the stage.
  2. Film Set Designer: Designs sets for movies, considering the needs of the camera and the visual requirements of the film.
  3. Television Set Designer: Focuses on creating sets for television productions, accounting for the specific needs of TV broadcasting.
  4. Event Set Designer: Designs sets for live events, conferences, exhibitions, or other special occasions where a temporary set is required.
  5. Virtual Set Designer: Designs digital sets or backgrounds for virtual or augmented reality productions.

What Can You do to Build a CV to become a Set Designer?

If you are interested in becomeing a set designer, you can start building a relevant CV whilst still at school. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Opt for Art & Theatre: Choose relevant courses such as art, theater, or film to build a strong educational foundation.
  2. Participate in School Productions: Get involved in school theater productions or film projects to gain hands-on experience in set design.
  3. Artistic Skills Development: Hone artistic skills, including drawing, painting, and model-making, to improve your skills.
  4. Use Design Software: Familiarise yourself with design software commonly used in the industry, such as AutoCAD or 3D modeling programs.
  5. Internships or Apprenticeships: Seek internships or apprenticeships with local theaters, film production companies, or set design studios for practical experience.
  6. Build a Portfolio: Create a portfolio showcasing set design projects, including drawings, models, and photos of completed work.
  7. Participate in Design Competitions: Enter design competitions to showcase creativity and gain recognition in the field.
  8. Networking: Attend local theater events, film screenings, or workshops to connect with professionals and learn more about the industry.
  9. Explore Different Styles: Experiment with designing sets in various styles, genres, and time periods to broaden your versatility.
  10. Join Drama or Film Clubs: Participate in drama or film clubs at school to collaborate with peers and gain additional experience.
  11. Seek Guidance: Connect with teachers or professionals in the field for advice, mentorship, and guidance.

If the above list seems overwhelming long, start by picking a couple of things and then come back to this list when you are ready.

Learn more about Art Careers.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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