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Hi I'm Emily Maguire

I'm a UK career coach and business coach for individuals in the creative and entertainment industries and passionate about helping people achieve their career goals. I'm also a top voice on LinkedIn for the Film Industry and a podcast producer and host.

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Emily Maguire UK Career Coach and Business Coach for the arts, creative and entertainment industry

Become a Set Designer: Crafting Visual Worlds for Film and TV

Updated: May 27

Interested in creating captivating sets and becoming a set designer for theatre, TV and film? Then this article is perfect for you. We'll explore a typical day, the type of skills and potential training routes. Finally, we'll explore some closely related careers just in case you decide set design isn't quite the role for you.

Become a Set Designer: Crafting Visual Worlds for Film and TV

Table of Contents


1. So, You Want to be a Set Designer?

A set designer collaborates with the director, production team, and other designers to create the physical surroundings for theatrical or cinematic productions. To become a set designer, one should gain a strong foundation in the arts through education or practical experience. 

Developing skills in design and construction, including learning CAD software, is also important. Networking through industry events and collaborating with others can help build a portfolio and gain exposure to potential employers.

If you need help writing your CV, see my blog posts on creating a CV for TV and Media jobs.

2. Set Design Job Description

A set designer is responsible for creating the visual world of a play, movie, or TV show. They work with directors, producers, and other designers to develop a design concept that meets the production's needs and vision. To become a set designer, you must have a strong foundation in design principles and techniques. You'll need to learn about colour theory, composition, and space, as well as gain an understanding of the technical aspects of design.

3. Set Designer Salary

What can you expect to earn as a Set Designer?

The UK average salary is £33,148, but it varies depending on experience, production size, type, and company.

TV and Media Jobs: Skills and Qualities

4. TV and Media Jobs: Skills and Qualities

Still interested but unsure if you have the right skills and qualities?

Set Designers should have the skills and qualities of:

  • Being organised, self-motivated and resourceful.

  • Having good stamina, resilience and adaptability.

  • Design skills and manual dexterity.

  • Ability to plan and research.

  • Creative and critical thinking.

  • Good at networking and communicating.

  • Teamwork and attention to detail. 

  • The ability to problem solve and think outside of the box.

5. Useful Subjects

Below are some of the subjects that could be helpful.

  • Architecture

  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)

  • English

  • Film Studies

  • Fine Arts

  • Graphic Design

  • Interior Design

  • Marketing

  • Maths

  • Performing Arts

  • Photography

  • Theatre Production

6. Day-to-Day Responsibilities

A typical day-to-day working on set as a set designer may involve:

  • Reading scripts, researching, and communicating ideas to the production team, including the director, producer, costume, and lighting departments.

  • Sketch and provide design ideas, and build and photograph scale models that are in keeping with the production's narrative.

  • Checking sets during filming and rehearsals, making any changes needed, like lighting and scene changes.

  • Budgeting: plan, monitor and work out costs and schedules.

7. Where to Find More Information

Still interested in being a set designer? Here are some places to find more details about the role.

8. Related Careers

Are you curious about other TV and film job roles in the media industry? Have you considered any of the following?

  • Exhibition Designer: You'll be responsible for designing and creating immersive and engaging exhibition spaces that showcase artwork, artefacts, or any other items of interest to the public. You'll work closely with curators, artists, and other stakeholders to bring a cohesive vision to life within a physical space using a mix of skills, including creativity and storytelling. You'll also select the right lighting, colours, and materials to create visually appealing exhibitions and enhance the viewer's overall experience.

  • Production Buyer: You'll ensure that the necessary components are available in the right quantities and of the right quality to meet production schedules. Working closely with various departments, such as production, planning, and logistics, to coordinate the procurement process effectively. This means you will need a keen eye for detail, strong analytical skills, and excellent negotiation abilities to secure the best deals for the company and be adaptable to changing circumstances to ensure smooth operations.

  • Stage Manager: You'll oversee all aspects of a theatrical performance, from rehearsals to the actual show, liaising between the director, cast, crew, and production team, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that the production runs smoothly. You'll coordinate with the technical team to ensure that lighting, sound, and other technical elements are executed correctly during the performance and rehearsals, keep track of the progress and help organise the crew and actors' schedules.

I hope this gave you a better understanding of what it takes to become a set designer. If you want to stay updated with the latest industry news and job opportunities, make sure to follow me on LinkedIn. If you are interested in watching some videos and discovering more creative careers, then you may enjoy my career resources, which can be found here.

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