Begin a Career in Set Design: Information and Requirements

Set designers create plans for the sets used in film, television and theatrical productions. They work closely with directors and other designers to create a particular look and style. Many draw design plans and create small-scale models for crewmembers to work from and replicate. Most possess a bachelor's degree related to theater production and design.

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Step-By-Step Guide to a Career in Set Design

Step 1: Learn to Draw and Make Small-Scale Models

O*NET Online stated that before making an entire set, designers must create models and sketches of what the finished design might look like (www.online.onetcenter.org). Some use simple sketches, while others create three-dimensional models out of wood or cardboard. Initial design concepts come from the script, but these ideas may change based on what the director envisions. After the final set of decisions are made, the designer creates intricate scaled plans of the set and large props for crewmembers to build.

Step 2: Earn a Degree Related to Set Design

O*NET Online also indicated that most employers require a bachelor's degree for this position. Majoring in theater design and technology should provide sufficient training, but degree programs in drama or interior design may also prove useful. Coursework usually includes set design, stage management, lighting and rigging techniques. For a hands-on learning experience, many degree programs have students work as crewmembers for school theatrical productions.

Step 3: Be a Team Player

For almost any production, set designers have to work together with directors, producers, other designers and crewmembers. To do so effectively, designers must be able to communicate clearly both on paper and verbally. The ability to listen to others and immediately act on instructions also plays an important part in this career. Since most productions are on a tight schedule, set designers must manage their time effectively and create reasonable schedules for their crewmembers.

Step 4: Keep up with Industry Trends

Designers should possess strong research skills to keep track of the newest trends in design and stage technology. Some may choose to attend theater productions on a regular basis to get new ideas. Others read blogs, journals and trade magazines. Many attend design conventions to learn new trends and network with other professionals. Joining trade organizations, guilds or unions may also help individuals keep up with changes in the industry.

Step 5: Find Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that set and exhibit design jobs were predicted to grow 6% from 2012-20202, which was slower than average. Many set designers need to pursue freelance work or be self-employed, since full-time employee positions are more rare. Set and exhibit designers made a mean salary of $53,990 per year in May 2013.

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