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Set designer

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Summary of occupation

Set designers conceptualise, develop and create sets, and dress locations for film, television and stage productions. They study scripts and interpret the descriptions of locations, creating sketches and drawings and translating these into built sets, and locations that are altered or 'dressed' to resemble those in the script. They buy furniture, fixtures and other props, and use art and craft supplies to make other elements of sets, or supervise technicians in building them. They liaise with directors, producers, lighting designers and camera operators to get the right look or feel for a production, and ensure that other areas of technical production such as lighting or sound recording work in conjunction with the set.

ANZSCO description: Set designers conceptualise, develop and create  sets, and dress locations for film, television and stage productions.
Alternative names: Art Director, Production Designer
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A set designer needs:

  • an interest in design and the performing arts
  • creative flair
  • problem-solving skills
  • manual or practical skills
  • organisational skills
  • the ability to work to tight deadlines
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Working conditions

Set designers work in film and television studios, and on-location on sets. They often work long hours and may be required on set late at night, early in the morning, or on weekends and public holidays. Some of their work may require heavy lifting or the construction of large objects such as set walls, doors or furniture. They may be required to travel locally, interstate or internationally to construct sets.

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Salary details

On average, set designers can expect to earn between $789 and $943 per week ($41 018 and $49 020 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a set designer develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Set designers work with a range of materials to construct sets, including art and craft supplies such as paper, card and glue, as well as more sturdy building materials like wood, chipboard and plaster. They obtain and work with decorative elements such as fabric, furniture, fixtures and wallpaper. They also use tools such as scissors, hammers, saws, nail and stapleguns, and other light construction equipment.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a set designer you usually need to complete a qualification in live production, production and design, theatre arts, interior design and decoration, industrial design or a related area.

The Diploma of Live Production and Technical Services and Advanced Diploma of Live Production and Management Services are offered at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

The Diploma of Interior Design and Decoration, Diploma of Industrial Design and Advanced Diploma of Industrial Design are offered at TAFE colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

You can complete a degree majoring in production and design, theatre arts, interior architecture, environmental and spatial design or a related area.

Some universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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