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What does a Set Designer do?

Are you mystified by the background and settings of the movies that are so lifelike they practically jump from the screen? Do you have a flare for presentation and an eye for detail? Then set designing might be a great career path for you.

Set designers work in the entertainment industry, designing scenery and backgrounds for motion pictures and plays. You often work closely with producers, directors, costume designers, and lighting specialists to create the appropriate feel for each particular scene in the chosen medium. You get to establish the physical world that the audience sees and bring that world to life.

Key components for your pallet

In order to be a set designer, one of the first skills required is strong communication, verbal and written. In addition, the ability to work as a team member, solve problems quickly, think on your feet, use computer skills, and research for authenticity are very useful. Often set designers start at the bottom and work their way up, which means starting by working under a leader on small projects and moving up to being the leader in control of how the entire set is designed. There are specialty schools for which you can receive this training, but it is not always required. Some of the following skills may prove very helpful:
  • Planning
  • Carpentry
  • Electrical engineering
  • Painting
  • Graphic Design
  • Artistry
You often start with a sketch of the idea and end with the completed product. Of course, you may not need all of these skills, you may often work on a team where you will have one of the necessary skills to complete the job. Creativity and patience are valued assets as well.

The designer's path

Set designers have a variety of career options from which to choose. You can use one skill and be specialized at it, such as painting or carpentry, or you can use multiple skills to enhance your marketability. You can work in the motion picture industry, from television to the big screen, or in the theater industry from local plays to traveling, national productions. The ability to move up in the industry often comes from experience that you can gain starting as early as high school. The more skills you learn, the more valuable an asset you can become. You can work your way to being a lead set designer and manage your own team with your own visions for the set.

Pay for your way

Hours for this position will vary greatly depending on the path you choose. Your hours may be long to start with, but are often reflective of the project you are working on.

The entertainment industry is one of the most competitive industries on the market. Starting at the bottom and working your way up might be the best way to achieve your career goals. California and New York are the two states with the largest number of jobs for this field.

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