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Set Designer

Set designers design and plan the creation of settings, scenic environments and properties (props) for theatre, dance, opera, television, video and film productions.

  • Avg. Salary $39,473.00
  • Avg. Wage $21.04
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Designer, Theatre Designer, Scenographer

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

61%
61%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Set Designer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Theatre Designers
NOC code: 5243.1
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to create settings, scenic environments, properties, costumes and lighting for theatre, film, video productions, operas and ballets; and in preparing working drawings, creating special stage lighting patterns and selecting colours, decor and accessories

METHODICAL

Interest in precision working with tools to construct miniature sets in cardboard, plaster and other materials; and in sketching and painting plans and submitting them to directors and producers for approval

DIRECTIVE

Interest in speaking with workers when overseeing construction of sets

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Oct 21, 2014

Duties and responsibilities vary from one type of production to another but, in general, set designers:

  • read and analyze the script and consult with the director and others to develop themes, objectives and design concepts
  • use variety of artistic techniques to explore traditional, conventional or abstracted methods of visualizing the production
  • research architectural styles and building interiors appropriate to the time period depicted
  • research stylistic elements such as paintings and art objects
  • propose concepts that may include the use of metaphorical, psychological or mythological approaches
  • share their research and concepts with other designers
  • develop detailed working drawings, sketches (colour renderings) or three-dimensional models to communicate design ideas and requirements
  • work within budget, labour and space restrictions
  • select materials and supervise the construction and painting of sets and props
  • attend rehearsals and oversee the integration of set design with performance.

Most set designers are required to supervise the construction and painting of sets and, in small theatres, to help with these activities as well.

Working Conditions
Updated Oct 21, 2014

Set designers often work long hours to meet deadlines. Most work on a freelance basis and work out of their homes or studios during the creation phase of a production. Later, they may work indoors or outdoors to supervise set construction.

Due to the freelance nature of the occupation, a designer may have to work on many projects at once. Projects may be at different stages of production and for a variety of companies. This may result in long periods of working at home or at a personal studio, and long periods of travelling

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Oct 21, 2014

Set designers need the following characteristics:

  • creativity and artistic vision
  • flexibility
  • the communication and interpersonal skills required to work effectively with others and market their ideas or services
  • spatial awareness
  • ability to work under pressure
  • physical fitness to work long hours
  • self-discipline in time management and work ethics.

They should enjoy synthesizing information, experimenting and finding innovative solutions to problems, doing precise work with tools and equipment, and supervising the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Oct 21, 2014

Set designers must be able to interpret scripts and written texts into visual images, and convert those images into functional set designs. This requires:

  • a working knowledge of artistic principles (for example, colour and composition), theatre history, art history, architecture and historical interiors
  • an understanding of the principles of interior design and construction
  • a sense of architectural style
  • drawing, painting and modelling skills
  • the ability to draft working drawings and produce renderings (computer aided drafting skills are a definite asset)
  • practical knowledge gained from related experience (for example, carpentry experience).

Training in the following is essential: drafting, computer aided drafting and design, freehand drawing, scenic painting and model making.

This is a very specialized field: a bachelor's degree or master's degree in fine art with a specialization in set design, or training at a specialized conservatory such as the National Theatre School of Canada is recommended.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Alberta College of Art and Design

Grande Prairie Regional College

Grant MacEwan University

Thompson Rivers University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Oct 21, 2014

Set designers work for:

  • theatre companies
  • film and television production companies
  • opera and dance companies
  • festivals.

Some theatre companies employ resident designers but most set designers work as freelancers and negotiate contracts for specific projects. Therefore, aspiring set designers need to acquire related experience and develop a portfolio of their work. Working for amateur theatre companies or cable television stations provides valuable experience.

Graduates of design programs usually start as designers for smaller productions or as assistant set designers in larger ones. Advancement generally takes the form of more demanding assignments. Some set designers teach in university and college programs.

Set designers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5243: Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers. In Alberta, 75% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting funding for the arts
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Occupational growth may be highly influenced by the number of productions companies will do in a year, and the scale of those productions.

Wage & Salary
Updated Oct 21, 2014

Most set designers work on a contract basis. Their incomes therefore vary considerably from one designer to another and from one year to another.

Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers
NOC code: 5243

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $13.00 $26.56 $17.89 $18.00
Overall $14.90 $22.00 $21.04 $21.15
Top $21.00 $26.60 $25.47 $25.30

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Public Administration
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Retail Trade

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

61%
61%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

N/A

2015 Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Drama
    • Visual Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
    • Physics
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Design Studies
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Oct 21, 2014

Associated Designers of Canada (ADC) website: www.designers.ca

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Locals Calgary website: www.iatse212.com

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Locals Edmonton website: www.iatse210.com

 

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Jun 01, 2009. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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