Set and Exhibit Designers

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Also known as:
Scenic Designer, Set Decorator, Set Designer, Stage Scenery Designer, Theater Set Production Designer

Video transcript

On stage or on screen, at a local fair or a famous museum, a show wouldn't be complete without the right setting. The creative contributors in the background of our favorite events are set and exhibit designers.

It's a job that mixes imagination with knowledge, artistry with actualization. Some are elaborate, others are simple - but all set and exhibit designs add to a production.

Designers start with an idea. They meet with directors to understand their vision. Set designers may also do research to make their creation as realistic as possible. They prepare drawings outlining their goals, and may make many changes before a final plan is on paper. Designs often have to be done to scale - so careful measuring is involved.

Production heads are consulted on a budget, and construction begins. Designers coordinate what props have to be bought or created from scratch. Usually a team of workers assists in setting up. Set and exhibit designs coordinate and supervise those workers.

Most designers have a bachelor's degree from a four-year college or university. They're trained in design and have knowledge of fine arts, architecture, and construction. A creative mind and ability to work with others is important. Hours are usually regular, but designers may need to be flexible if working around other exhibits already on display.

If you want to help set the stage for creative productions, consider a career as a set and exhibit designer.

Design special exhibits and sets for film, video, television, and theater productions. May study scripts, confer with directors, and conduct research to determine appropriate architectural styles.
Critical decision making
Level of responsibilities
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
Dealing and handling conflict
Competition for this position
Communication with others
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
Comfort of the work setting
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
Exposure to job hazards
Physical demands
Daily tasks

Arrange for outside contractors to construct exhibit structures.

Design and produce displays and materials that can be used to decorate windows, interior displays, or event locations, such as streets and fairgrounds.

Acquire, or arrange for acquisition of, specimens or graphics required to complete exhibits.

Plan for location-specific issues, such as space limitations, traffic flow patterns, and safety concerns.

Inspect installed exhibits for conformance to specifications and satisfactory operation of special-effects components.

Select and purchase lumber and hardware necessary for set construction.

Coordinate the removal of sets, props, and exhibits after productions or events are complete.

Develop set designs, based on evaluation of scripts, budgets, research information, and available locations.

Confer with clients and staff to gather information about exhibit space, proposed themes and content, timelines, budgets, materials, or promotion requirements.

Submit plans for approval, and adapt plans to serve intended purposes, or to conform to budget or fabrication restrictions.

Research architectural and stylistic elements appropriate to the time period to be depicted, consulting experts for information, as necessary.

Thinking Creatively Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Drafting, Laying Out, and Specifying Technical Devices, Parts, and Equipment Providing documentation, detailed instructions, drawings, or specifications to tell others about how devices, parts, equipment, or structures are to be fabricated, constructed, assembled, modified, maintained, or used.
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Design Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
Fine Arts Knowledge of the theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Building and Construction Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.
Communications and Media Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.
History and Archeology Knowledge of historical events and their causes, indicators, and effects on civilizations and cultures.
Administration and Management Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Mathematics Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Coordination Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Time Management Managing one's own time and the time of others.
Operations Analysis Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Judgment and Decision Making Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.