Set designers plan, prepare, design and lay out sets for movie, television and theatre productions. They study scripts and budgets to determine what kind of set is required, including location, floor plans and design elements such as props and furniture.
Set designers work with directors, actors and lighting and sound crew to coordinate set designs. These professionals are also required to create rough drafts and working drawings of sets as well as attend rehearsals and production meetings.
- Plan, prepare and lay out sets for movie, television and theatre productions
- Create and design rough drafts and working drawings of sets
- Study scripts and budgets to determine set location, elements and floor plans
- Work with directors, actors, and lighting and sound crew
- Attend rehearsals and production meetings
- Research architectural and stylistic elements suitable for the production
- Choose props and furniture for set
- Build and photograph scale models
Skills and qualities
Most set designers build up their portfolios, establish a range of contacts and increase their reputation throughout the industry before advancing to larger and more prestigious film, TV and theatre productions.
Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally
Set designers work in both indoor and outdoor environments of movie, television and theatre sets. The job involves a lot of teamwork, planning and communicating ideas with members of staff such as directors, lighting and sound crew, art directors, costume designers, and makeup artists.
Some set designers spend time in an office, while others also travel a lot to attend meetings with theatres, or film/TV production companies.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
Bachelor’s degree in set or stage design
Set designers typically require a bachelor’s degree in set or stage design, or a related field such as architecture, fine art or graphic design.
Most training is provided on the job, though hiring managers prefer candidates who have previous work experience in a similar role (such as being part of a production team) or have participated in internships or apprenticeships with motion picture companies or theatres.
Joining particular groups such as the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) or the Set Decorators Society of America (SDSA) may also prove useful.
SourcesInternational Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) Bureau of Labor Statistics O*NET OnLine Oxford Martin School Set Decorators Society of America (SDSA)
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022