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Set designer

Set designers design and create the setting for a television, theatre or film production.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll usually need an HND or degree in a relevant subject, like architecture, fine art, interior design or 3D design.

You could start as a designer’s assistant, art department trainee or a runner in film or TV and work your way up.

A DVD or online portfolio showcasing sets you've designed for amateur theatre, school plays or films would be useful.

Creative Skillset has more information on relevant courses and becoming a set designer.

 

2. Skills required

You'll need

  • creativity and imagination
  • strong practical skills like drawing and 3D model making
  • excellent attention to detail
  • the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
  • research skills

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • studying scripts and discussing ideas with the director
  • communicating your ideas to costume, make-up, props and lighting designers
  • working out problems like lighting and scene changes
  • researching historical, contemporary or futuristic details to get the right look for the production
  • creating effective designs within the available budget
  • sketching design ideas to produce a storyboard
  • building and photographing scale models

4. Salary

Starter: £200 to £500 a day (runner)

Experienced: £600 to £1000 a day (junior draftsperson)

Highly Experienced: £1000 to £3000 a day (working on high profile productions)

Most set designers work on a freelance basis. Freelance rates can vary widely based on the type of production and your track record.  

The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) can give you advice on pay rates.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your working hours could be long and include evening and weekend work.

You’ll work in a studio, an office or from home. You may also travel to attend meetings with theatres or film and TV production companies.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could work on larger and more prestigious film, TV and theatre productions.

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Last updated: 21 December 2016