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

Typical responsibilities include:

  • reading scripts
  • producing plans, drawings and models of sets
  • preparing estimates of set costs
  • liaising with directors, producers, costume designers and lighting/sound staff etc
  • 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 (particularly The Guardian) and in specialist publications including The Stage newspaper, Broadcast, The Knowledge, Ariel (for BBC jobs) and Screen International.

Qualifications and training required

Employers prefer candidates with qualifications 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
  • enthusiasm
  • determination
  • perseverance
  • imaginative
  • adaptability
  • working well under pressure
  • good spatial awareness
  • technical skills.