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Helping you find a career as a Set designer

Set designers create sets that are used in play performances and musicals or during the production of films and TV shows. A set for use in a play could include a painted backdrop, a balcony and stage furniture. A set designer works with directors, producers, and prop and costume designers to ascertain what the set needs to look like and how it has to be put together. They will be required to read over scripts and produce models of the sets.

Set designers can be found across lots of venues and production types, including theatres, music video or film production companies, and advertising agencies.


What does a Set designer do?
A set designer supports a production’s directors and producers in creating the set and working on budgets. They are expected to read over scripts in order to understand what the project entails. A typical day for a set designer will be:

  • Delivering work to the director or producers’ brief

  • Reading scripts

  • Discussing set ideas with the director

  • Communicating your vision to costume, make-up and lighting designers

  • Researching period, current or futuristic details

  • Preparing set costs

  • Managing costs within the director/ producer budget

  • Planning

  • Attending rehearsals/ film takes

  • Sketching ideas

  • Building and photographing scale models

  • Meeting with set construction companies

  • Meeting with suppliers

  • Direct set building

Skills & interests required for a Set designer
Set designers need to be able to convert storyboard ideas into physical constructions. They have to be comfortable working both indoors and outdoors and with a number of different construction mediums. These could include stone- and brickwork, wood or canvas. Set designers will use computer-assisted design (CAD) software to visualise and complete their designs. You will often be part of a larger production team, and so will need to be able to work collaboratively with experts from different areas of the production, sharing feedback and taking on board suggestions.
- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Attention to detail
- Collaboration
- Creativity
- Detail-orientated
- Leadership
- Perseverance
- Problem Solving
- Visual Arts
What hours does a Set designer typically do?
Set designers have long working hours which could include working evenings and weekends.
What environment is a Set designer based in?
An office, film/theatre set, or a design studio.
How much does a Set designer travel?
Travel to meetings with theatre or film/ TV production companies. Overseas travel may be involved for designers working on big-budget films or TV shows. You may be expected to go on tour with the production team or work away from home.
How much does a Set designer get paid?
Set designers working in theatre can earn between £18,000 and £23,500 per annum to begin with. More senior set designers can earn significantly more than this, particularly if working on big-budget productions.
Perks & benefits
Depending on the nature of a production, you might work with famous actors and be eligible to attend premières and promotional events and parties.

You may, also, be allowed to keep props or costumes after the production - although this is not always guaranteed!
What qualifications does a Set designer need?
A relevant Higher National Diploma is often required for this role. Some employers might require you to hold a degree or diploma in 3D Design, Interior Design or Interior Architecture.

It is also worthwhile taking courses in CAD or Photoshop as this can boost your application.

Entry without a degree is possible if the applicant has years of experience under their belt and is able to demonstrate a strong creative flair.

You could also begin as a designer’s assistant, art department trainee or runner in film/ TV. Getting involved in student productions can help you network and gain contacts.
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