What does a Set Designer do?

A Set Designer creates the look of a set for a theatre production. Their role is a combination of creativity and practicality as they must create not only the design but also make it come to life alongside a team.

You can search for roles in set design using The Stage Jobs here.

What are the main responsibilities of a Set Designer?

  • Read through the script and work with the Director to create a concept for the production. A concept includes your rough ideas of what you think it should look like
  • Communicating your ideas to costume, make-up, props and lighting departments
  • Have a creative vision and able to create sets from small scale to large scale
  • Building and photographing scale models
  • Arrange your team and give them all individual tasks to ensure you and your team are all working together to create a great set
  • Have a knowledge of set materials which can be used to create certain aspects of the set
  • Working out problems like lighting and scene changes
  • Researching historical, contemporary, futuristic details to get the right look for the production
  • Creating effective designs within the available budget
  • Sketching design ideas to produce a storyboard

Search through our opportunities in set design and other backstage roles available. 

What qualifications do I need to be a Set Designer?

A majority of Set Designers training will take place on the job. You can also gain a position as a Set Designer through a university course, college course, apprenticeship or working towards the role. If you would like to study to become a Set Designer you can study for a qualification in one of the following areas and this can make you a desirable candidate. You can gain a qualification in any of the following subjects:

  • Design
  • Fine art
  • Interior design
  • 3D design
  • Lighting
  • Theatre design

Take a look at our apprenticeships and how they can help you here.

Ensure you keep a portfolio of all of your previous work to show to potential employers. Read our blog, ‘How to make a set design portfolio’ for some tips on how to best display your work. 

What skills do I need to be a Set Designer?

  • Knowledge of the fine arts
  • Design skills and knowledge
  • Attention to detail
  • Initiative
  • Work well in a team
  • Create new ways of doing things
  • Work well under pressure
  • Excellent verbal communication
  • Basic computer skills

What does a career in Set Design look like?

If you choose not to study and gain a job through experience, volunteer at your local theatre or try and get a work experience placement at a slightly larger theatre. With more experience and developing your skills you can work on larger scale productions in the West End. 

 Watch this great video from award-winning Set Designer Khadija Raza. 

How much does a Set Designer earn?

There aren’t any set guidelines as the role of a Set Designer can vary depending on the scale of the production as well as the actual size of the theatre. Most Set Designers work on a freelance basis unless they belong to a big theatre which is constantly creating new productions. 

Find all careers advice here.




Photo: Shutterstock

Published: 27 August 2019


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