A Doll's House (2010), Swine Palace Production, Set Design: Szu-Feng Chen

Here is a video from National Theatre in London that reviews 50 years of set design within the theatre!


  -Set deisgn takes a lot of practice, patience, and commitment.  Part of set designing includes creating some form of the visual art for the director to see your vision (usually a model of the set) and includes drawing a ground plan (which is a drawing of the set from a bird's eye view, solely for lighting plots). 

- Since it involves some kind of drafting/sketching/drawing either on paper or with the help of a computer, it can be a little more difficult to those who aren't artistically inclined in the visual arts, but it is NOT impossible, so don't give up if you get frustrated!  Below, you'll find a list of items that may be useful to the beginning set designer.

1) A scale ruler:  Every set designer NEEDS this item!  This is essentially a normal ruler, but it has multiple sides, providing different measurements in different "scales".  

             - A scale ruler lets you transfer the measurement of any item (real or to-be-                   designed) to a smaller fixed ratio for paper or design program.   For                                   example, if I'm designing a dinner table for a stage production and I want                     the table to be 3.5 feet by 6 feet, I will take my scale ruler and whatever                         piece of paper I'm drafting onto, and I'll turn my ruler to whichever side                         has the scale I desire to use.  For this example, we'll be using 1/4" scale,                         which means that each quarter inch on the ruler and 1/4"                                                       design represents a full foot in the full-scale design. (So that means instead                 of seeing it mark each quarter inch as a quarter inch, it marks each quarter                  inch as 1 foot, 2 foot, etc.)  I'll take my ruler and, using that quarter inch                          scale, mark 3.5 feet and 6 feet according to the scale.  And with that, you                      have a proper 1/4" scaled table!
2) PLENTY of pencils
3) Drafting paper/Sketchbook:  Not only does set/scenic design require a lot of planning of the actual sets, but it's a great idea to keep practicing your drawing skills wherever you are.  
4) Tape measure:  You'll be doing a lot of measuring while set designing, even though your design will end up in scale.  Usually in community, educational, and non-profit theatres, the set designer will also serve as the person in charge of set building calls as well, so it'll be very important to keep in mind the size of your load-in docks and doors, the amount of space in the wings of the theatre, and so much more.  

Set Design


-Set Design is  the design and execution of a design for a theatrical production, be it for live theatre, television, or movies. In terms of theatre, the set design  usually requires set furniture and decoration to establish the immediate setting and scenic painting for the background to establish the overall world of the play.

On stage, the design can be created with having a specific and intricate design or basic and simple design (such as the picture above), but it depends on the needs of the play. The specific and intricate set design is solely for plays where the story is set in one room and no where else.  Meanwhile, basic and simple set designs are for plays that require multiple set and scene changes, where the overall background is kept the same but the set furniture (and also lighting) is used to establish the different settings, and the minimal setting allows the audience to suggest using their imagination for the scene.

For the more detailed and complicated sets,  the background would be created using scenery flats (painted flat pieces of scenery) and molding to set the background and set furniture that would not be moved offstage for the entire show.  For the basic and simple designs, you would need furniture that could easily be moved on and offstage. 


 -Set Design requires a complete understanding of the theatrical text at hand, and the ability to know how to effectively immerse the audience in the desired concept.  The Set Designer must also have an idea as to what design can actually be accomplished based on the actual theater.

-These tools listed below are basic criteria for basic drawing and creating a design but you do not have to be an incredible drawer, just as long as you have a general understanding of how the set should be drawn.

 ****Though these aren't physical tools, they're vital to understand while designing.  

1)  Line:  An understanding of the lines of composition.  

2)  Mass:  The size of the physical items onstage.

3)  Composition:  How are the actual physical items onstage arranged in the space? (symmetrical, balanced, unbalanced)

4)  Space:  An understanding of the physical area of the stage, and if it's taken up by positive space (taken up by physical objects) or negative space (open space).

5)  Texture:  Either two-dimensional or three-dimenstional variations in material, color, or pattern.  

6)  Color, which has four properties:  Hue:  what we think of as "color", the mixture of a certain amount of pigment to create the desired color.  Saturation:  The intensity of the color itself.  Value:  The presence of black in the color, varying from 0 (Black) to 100 (White).  Finally, there's Temperature:  an emotional quality of a color (ie:  warm colors vs. cool colors).

Rainforest (2015), Johnson Theatre at UNH, Design: Szu-Feng Chen