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Set Designer

Theater, TV and movie productions transport audiences to foreign lands and imaginary realms. Conveying a message through imagery that resonates with the director's theme is crucial to productions. Set designers collaborate with other designers behind-the-scenes to construct sets that engross the audience in the story.

What a Set Designer Does

Using scenery, props and furniture, a set designer establishes a production's style, tone, location and atmosphere. Physical objects on a set should promote opportunities for actors to engage with their surroundings. Set designers must take these factors into consideration while designing a set.

It is not unusual for a set designer to read acting scripts over and over to fully grasp the concept behind a play and develop a strong set. Set designers make note of special circumstances throughout the play where props are used, as well as specific setting and scenery details. For period pieces, research is done to accurately portray the mood, environment, costumes, furniture and decorative objects of the era.

Drawing from their notes, set designers produce elaborate sketches of scenes within the production. These sketches are often rendered into 3D images or models depicting the finished set. Set sketches and floor plans are then approved by the director.

Nature of the Work

Teamwork is vital for set designers. They collaborate constantly with lighting, electrical and costume designers to ensure that the set represents the director's vision. Set designers oversee construction, often working long hours to complete projects.


Strong technical and artistic skills are crucial to successful set design, as is the ability to transfer ideas onto paper. Painting, sculpting, sewing, carpentry and graphic design skills will also aid prospective set designers in obtaining employment opportunities.

An accredited degree from a film school trains students to meet the requirements that employers seek, launching them into exciting careers as set designers.

Start Toward Your Future as a Set Designer

With classes available online and in San Francisco, Academy of Art University offers accredited Associates (AA), Bachelors (BFA) and Masters (MFA) degrees in fields such as Acting, Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting.

Collaborating with insiders in the world of film, students achieve their full creative potential. Instructors, who are also working in the field, share their insight and experience. Academy of Art University's Annual Epidemic Film Festival bridges the gap between students and professionals in the industry at a star-studded awards ceremony for student films.

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