The Process of

Set Design


General knowledge: Going to museums, shows, and concerts; always reading plays, novels, and other material; magazine subscriptions; listening to music and watching movies; building things; keeping up with the news; understanding architecture and art history; understanding décor and style periods; always looking things up; engaging in anything that fills your brain and connects you to the world. You must be a curious and creative person in life.

Script analysis: Theme, period, location, time of day/ year, imagery/ metaphor, character, plot, properties, social customs and mores, milieu, other plays by this author, literary or historical references or allusions, relevance to the current moment.

Research: (Hand in hand with script analysis) Period, art, materials, color, furniture and props, historical practice, social customs and mores, etc.

Collaboration: Director, designers, (design meetings). Shops/ production team, production/ stage management (production meetings). House staff/ house manager, music director (as needed, all throughout process).

Studio work: “Development”, sketches, models, paint elevations, drafting, fabric swatches/ specifications, other samples (textures and other finishes), technical consultations. Meetings in studio with roughs if possible. Final design package. Shipping.

Budgets, schedules, calendars, contracts: Design fees, show budgets, travel reimbursement, shopping reimbursement, union fees and contracts, out of town expenses/ per diems, receipts, taxes, accountants, agent, etc.

Travel: Local travel, long distance travel, out of town production residence/ transportation/ shopping, itinerary and tickets.

Presentation: To director and design team, to actors and production/ management staff, to shops.

Execution: Scene shop, prop shop, paint shop, specialty fabrication shops, special products shopping/ discussions (stage fabrics, mechanical/ motion-control, other fabrication such as steel or thermoplastics) scene painting, prop shopping, house technical discussions, production/ stage management, scheduling, load-in.

Technical rehearsals/ pre-opening: On-stage looks and tests, constant collaboration w/ other designers, production meetings, problem solving, dress rehearsals, previews.

Strike: Usually someone else's problem, but in a small stock company, it's a thing . . .

ed. 11-10-20