How to become a Set Designer

Set designers research, design and supervise the construction of sets and scenery, costumes and all the visual aids required in stage, film and television productions.

Personal requirements of a Set Designer

  • Artistic flair
  • Able to combine practical and artistic skills
  • Good communication skills

Education & Training for a Set Designer

To become a set designer you usually have to complete a VET qualification in design, visual arts, live production and management services or scenery and set construction. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a set designer by completing a degree in design, visual arts, fine arts, creative arts, technical production or visual communication. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, visual arts and design are normally required. Applicants may also be required to attend an interview and submit a folio of work. Suitable industry experience (paid or voluntary) is also an advantage. A number of institutions in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. Skills can also be gained on the job through extensive experience in the industry.

Duties & Tasks of a Set Designer

Set designers may perform the following tasks:

  • produce freehand sketches, accurate scale models, plans and working drawings in consultation with the director of the production, the production manager and other creative artists
  • design sets and props, taking into consideration budget allocations and the artistic and technical requirements of the director or producer
  • supervise qualified tradespeople who construct the sets and direct set assistants on matters relating to design interpretations
  • advise on other areas of technical production such as lighting and sound.

Working conditions for a Set Designer

Set designers mostly work in large cities where the main centres of entertainment, production, training and development are located. They often work long hours.

Employment Opportunities for a Set Designer

Set designers are employed by theatre and film and television production companies, usually under contract for the duration of a particular production. They may also be self-employed and work on a freelance basis. Success in this field requires outstanding ability and artistic flair. Demand for set designers is linked to the number of films, television programs and stage shows under production at a given time, the level of government and private funding available, as well as popular trends in entertainment.

Additional Information
Each November the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) conduct interviews in most states and territories for their courses. Contact NIDA (www.nida.edu.au) or WAAPA (www.waapa.ecu.edu.au) for more information. The Queensland University of Technology and The Victorian College of the Arts usually hold interviews in November and early December. Contact VCA (http://vca.unimelb.edu.au) or QUT (www.qut.edu.au/creative-industries) for more information.
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