TV/film/theatre set designer: job description

Set designers are responsible for creating sets for use in the production of films, television programmes, and performances of plays and musicals
Sometimes set designers take on responsibility for the entire visual aesthetic of a performance as 'production designers'

What does a set designer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

A set designer is in charge of designing and creating the sets that appear in films, on television programmes as well as in the theatre. The role involves working and communicating with directors, producers, costume designers and other members of staff.  

Typical responsibilities include:

  • reading scripts
  • producing plans, drawings and models of sets
  • preparing estimates of set costs
  • managing budgets
  • viewing possible outside broadcast sites
  • planning
  • attending rehearsals/film takes
  • meeting with and commissioning set construction companies

Typical employers of set designers

  • Theatres
  • Film and video production companies
  • Terrestrial, satellite, digital, cable and independent television companies
  • Advertising agencies
  • Music video production companies

Experienced designers (particularly film set designers) commonly work on a self-employed/freelance basis.

Vacancies are advertised via the internet, in national newspapers and in specialist publications including The Stage newspaper, Broadcast, The Knowledge, Ariel (for BBC jobs) and Screen International as well as their online equivalents.

Qualifications and training required

Employers will prefer candidates with degrees in theatre studies, creative or performing arts, drama, fine or visual arts, graphic or 3D design, illustration, architecture and landscape architecture. However, the ability to demonstrate a genuine interest in, knowledge or experience of visual arts, culture and television, film or theatre is essential, and often more important than academic qualifications.

Job shadowing and unpaid/vacation work experience can be helpful. It is essential to make speculative applications - directories such as the British Theatre Directory, Kemps Film, TV and Video Yearbook, Broadcast Production Guide, Kays UK Production Directory, the Guardian Media Guide, and Spotlight Contacts contain useful contact information.

Key skills

  • Stamina
  • Creativity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Determination
  • Perseverance
  • Imaginative
  • Adaptability
  • Working well under pressure
  • Good spatial awareness
  • Technical skills