Being a set designer involves flexing both your creative and practical muscles. It’s not just about visualising what you want the set to look like but also being able to bring this to life with your team. Working in the theatre as a set designer today is a career path that can offer a lot of variety and plenty of opportunities for creative expression, working in different teams, and even travel. But is being a set designer a good career for you?
What does a set designer actually do?
If you’re looking at set design as a career then the first step is to understand what’s actually involved in the role. This will include:
- Reading through the script and coming up with ideas, talking concepts through with the director, and producing inspiration for visuals.
- Being able to communicate your ideas to everyone involved in the production and produce them to any scale, whether that’s small or large.
- The skill set to manage your team, from assigning individual tasks to ensuring that everyone is coming together to make a great set happen.
- Knowledge and understanding of how to build scale models, which set materials to use, the way that lighting will affect the set, as well as working to a budget.
- Willingness to research to find exactly the right historical or contemporary details for the production.
Are there any qualifications necessary to be a set designer?
Most of the training that happens for set designers takes place on the job. That’s why it’s so important to get your foot in the door with roles early on. However, you can also look at obtaining qualifications that would create useful foundations for a career in set design. These include subjects like fine art, design, interior design, 3D design, and theatre design. If you don’t want to go down the route of studying then one of the simplest ways to get started with a set design career is to begin volunteering at your local theatre so you can get that all-essential experience.
What skills and qualities make a good set designer?
- Acquiring a wide range of design skills and knowledge of how to bring designs to life.
- Being able to work well under pressure and to deadlines.
- A sound understanding of the fine arts.
- Being innovative and creative and constantly looking for new ways of doing things.
- Good communication skills so that you can effectively manage a team and work with others in the theatre.
- Having strong attention to detail and being able to focus on different perspectives.
- Working well as part of a team, whether that’s with people who are working for you or under someone else.
- At least a basic level of computer knowledge and skill so that you can integrate the tech that could help to improve your design and bring it to life.
Being a set designer can be a very fulfilling career and has lots to offer someone who has the right skill set - and a passion to be in this exciting area of bringing productions to life.
Scott Fleary are a leading designer and installer of scenery, set construction, and technical solutions for the creative industry. More information on the various Scott Fleary's services can be found here: https://www.scottfleary.com/services